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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

The Mist (review)

We Have Met the Monsters…

Frank Darabont’s adaptations of Stephen King’s writings are not just some of the best mountings of the writer’s work but some of the best films, period, of recent years: The Shawshank Redemption, anyone? The Green Mile? So I don’t think it’s too outrageous — or too surprising — to say that The Mist, which Darabont wrote and directed from a King novella, is not only one of the best movies of 2007, it’s one of the best horror movies ever made. Period.
Look: B movies went A a long time ago, even before the real world turned into its own kind of science fiction nightmare of drowned cities and kamikaze terrorists, and so isn’t civil disaster the perfect springboard for exploring the most sinister aspects of humanity? Because, oh yes, there are creatures here with teeth of both the metaphoric and literal kind, but they’re just animals doing what animals do. The monsters of The Mist are the people, and how we give in to fear and give up on hope at the very moments when we don’t need the one and desperately need the other. This is horror of a philosophical, humanistic bent, examining the nightmares of politics and religion on the small scale upon which they act upon individuals, as well as our propensity to dispense with reason at the drop of a hat… or a tentacle. For all its fantastical elements, this is as grounded and as immediate and as real as movies get. This is “horror” the way that Rod Serling told it — think the creepy societal breakdown of “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street,” and you’ve got it.

The civil disaster is an ordinary one: a gusty storm knocks down trees and brings down power lines in one of those outwardly charming, secretly insidious Stephen King small towns. But did it also knock out the power at the local army base, wherein, it is rumored, is housed the remains of a crashed flying saucer and dead alien bodies? This is the stuff of the polite, time-passing chatter strained neighbors David Drayton (Thomas Jane: The Punisher, Stander) and Brent Norton (Andre Braugher: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Poseidon) engage in as they drive, with David’s young son, Billy (Nathan Gamble), into town to pick up supplies to board up windows, and groceries before the shelves are picked clean. They’re all in the supermarket when a thick mist descends, obscuring the view out the plate-glass windows beyond a few feet. And then a bloodied man runs into the store, screaming about monsters in the strange fog…

It’s quiet inside the store for a while, the couple of dozen people trapped by their uncertainty over what’s happening but not yet giving in to panic. That begins to happen soon enough, however, when no rescue comes and, well, other, more deadly things begin to occur. It’s all smartly, brilliantly, paced, not just the more traditional aspects of what you’d expect from a horror movie — those things with the tentacles in the mist are vicious buggers — but the collapse of the civilization as represented by the little supermarket society. Tribes start to form along sharply drawn lines, drifting toward either David and his calm logic or Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden: Into the Wild, The Dead Girl), a vocal proponent of hellfire-and-brimstone Biblical literalism, and her preaching about how this is the promised Armageddon, and boy, is God pissed with us or what? (She’s the most terrifying thing about the movie, no question.)

There’s an almost orgasmic rise and fall to The Mist in how it scares the hell out of you via the monsters of both the human and the creature varieties, lets you relax with a tension-relieving laugh or two — though the film never indulges in a snarky joke that would break the satisfyingly grim mood — and then starts on you all over again. And if the movie worked purely as that kind of intellectual roller coaster ride and nothing else, that would have been more than enough. But it also offers finely drawn portraits of the kind of positive strength movies of this ilk — or any ilk — rarely see, of a real-masculinity not about bombast or machismo but built up of courage in the face of one’s own fear and a refusal to descend into easy animality… and not just in the obvious hero character of David but also in, say, the apparently meek supermarket manager played by the ever-essential Toby Jones (The Painted Veil, Infamous). Hell, even the woman customer played by Laurie Holden (Fantastic Four, The Majestic), who teams up with David, is strong and capable and genuine — so let’s call it not just real-masculinity but real-humanity.

It’s impossible to guess quite what’s going on or quite how Darabont — who took some liberties with King’s material — can possibly resolve his story in a way that will completely gratify. But he does. How it ends… well, I couldn’t move from my seat, I was that blown away by the power of it. It’s absolutely right, exactly the kind of uncompromising kicker it needs to be to ensure that The Mist haunts you for a good long while with its shocking reminder of how we can be our own worst enemies in all ways imaginable.


MPAA: rated R for violence, terror and gore, and language

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
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  • Rykker

    I read the novella way back in the ’80s when it was first released. I always thought it was one of the better stories King came up with.
    I’m glad to hear someone actually did a good job with it. That doesn’t happen very often with King adaptations.

  • Johnny

    I read this one as well. This ones in the ” Skeleton Crew” book of shorts. Most of his shorts are taken from “Night Shift”. Skeleton crew is far better. The only story it has thats been turned in to a movie is ” The Raft”. That was done in a segment in Creepshow 2.
    And now the mist, which when I read it, I was wondering “why isnt this a movie?”.
    Now Stephen Kings been belting out some new stuff. I dont think He’s the same guy as he was. He doesn’t seem as dark as he used to be. But when he wrote the mist he was in top form.
    So being this got a good review from mj, I might skip “Hitman” and see this instead.

  • Eric Dale Eubanks

    Thanks for such an excellent review. Many critics feel it’s beneath them to look into a horror story [even and especially one that operates in the realm of the B-movie] for meaning.

    But horror — when handled delicately and insightfully {and we almost never get to see horror handled delicately and insightfully, in cinema or in print} works on our minds and hearts in the way that the horrors of myth worked, in the hands of daring writers like Euripides, in the minds of the Greeks.

    The mythic can prompt us to examine our own responses to living, for good or ill, even the mythic in the realm of the B-movie.

  • rogue

    One of the best horror movies made, are you KIDDING? Did you miss The Exorcist, The Omen, Halloween? The Mist had 1997 effects, dreadful acting, idiotic characters and one of the worst endings in cinematic history. The only thing I screamed at was the two-hour runtime. Darabont (who created the OTHER worst movie in history, The Majestic) should be ashamed of himself and so should YOU for lauding this piece of trash.

  • MaryAnn

    Ah, well, rogue has spoken. This is trash, and I should be ashamed of myself. Duly noted.

    Perhaps, rogue, for the benefit of everyone else who was fooled by my review, you could offer us some examples of the idiotic characters or the dreadful acting or which FX looked like they’re 10 years old. Or maybe why you think the ending was that bad (if you can do that without giving away that ending).

  • Oh dear. I really shouldn’t, I scare so easily it’s pathetic and I’ll be jumpy as hell for the next two weeks, but. It sounds so good, AND MaryAnn liked it, and I live in Maine and like Stephen King and am sort of vaguely obligated to go see it. Especially it’s actually good.

    Plus, I’m rereading “The Stand” right now (now is the time to read it, with colds circulating and everyone coughing and sneezing . . .) and it sounds like the movie would provide interesting parallels and contrasts. I love explorations of the psychological side of horror story situations.

  • BG

    Thank you for a thoughtful, non-snarky review, like the one Manohla Dargis filed for The New York Times today.

    I have imagined several awful possibilities for Darabont’s ending based on what I’ve read, and they all feel very grim indeed.

    Like many of us who first read this novella in the collection DARK FORCES, I’ve been waiting most of my adult life to see this movie!

  • MaryAnn

    I couldn’t be snarky about this one. It’s too good.

    Parallels and contrasts with *The Stand*? Oh my yes…

  • OK, just got back from seeing The Mist. I agree that it is definitely one of the better horror movies I’ve ever seen… and the creatures themselves are, to quote from Dr. Wren in Alien Resurrection, “wondrous”. They are certainly the most alien creatures to appear on screen since, perhaps, Alien, and the FX/creature designers did a great job of interpreting what King originally described. The Impossibly Tall Creature was really amazing to behold. Solid performances (and believable, which is rare) all around, especially from Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, and Toby Jones. The Mist is now in my Top Three Stephen King movies (the others being The Shining and The Stand).

    BUT (and this is a big one), I have one question/problem regarding… well, if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know what I am talking about. I’ll try to be as vague as I can. Here’s my question: Why so quickly? I mean, come on. I don’t know about you, but I would not have been so quick to do what was done.

    I’d give it a 10 except for that minor flaw… so I’ll deduct .5 for what happened, even though it is an improvement over the original.

  • MaryAnn

    I understand what you’re saying, Clay. And I felt that way at first, too. But the other apparent options are so very, very unpleasant that how things transpire appears to be the best thing to do in a situation that seems impossible. But it is a decision made very quickly, and without a lot of reflection. It’s made out of fear… which is exactly what draws so many of the characters who flock to Marcia Gay Harden’s preacher, too.

    For me, the whole story is so humanistic that the kicker of an ending is reminding us that humanism doesn’t just mean abandoning ideas about gods and relying on them for whatever we feel we’re lacking, but that humanism is also about actually relying upon us, we people, that we’re worthy enough and smart enough and positively minded enough to be trusted with our own destinies. You know: it’s about hope, about a hope resting on reason and logic. That hope is forgotten, and that’s the tragedy of it. Give up on God, sure, but don’t give up on yourself, because that’s just as bad as relying on a fairy tale.

  • Tay

    I saw “The Mist” last night. I’d have to say it was one of the most compelling and disturbing movies I’ve ever seen. I found it amazing that I can sit through the Saw movies without even flinching, but I found myself actually crying in the theater, and on the way home, and at home. Not only because it was depressing, but it was so disturbing and scary. I thought that the actors did an amazing job because I felt like I was actually there, which never happens. I didn’t know who was scarier, the monsters or the crazy woman in the grocery store. This movie gives a good look at mob mentality, and with each character that died, my heart hurt a little more.

  • Kat99

    Good review, and I enjoyed the film — up until the ending, that is. I’ll take a stab at explaining why, without giving it all away, of course. The problem with the ending (which I will say is about as grim and hopeless and downright depressing as ANY ending of any movie I’ve ever seen) is that it negates everything the central character does throughout the film to try and find a solution to the horrific mess he is encountering. This guy risks his life time and time again, and he serves as the center of reason in the midst of the crazies and freaks he’s stuck with in that little grocery store. I BELIEVED the way these characters interacted, and I believed how hard it was for him to try and save his son and the other 6 with clear heads. King’s original ending left things unresolved (sort of like Hitchcock’s “The Birds”), but Darabont has decided to wrap things up with a devastating finale that pretty much says, “ha, ha, I made you care about these people! Sucka!”

    King’s story ends with the word “hope” (as has been pointed out by many reviewers), but Darabont’s film has shot that idea to hell. I, like the reviewer, was stunned by the ending, and I had a hard time getting up and walking out of the theater when the credits finally rolled. But the sheer pointlessness of it (or perhaps that was the idea — life is pointless, so deal with it) was more horrific and devastating than the creatures flying out of the mist.

    It IS a good movie, and it IS worth seeing — but the final five minutes are dreadful, cruel, pointless, and offensive. Hey, maybe when the DVD comes out Darabont will give us a decent “alternative ending” . . . one can only hope!

  • MaryAnn

    I didn’t know who was scarier, the monsters or the crazy woman in the grocery store.

    The people are infinitely scarier, for me. We know the monsters are fake, but we know that people like these actually exist.

    The problem with the ending (which I will say is about as grim and hopeless and downright depressing as ANY ending of any movie I’ve ever seen) is that it negates everything the central character does throughout the film

    I don’t think it does. What it does is say, No matter how impossible things seem, don’t give up hope. The ending IS grim, but that’s okay: because the reminder that hope is essential would not be as powerful if it weren’t so grim.

  • Signal30

    While the movie worked for me for the most part, I’ll agree that the ending didn’t quite work. For me.

    Not because I’m opposed to downbeat endings (Night of the Living Dead has a perfect ending), but because I felt that it didn’t earn it. It just seemed too overwrought to me (not the character’s space, but the execution). And it just kept going… and going…

    But I can see your point about hope (or faith… in that ultimately it seems as if Ms. Cormody may have been right), but to me it still didn’t quite pull it off.

    Still the best Stephen King adaptation I’ve seen, though.

  • endymion

    Mary Ann has it PERFECT. Hindsight is 20/20 and would we have done any better after three days of hells ?

    Marcia Gay Harden seems destined for the oscar nominee short list and to displace Louise Fletcher’s Nurse Ratched.

  • Kat99

    I totally agree with Signal30 (and wish I could have said it as well) — the film didn’t EARN its grim ending. If we are to believe that the message of the film is “don’t ever give up hope,” then we are saying that the central character earns his place in hell by not trusting in the US military to save him from a horror so inexplicable that such “hope” seems ridiculous. It seemed ludicrous when the military came rushing through with their gas masks and tanks — this was never the kind of enemy that could be destroyed by our fighting forces. Such hope would have been absurd (just as Mrs. Carmody’s version of hope was). What makes no sense to me is that the film’s hero would simply have allowed his car to run out of gas in the middle of nowhere, leaving them all trapped. Surely he would have done what his literary counterpart did, and found shelter as the gas tank ran low. This is a guy who had been VERY resourceful up until then — why the sudden giving up?

    This is a film that will be hard to forget, but for the absurdity of its unearned ending (and not for anything profound or important it had to say to me). And that’s too bad.

  • bitchen frizzy

    **Spoilers ahoy**

    I had a somewhat different take on the main character. He’s the sort of leader that’s full of bright ideas that get people killed, but when he runs out of ideas he’s out of gas (get it? nudge, nudge) and then he’s out of hope. In his speech about Mrs. Carmody he vows that he will not be one of those drinking the koolaid, yet at the end that’s precisely what he does (well, tries to), along with the few of his followers still alive. In his own way, he’s as scary a leader as Mrs. Carmody.

    Don’t understand the comment about the enemy being indestructable by conventional means. The monsters died by all kinds of ordinary means, including stepping on them and squishing them.

  • I stand by my original assessment: What was ultimately done was done far, far too quickly. Even considering all that they’d witnessed up to that point, there’s simply no justification for taking almost no time at all to move from one thing to the next. If Darabont had simply added in something to indicate the passage of more time (say, a night or two) before progressing on, I’d be 100% satisfied with The Mist.

    BTW, for anyone who’s interested: The music at the end is Host of the Seraphim by Dead Can Dance.

  • bitchen frizzy

    It did happen too quickly. I don’t have a problem with that because I don’t have a problem with David being one can short of a sixpack instead of being the intrepid hero and survivor we expect to see in a monster movie.

    This movie runs counter to some expectations. Note that the survivors are those that sat tight and waited for developments. In most monster movies, the hesitant and the fearful are soon fodder; and it’s those that take action and do something – anything – that have the only hope of surviving. David’s got the itch to do something, so he acts – often foolishly. In this movie the script doesn’t save him and his followers.

  • POSSIBLE SPOILERS (but hey, if you’ve gotten THIS far, you must be a little spoiled already):

    Note that the survivors are those that sat tight and waited for developments.

    Ah, but what about the woman who leaves the market right when the mist arrives? She makes a rather bold (albeit still nervous) decision to head out into the unknown, all by herself, to save her home-alone kids and, be it through skill or just plain awesome luck, doesn’t turn into alien chow. (In the novella, her fate is rather less fortunate, FWIW.)

  • bitchen frizzy

    Does she? I missed that detail. Is she amongst the rescued at the end of the movie?

  • MaryAnn

    I would really, really appreciate it if commenters would at least let readers know they’re going to spoil something: I’m looking at you, Kat99. Could you not see how previous commenters — myself included — took great pains not to give away the ending.

    Now that it’s out, however…

    hope (or faith… in that ultimately it seems as if Ms. Cormody may have been right)

    Carmody’s religious “faith” has absolutely nothing to do with the kind of nonsupernatural “faith” that is a synonym of “hope.”

    If we are to believe that the message of the film is “don’t ever give up hope,” then we are saying that the central character earns his place in hell by not trusting in the US military to save him from a horror so inexplicable that such “hope” seems ridiculous.

    No, that would indeed have been a ridiculous — and ridiculously specific — hope. David gave up hope that there was *some* way out of the situation. He didn’t know that the end of the mist *wasn’t* just over the horizon, but he acted as if he did.

    It seemed ludicrous when the military came rushing through with their gas masks and tanks — this was never the kind of enemy that could be destroyed by our fighting forces.

    As noted above, of course the creatures were killable. What was unknown was how widespread this new environment spread. As the characters discussed, was the entire Eastern Seaboard covered by the mist and inhabited by the creatures? The whole world? Or maybe just the local county? No one knew, and giving up before getting that answer was giving up on hope that things weren’t *quite* as bad as they looked.

    What makes no sense to me is that the film’s hero would simply have allowed his car to run out of gas in the middle of nowhere, leaving them all trapped. Surely he would have done what his literary counterpart did, and found shelter as the gas tank ran low. This is a guy who had been VERY resourceful up until then — why the sudden giving up?

    Maybe they did try to find gas, or shelter. But they can’t see anything through the mist. They don’t know what possible shelter will be compromised and what won’t. None of what they did seems unreasonable to me, not when they’ve decided to do something and not just sit waiting for rescue.

    In his speech about Mrs. Carmody he vows that he will not be one of those drinking the koolaid, yet at the end that’s precisely what he does (well, tries to), along with the few of his followers still alive. In his own way, he’s as scary a leader as Mrs. Carmody.

    Oh, I disagree entirely. What they do in the end is not “drinking the kool-aid.” It was a mercy, and one that David did not take for himself. He believed he was dooming himself to a terrible death so that the others wouldn’t have to suffer that. That’s nothing at all like what Carmody does.

    Ah, but what about the woman who leaves the market right when the mist arrives? She makes a rather bold (albeit still nervous) decision to head out into the unknown

    Perhaps the message is, then: Think for yourself. Be the master of your own fate.

  • bitchen frizzy

    ***More spoilers***

    I was using “drinking the koolaid” as metaphor for mass suicide, and because David himself used that phrase. Give it a name, then. Entirely too quickly, they gave into despair, then suicide at the behest of their leader. David would have shot himself if he hadn’t run out of bullets, so instead he feeds himself to the monsters.

    No, it’s not what Carmody does. It’s a different kind of crazy.

    I agree that one message is think for yourself. “None of the above” is always an alternative to bad leadership. Even at the end, if just one person in that car had said, “Er, I’ll solve your bullet shortage, just gimme two steps and I’ll be out the door…” then there could have been enough bullets to go around and one more survivor who chose life and hope.

  • MaryAnn

    I was using “drinking the koolaid” as metaphor for mass suicide, and because David himself used that phrase.

    But David didn’t use that phrase to mean “mass suicide,” he used it to me “letting yourself be brainwashed.” Which is how the meaning has morphed in recent years.

    Give it a name, then. Entirely too quickly, they gave into despair, then suicide at the behest of their leader.

    I’m not saying they didn’t give in to despair. But I wouldn’t call it suicide any more than I’d call euthanasia murder. They don’t *want* to die — they see this as the best option in a horrific situation.

    David would have shot himself if he hadn’t run out of bullets, so instead he feeds himself to the monsters.

    Yes. Which is, as we’ve seen, a far worse fate than a quick bullet.

    No, it’s not what Carmody does. It’s a different kind of crazy.

    But it’s not crazy. It’s entirely rational. They just made that rational decision far too quickly… in hindsight. At the time, it seemed like the best thing to do. And it could easily have indeed turned out to be the best thing to do. Perhaps a better ending to the movie — not that I have any problems with it as it ends — would have been for all of them to have walked out into the mist on their own, with four bullets. The mist swallows them up, we hear four gunshots, and… fade to black. We don’t know how they fare, whether they’ve just killed some monsters, or four of their own, leaving one of them along in the mist with the monsters. But the point would have been the same.

    Even at the end, if just one person in that car had said, “Er, I’ll solve your bullet shortage, just gimme two steps and I’ll be out the door…” then there could have been enough bullets to go around and one more survivor who chose life and hope.

    But from how it looked to them at that point, that wouldn’t be chosing life and hope: it would be committing to a slow, painful death, most likely, instead of a quick and easy one. This is not the same situation as the woman who walked out of the supermarket. By now, the gang in the car know that the mist is pretty widespread.

    I know: it sounds like I’m contradicting myself. But I’m not. I agree that they give up too quickly: that’s my point. They could have waited a while, until death was much more imminent, before using the gun. It’s the quickness of the decision that is the giving up on hope, not the decision itself. If they’d waited till monsters were banging down the windows of the car, there couldn’t have been any arguing with what they did. But that’s why the film is so powerful: *they made a bad choice.* They didn’t win… and they might have, in a limited sense, if they hadn’t given in to despair so quickly.

  • MaryAnn

    Oh, and one more thing. They do not kill themselves at David’s behest. He doesn’t need to convince them of anything. They all independently come to this decision — they all see it, on their own, as the best thing to do. It’s the opposite of what Carmody does: it’s unlikely that any or most of those people she gathers around her would have come to the conclusion that the Biblical Armageddon was nigh without her screaming her idiotic, sadistic fantasies at them.

  • MaryAnn

    Does she? I missed that detail. Is she amongst the rescued at the end of the movie

    Yes. The woman who leaves the supermarker because she’s worried about her kids is among the survivors on the truck that passes David at the very end. Her kids are with her, to boot.

  • bitchen frizzy

    Few suicide victims want to die, and many of them believe themselves out of options, and most give up way too soon…

    …that basically describes the people in the car, right?

    I can’t quite reconcile “entirely rational” with “too quickly.” If a decision made too quickly can be entirely rational, then what’s a rash decision?

    “But from how it looked to them at that point…it would be committing to a slow and painful death.”

    Why? What if one of them simply chose to live a little longer instead of waiting to be served the kool – excuse me – waiting for the bullet? Diving out of the car to dodge the bullet would be a natural and human thing to do, motived by will to live, would it not? Why was there not even a discussion of alternatives – “Hey, let’s give it another sunset,” or “Why don’t we climb into one of those dozens of cars we passed and continue on?” They gave up hope when their leader did, and way too quickly. AND, they let their leader decide when it was time to give up hope and die, and sat still for him putting bullets into their brains. That can’t be called “drinking the koolaid” in either sense of the phrase?

  • bitchen frizzy

    They don’t arrive at the decision independently, and they aren’t on their own. They’ve been following David, the bullet in the brain is his suggestion, and they go along with it. Of course they chose it – that’s why I call it suicide and not murder. But it’s the choice their leader offers, after taking them to a seeming dead end.

    Different leader (or – critically important – NO leader), different outcome.

  • Bitchen, I think it comes back to Smith’s favorite concept: Inevitability.

    When the Scout ran out of gas, David and the others had a few options… get out and walk, wait around and see what happens, try to find another car, etc. And of course, they had the option to end their lives so as to avoid a nasty death at the [insert plural body part name here] of the aliens. They saw THAT fate as being inevitable, so why wait any longer to fulfill it?

    That was their fatal (pun absolutely intended) mistake. Death is inevitable (as it is for any of us, but that doesn’t mean you should rush into it; after all, who knows what will happen tomorrow, or the next day, or 50 years from now?), but it was not IMMINENT. David’s mistake was confusing the two and giving up hope.

  • MaryAnn

    What Clay said.

    Diving out of the car to dodge the bullet would be a natural and human thing to do, motived by will to live, would it not?

    Have ya seen the movie? The monsters don’t always kill you outright: they use your body to incubate more of themselves. Would you chose the path that seems certain to doom you to that, or to being dismembered? Come on: we are not talking about even a normal life-or-death situation here.

    Why was there not even a discussion of alternatives

    As I’ve said, they do make the decision too quickly. I don’t disagree with you here.

    They’ve been following David, the bullet in the brain is his suggestion

    In what way? They all know the stakes, and they don’t need him to suggest anything to them. How do you think he suggested it?

  • bitchen frizzy

    It’s not “certain doom” at that point, else we wouldn’t all be saying they decided too quickly. Like Clay said, we all face the possibility of a horrible death, but it’s not time until it’s time.

    “How do you think he suggested it?”

    Oh, c’mon. When David pulled out the gun, and looked around the car, we all knew what he was thinking. That’s how he suggested it to them. He didn’t have to verbalize it. Had he said, “Ok, we’re out of gas, lets [insert bright idea],” they would have done something different. They’d followed him thus far.

    David was clearly the leader of the group in the car.

    Again, different leader, different outcome. Or no leader at all. The people in the store were not faced with a choice between David’s leadership and Mrs. Carmody’s leadership.

  • Signal30

    On reflection, I realize that I didn’t really have a problem with how Darabont ended it, just how he executed it. After showing admirable restraint throughout the movie, he just completely lost it and went with the overt manipulation. Sort of pulled a Spielberg.

    One example was the Dead Can Dance song… as the rest of the film had almost no music bed, to throw in something so joltingly out of context and on the nose ripped me from the narrative.

    He may as well have wrapped it all up with Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'”

    And because of that I was reminded that all I was seeing was smoke and mirrors, and that as the characters met their fate it just seemed like a narrative choice (and so a cheap shot), not an organic conclusion.

  • Signal30

    Actually, Drayton’s actions in the end make sense when you recall that Carmody accused him of hubris… which I suppose one could argue as really being his fatal flaw.

  • MaryAnn

    We’re just gonna have to disagree, bitchen, on David and on that ending. I think a lot of what happens there is open to nuance and interpretation, and I’m just not seeing it the way that you are.

  • Nathan

    Signal: i had the same thought but for a different reason maybe. i think a better ending would have been the radio in the car crackling to life, playing “Don’t Stop Believing.” then cut to a black scr–

    great, great flick. wrong ending. i have trouble believing that people who risked their lives trying to get a dying man pain medication would just commit suicide when they ran out of gas.

    they should have left it where the King story ended: with that Lovecraftian behemoth striding over them. the creature goes one way, the car another. end of movie.

    still a great flick, though.

  • Kat99

    First, sorry if I spoiled anything for anyone reading this (didn’t mean too – hard to discuss the ending of a movie without giving at least some of it away). So, needless to say now, there may be SPOILERS ahead . . .

    I believe Darabont’s ending is a direct response to the little discussion David has with his son shortly before they leave the store. He makes his son a promise that he won’t let the monsters get him. It’s a quiet moment in the movie – they are lying side-by-side, whispering. But it’s powerful. David’s decision in the car is his attempt to keep that promise. Because of this, I can’t see the ending of the film as a condemnation of David (or a punishment of his pride or his lack of hope). This guy has done everything he can. In the end, he can think only of his son.

    That aside, the ending is too quick, too simple, and too much a bad joke on David and the audience. It feels tacked on – thus, the comments about it being “unearned.” The fact that the young mother from early in the film is shown among the rescued is further proof that Darabont has not been true to his own story. At the time this woman left the market, EVERYONE who was going out into that mist was dying. Her rescue cheapens the rest of the film (and the sacrifices made by so many characters).

    As for whether the US military would be able to knock out these monsters in just a few hours, I’ll stand by my original assessment. Sure, these bugs could be killed. But have you ever tried to rid an apartment of roaches? It’s NOT easy! And it’s not quick. These things were multiplying like crazy, and some of them were HUGE. And how did the military get rid of the mist itself, which seemed to clear miraculously as soon as the tanks started arriving. It was just too easy (especially after what we had witnessed over the two-hour span of the film), and that, too, cheapens the film.

    As it stands, the message of this film is seriously muddled. The characters who most obviously give up hope are the ones who align with crazy Mrs. Carmody, screaming about the “end of days,” and participating in human sacrifice. They, most likely, are among the rescued, so what does that say? David was proactive and risked his life trying to help people he hardly knew – and he ended up in the 9th circle of Hell for his trouble. The ending wasn’t written to solidify a message (unless that message is “life is a series of random events about which we have no control, so the best plan is sit in the corner and get drunk”). It was written to shock the audience and get us all talking about the film. So, in that way it was successful. But it also undermines the success of the film as a whole, and that’s a shame.

  • SPOILERS, obviously.

    Kat99: I don’t think the mist was receding because of anything the tanks or the flamethrower-wielding soldiers were doing. I think the mist was receding because someone (the Army, perhaps) figured out how to close the interdimensional window/door/rift at the Arrowhead Project. As a result, the finite amount of mist that flowed in from the alien world is dissipating, starting at the edges and working in… the Army would then just slowly advance, staying just outside of the mist and eliminating any creatures (or egg caches, or whatever) foolish enough to remain outside the mist.

    Ultimately, I would assume that this would lead to a climactic “battle” at the site of the Arrowhead Project itself, where the remaining creatures, herded by the dissipation of the mist (which is their atmosphere, we assume), would find themselves without any more of their own air to breathe and surrounded by the entire US armed forces, ready to blast them into oblivion.

  • Kat99

    Clayj: You and I have a very different level of faith in the US armed forces! As far as I can tell, they are in no way ready or capable of blasting anyone “into oblivion”! Actually, this part of the film’s ending reminded me of the old ’50’s horror films where the military guys rush in at the last minute to “save the day” — nice response to the Cold War (made everyone feel safe). Maybe Darabont was going for the same sort of thing — our armed forces will save us from today’s baddies (i.e. terrorists, rather than Cold War Commies). It just didn’t work for me.

    The ending of King’s original story was FAR more realistic (and scarier, actually) — we’re left to wonder whether hope will be enough to save the survivors. Darabont’s film seems to be saying it doesn’t much matter one way or another.

  • MaryAnn

    too much a bad joke on David and the audience.

    Wow. I SO didn’t not feel like I’d been the butt of a joke.

    At the time this woman left the market, EVERYONE who was going out into that mist was dying. Her rescue cheapens the rest of the film (and the sacrifices made by so many characters).

    Do you really think so? Isn’t that like saying, oh, the fact that not all soldiers die in a battle cheapens the deaths of those who do?

    And how did the military get rid of the mist itself, which seemed to clear miraculously as soon as the tanks started arriving.

    What Clay said. It seems obvious to me — in retrospect — that the interdimensional door was closed, leaving a finite (if still large) number of creatures to kill. And just because we see one edge of the mist doesn’t mean it doesn’t still stretch a long way in the other directions.

    The ending wasn’t written to solidify a message (unless that message is “life is a series of random events about which we have no control, so the best plan is sit in the corner and get drunk”)

    I’m not sure I agree with that description of the “message,” but would that be so bad? It sounds like the overall impact of *No Country for Old Men,* in fact… Must every movie reinforce the fantasy that we are in control of absolutely every aspect of our lives?

    How about this as the message: “Life is a series of random events over which we have litte control, so the best plan is do the best you can based on the information you have, and to take what action you can, as long as you don’t expect lollipops and ponies at the end of a rainbow as the result of 100 percent of your actions”?

  • Kat99

    Hi MaryAnn: You suggest that the message of the film might be: “Life is a series of random events over which we have little control, so the best plan is do the best you can based on the information you have, and to take what action you can, as long as you don’t expect lollipops and ponies at the end of a rainbow as the result of 100 percent of your actions.” I’m not sure where you’re getting the “lollipops and ponies at the end of a rainbow” part – I certainly didn’t expect either (nor did the characters in the film). Had the film ended with the mist clearing and the five people in the car hugging each other for joy I would have felt equally disappointed (and such a “happy ending” would have been equally unearned).

    I have no problem with grim or bleak messages. The ending of King’s original novella wasn’t particularly “happy,” although it did leave room for hope. I guess the biggest problem I have with the film’s ending is that it felt so set-up. It seemed so orchestrated to be a punch-in-the-gut for the audience that its impact became manipulative rather than real.

    If the protagonist in this film is being punished for not holding onto hope, it’s a cruel punishment indeed. If Darabont truly believes that this is the way life works, then I’ll stop complaining and just chalk it up to a difference in perspective. Hey, I don’t have to agree with every film out there, and I can appreciate this one for what it is (and I liked 98% of it). But my suspicion is that Darabont DOESN’T subscribe to this pessimistic and bleak outlook (as his other films make abundantly clear). This is not a Coen brothers film – it’s from the director of Shawshank and Green Mile and Majestic (all VERY hopeful and uplifting films). I think Darabont went for pure shock at the end of Mist – he wanted to blow the audience away and he didn’t care if he blew the rest of the film away at the same time. I don’t need a “happy ending,” but I do need an ending that rings true. This one doesn’t.

  • MaryAnn

    Like I said, Kat, we’re gonna have to agree to differ on this one. :->

  • Steven Wolma

    I really enjoyed the mist. It is a movie that sits with you much after watching it. I liked the fact that it wasn’t a typical horror movie. It had substance- pointing out the evident flaws of human beings; and how easily society deteriorates when there isn’t a system to promote order. Stephen King’s writings are scary because they draw a connection between the monster(s) and the darkness of human nature. And if you ask me, Darabont did just that. He created two terrifying atmospheres: one from within the so-called sanctuary storefront and one outside of it.

    And personally, I liked the ending. It was brutal, yet effective in driving the ongoing theme- the importance of hope. The ending teaches us that without hope we can lose everything; but with hope there’s still a chance.

  • MBI

    I kind of understand where Kat is coming from, and I agree that this is clearly not a Coen Brothers film, and I’m not sure he earned that ending. I think I’ll still go with Maryann on this one, though. I think it’s about the failures of rationality; when you have no information and no way to get it, every idea is equally bad. If the survivors had been eaten by bugs because they took too long deciding to kill themselves, we’d be saying he shoulda hurried up with the suicide already.

    More disquieting to me is that the insane woman turned out to be right about everything. The bugs didn’t attack her. The bugs didn’t attack her followers after she died. The bugs went away after the boy was killed. This is a deceptively difficult and complicated movie. I gotta swirl this one around in my head for a while.

    Hmmm, one member of the sane people ran back to the market and he lived. Maybe that throws a wrench in the whole “crazy lady was right” theory. I dunno.

  • Signal30

    Hmmm, one member of the sane people ran back to the market and he lived. Maybe that throws a wrench in the whole “crazy lady was right” theory. I dunno.

    I was sort of perplexed they let him back in… I mean, he was one of the group that assassinated their leader.

  • davey khaos

    Ok. I’ve been reading blogs all night and I have to know if anyone thought the same thing I did…,but first I’ll preface that if this is right it wasn’t executed clearly, which I say because I haven’t seen anyone asking all the same questions I am…Anyways, they were all wearing gas masks at the end and I didn’t see any actual monsters at the very very end soo I thought the mist was a biochemical weapon like putting LSD in the water hole of a village. Also arrowhead (Project Arrowheads) can have poisonous tips that could stun an enemy or kill them slowly. So my question is..Did anyone think that because of the gas masks and the wierd ending and the title being “The Mist” rather than “lots of weird monsters” that they were drugged and believed whatever their imaginations lead them to? I read that the books ending was ambiguous and this poisoning the water hole biochem concept makes the most sense to me, but if it’s true and I’m not crazy then it must not have been clear

  • MBI

    “I was sort of perplexed they let him back in… I mean, he was one of the group that assassinated their leader.”

    Their cause crumbled without leadership.

  • Nathan

    khaos: no. for one thing, the military was burning the spiders and the flyings things there at the end. second, whatever happened caused a huge storm — i don’t think there are any biological weapons that could do that. third, everyone seemed to be seeing the exact same things — there were no subjective hallucinations going on. and last, the soldiers talked about opening up an interdimensional rift and not creating hallucinogens. i think the filmmakers would have at least planted a clue.

    it’s an interesting idea, though, and the movie could have easily gone that route.

    i think The Mist is about taking the middle road. don’t be ultra-rationalist like the lawyer and don’t succumb to irrational religious frenzy like the crazy lady and her followers. take the middle, practical road — just don’t kill yourself when you run out of gas.

  • One good reason for the soldiers to wear gas masks is that, in combination with the full hazmat suits they were wearing, it would help to mask the smell of the soldiers. From the novella, we know that the aliens use smell as a primary sense, so making your soldiers smell-proof would make it harder for the aliens to attack them.

    A more obvious reason is that you have no idea what kind of noxious smells or poisonous gases might come out of an alien when you shoot it or torch it. So, better safe than sorry.

  • MaryAnn

    More disquieting to me is that the insane woman turned out to be right about everything.

    I don’t see that at all! The things you say she was right about — and I can’t remember all the details, so I can’t say if you’re correct about them or not — are the result of luck or chance or obviousness.

    whatever happened caused a huge storm

    No, no, no. The huge storm caused everything, indirectly, by knocking out the power and/or causing other damage at the army base that allowed the failure of the containment of the window to the alternate Earth where the mist and the monsters were from.

  • Nathan

    No, no, no. The huge storm caused everything, indirectly, by knocking out the power and/or causing other damage at the army base that allowed the failure of the containment of the window to the alternate Earth where the mist and the monsters were from.

    that explanation makes too much sense. i’m going to stick to my inter-dimensional low-pessure system theory.

    mostly misty today with a high chance of tentacled brontosauruses.

  • MBI

    “I don’t see that at all! The things you say she was right about — and I can’t remember all the details, so I can’t say if you’re correct about them or not — are the result of luck or chance or obviousness.”

    Well…

    Well, yeah. You’re totally right on this one. The fact that the clearly insane woman turned out to have all her predictions come true isn’t because she was any smarter or more perceptive than anyone. Just luck of the draw.

    Signal30 says this “isn’t a Coen Brothers film,” and I agree, it isn’t. I think it might be a better film because of it. The ending is such a punch in the gut, partly because you never see it coming. It’s atonal. With a film like “No Country for Old Men” or “28 Weeks Later,” you can tell right away that no good will come from this. “The Mist” takes a sharp left turn to its ending, but I don’t think it cheats to get there. It redefines the whole movie — here we have a guy who looks like a hero, acts like a hero, maybe even IS a hero, but he’s acting on no better information than anyone else.

  • davey khaos

    here we go again…What about how amanda wanted to give the kid aspirin? You aren’t supposed to give kids aspirin and she’s supposed to be good with kids. I also noticed that a couple times it was like oh and look at the stingers then even the audience was made aware of stingers. This also lead me to the drug thing, but I agree they would’ve made it more clear…I’m prolly the one on drugs…But wait if it wasn’t drugs how and the hell are they gonna kill that huge huge mamoth dinosaur blue whale thing with a tiny tank??? and don’t answer that it was just a bad ending please

  • Kat99

    Sorry, Khaos, “it was just a bad ending.”

  • davey khaos

    alright one more silly thing…in the beginning of the movie the old woman says that they are running out of funding and all the military guys were leaving…so atleast the upper ups knew that something was about to happen, but the bugdet line made me think it was purposefully done by the government…hmmm. I realize that if I’m the only one who thinks it was about the government drugging everyone then there’s a 99.6% I’m dead wrong, but the gas masks, the aspirin to the kid, losing money in the school budget, what ever they say becomes real, the tentacle disolved into nothing and how would they ever kill that huge thing, the people in the trucks didnt have gas masks, and how in the heck would they kill that huge huge mamoth thing? I need answers people, but if you don’t have any atleast check out my band….myspace.com/povertybranch

    it’s sweet indie folk rock…you’ll love it

  • MaryAnn

    The fact that the clearly insane woman turned out to have all her predictions come true isn’t because she was any smarter or more perceptive than anyone.

    You’re being sarcastic, MBI, but if I remember correctly (and maybe I don’t), her “predictions” are along the lines of “Look how well my tiger-repelling amulet works: I’ve never been attacked by tigers!” (but in reverse). Or like saying that “God told me the sun will rise in the east tomorrow.” But when it does, that doesn’t prove God exists, or if he does exists, that he talked to you.

    And even she was “perceptive” about things — like understanding human psychology — doesn’t mean she wasn’t insane, too.

  • Signal30

    Of course, there’s also the possibility that just because the Army and the refugees got out of town and made it as far as Drayton and crew did, that there was anything other than The Mist waiting for them…

  • MBI

    Um… no, I wasn’t being sarcastic. Honestly. Seriously, wasn’t being sarcastic. Goddamn Internet, it wasn’t meant to come out that way at all.

    Anyways, I meant it when I said that it was pure dumb fucking luck that all her predictions came true. I’ve thought about it and I think I actually prefer it this way–it’s almost proof that there ISN’T a God. It seems like an actual God would smack this woman down, and it doesn’t happen. I mean, yes, she gets killed, but it would be so much more satisfying if a bug ate her, wouldn’t it? And that doesn’t happen, because God doesn’t care what would be fair or satisfying. So the obvious loony woman’s predictions all come true, because… fuck, why not? Life isn’t fair.

  • Signal30

    What if Carmody wasn’t actually crazy… say, any crazier than the firey-eyed biblical prophets from the days when Giants walked the Earth and plagues descended on a vengeful God’s whim?

    If you approach The Mist as Old Testament redux, it makes a whole lot more sense:

    That in fact (well, within the context of the film) a vengeful God truly exists, that He has allowed man to inadvertently unleash the End of Days and that he annoited Ms. Carmody his small town messiah (the bug that crawls up her blouse, looks her in the eyes and then flies off).

    That after offering up the young soldier as a blood sacrifice, the supermarket then lies in a state of grace… until another sacrifice is required.

    But by killing the Voice of God and leaving the supermarket, in his hubris Drayton incurs the displeasure of that vengeful God.

    And as the Army rolls by in the end, no one goes to him, acknowledges him except for the mother (that he refused to act as escort) who in passing looks down at him accusingly… as if she sees into his heart and senses the betrayal he has wrought.

    And as the sole remaining infidel, he has become an Outcast.

  • MaryAnn

    It seems like an actual God would smack this woman down, and it doesn’t happen.

    But people like her really exist, and they don’t get smacked down by any supposed gods either.

    What if Carmody wasn’t actually crazy… say, any crazier than the firey-eyed biblical prophets from the days when Giants walked the Earth and plagues descended on a vengeful God’s whim?

    But that presupposes that the fairy tale nonsense of the Bible is actually true — if only within the context of the film’s reality — which is ludicrous. There’s nothing to support such a contention, even within your own explanation. It assumes that “God” is so unknowable that his actions are not predictable or logical, which rules him out as any kind of potential dramatic character.

  • What MaryAnn said.

    Now, I know she’s an atheist, which means she believes that there is NO god of any sort. The only problem with that is that God, if He does exist, exists on a completely different level of existence from us. If He existed in any provable way, then He would be explainable by Science; but religion rejects any scientific explanation of God. (“‘I refuse to prove that I exist,’ says God, ‘for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.'”) Ergo, you cannot prove He exists… and you cannot prove He doesn’t. It’s a matter of faith and what you believe in.

    That said, I think Mrs. Carmody was a nutjob who took some random elements of luck (not getting stung by the fly, predicting that a blood sacrifice would buy them some peace from the aliens, etc.) and built them into some sort of sign that she was God’s prophet. Her death didn’t provide any means of resolution; nor did Billy’s. It’s more likely that the mist began to recede when power was restored to the Arrowhead Project by men, and that this closed the interdimensional window. Or they did something else to close the rift. But in the end, they’re just events, the result of conscious and willful action. If you believe in God, though, you could pull a Signs trick and interpret them as divinely-inspired events.

    It really all boils down to what you believe.

  • Signal30

    Well, the God of the Old Testament didn’t exactly come across as logical to begin with, what with such things as demanding that Abraham sacrifice his son to prove how faithful the man was, and that whole Job bet with Satan. And He seemed to like throwing plagues around just for the hell of it.

    All sorts of nonsense abounded.

    I don’t see why having to be a believer has anything to do with accepting the theory… do you have to believe in Satan to think that The Exorcist was a damned effective horror film?

  • No, and you don’t need to believe in God to think that The Mist is a damned effective horror film, because what happens in this movie is, as Norton says, not supernatural. Mrs. Carmody puts the fear of God into her followers, but God didn’t open the interdimensional doorway at the Arrowhead Project; men did. And men closed it. (We assume that’s what happened.)

    Now, you may choose to say that God created the aliens, if you also assume that He created us. But He also gave men free will, and that means that whatever happened at the Arrowhead Project is our fault, not His.

    Put another way: Do you believe in predestination? If so, then yes, it’s all God’s fault. Makes for a boring story, knowing that this has all been scripted out already. But otherwise, you can’t blame Him for problems that we brought upon ourselves, even if He is responsible for setting up the original conditions of the situation.

  • MaryAnn

    I don’t see why having to be a believer has anything to do with accepting the theory… do you have to believe in Satan to think that The Exorcist was a damned effective horror film?

    I’ve actually made the point before elsewhere that you need to believe in Satan *within the context* of a movie like *The Exoricst* for that movie to work, much in the same way that you have to believe in Sauron within the context of *The Lord of the Rings* for that movie (or book) to work. None of which has anything to do with whatever you believe or don’t believe once you leave the movie.

    So yes, I agree with you there. But the same conceit doesn’t work with *The Mist.* “God” is not a character in *The Mist* in the same way that Satan is in *The Exorcist* or Sauron is in *LOTR.* “Crazy Mrs. Carmody” is a character, but not the deity she rants about.

  • MBI

    I agree — God not only isn’t a dramatic character, but the whole movie takes place in an atheist universe. Who lives, who dies — all based on chance, no God imposing any order on anything. I think there’s a God in Ridley Scott’s “Alien” (a God who clearly prefers the aliens, for the record), but there is definitely none in “The Mist.”

    I think the movie attacks both science and religion as avenues for people to think they understand things they know not a goddamn thing about. David isn’t being punished for his hubris, as suggested earlier — for one, that implies someone’s punishing him. There’s no one; David’s just collateral damage.

  • You can’t be serious. The B-Movie is NOT “out”! Go to the video store and look at the shelves if you want more than enough proof that’s dead wrong. But anyway–I think Stephen King’s getting a real renaissance lately, and I’m happy for it. “1408” was not what you’d call a bad movie, and “The Mist” does a great job of following up.

  • MaryAnn

    Did I say the B-movie was out? Where did I say that?

    I said A-movies went B, which is not the same thing. Monster movies did not used to be considered appropriate subject matter for A-list dramas… but today they are. Just as SF is now being taken seriously.

    That’s what I meant — and it’s a point I’ve certainly made many times before. What used to be considered beneath the purview of serious film is now often its fodder.

  • jjreddick

    well i have a theory on this whole mist movie that i would like to share…i think that the mist that came into the city was a type of chemical gas that messed with everyones minds. it caused them to see hilucinations and go mad….everything they thought happened to them really didnt ….it makes sense because at the end of the movie you see those army guys coming through wearing GAS MASKS …picking up survivors and when the mist clears away u dnt see any of those crazy looking creatures anywhere …. and he had just seen a huge monster walk across the road….but i dunno that is just a theory

  • Good theory, JJ, but there’s nothing in the novella or the movie that really supports it. Trying to explain the story by saying “It was all the drugs in the air” is not far removed from “It was all a dream”. Not an especially good way to wrap up a story.

  • Moe

    Great movie and i agree with Maryanne 100%.
    She really nailed the essence of this flick.

    Carmody was just a religious fanatic with a messiah complex that was glad the disaster happened so she could use her extensive knowledge of the asshole God in the old testament to lay the wool over her sheep’s eyes.
    I can imagine her as a faithful commander in the crusades, the inquisitions and the salem witch burnings. A fanatical and fundamentalist radical like that women in Jesus camp and a kindred soul in almost everyway with the taliban and Osama.

    The fact that she lead dozens to her way of thinking is scary. The fact that a few people on this board think her predictions were true is downright, soul-crunchingly depressing.
    It takes nothing to fuel the fires of paranoia and guess more bloodshed. We all knew the bravest and most logical were bound to die if only for their daring rescue attempts and their horror of Carmody’s mob.

    I even liked the ending. David kept his promise to his boy to not let the monsters get him. And although their decision was a bit too quick, you could hear the distant sounds of the monsters coming close which was really just the military.

    Great movie. Someone please give a copy to Eli Roth.

  • Signal30

    The fact that she lead dozens to her way of thinking is scary. The fact that a few people on this board think her predictions were true is downright, soul-crunchingly depressing.

    Even as an agnostic, I don’t see what’d be so depressing about approaching it that way. It’s just another way of looking at it. Actually, I sort of get a kick out of viewing the return of a vengeful, Old Testament God (even if He is not overtly portrayed) as just a horror film device.

    And personally, it’s the only way I found to make the ending work with the rest of the movie.

    Otherwise it just seems like a cheap shot on Darabont’s part.

    As they say, MMV. Nothing depressing about it.

  • MaryAnn

    I sort of get a kick out of viewing the return of a vengeful, Old Testament God (even if He is not overtly portrayed) as just a horror film device.

    That could be a cool movie. It’s not this one, though.

  • Krow

    Paging M. Night Shyamalan. Please pick up the white phone. Someone is stealing your material.

  • Signal30

    M. Night Shyamalan was ten years old when “The Mist” was first published.

  • Bogdan1939

    First, let me say how much I’ve enjoyed reading the entries on this blog.

    Having read and reread “The Mist” over the last sixteen years (and having mostly loved the film), I have analyzed it to death in my own mind and with anyone who will talk with me about it.

    I have some theories about why the people did what they did at the end of the film.(In case somebody reading this hasn’t seen the movie yet, I will try to avoid discussing exactly what happened at the end, so as not to spoil it).

    David and the five others had left the supermarket with the intention of driving south, away from the mist, to safety. What they saw on their journey could have convinced anyone that there was no longer any such thing as safety, comfort or home.

    First, David drove home and saw his wife had been coccooned. Even assuming she was somehow still alive (her body looked intact and her face looked peaceful), she would soon die a terrible death like the MP in the pharmacy. Alive or dead, he could not bury her or even touch her without endangering his son and everyone else in the car. (What could he tell his son when he woke up and asked about mommy?)

    Then they drove, presumably for many hours, encountering no other survivors and seeing only scenes of destruction. (That shot of the little girl cocooned on the wrecked school bus was truly heartending. I can just see the bus driver colliding with the other vehicle, telling the little girl to stay in her seat, and then opening the bus door to see if the other motorist is all right…) As they drove on, presumably encountering similar tragic sights along the way, the possibility of saving themselves must have seemed more and more remote.

    And then, just as things seem like they couldn’t possibly get worse, they see that colossal, six-legged, truly alien-looking (and strangely beautiful) creature towering over the mountains. Check out the expressions on the faces of Frances Sternhagen and Jeffrey DeMunn as the creature passes over their car – not fear, but a kind of realization and despair. Seeing something like that (by its sheer size and weight now the dominant form of life on earth) could have led them to conclude that the entire world was essentially overrun and that it would be impossible to rebuild anything.

    Finally, as they sit there in the car, they hear various howls and roars coming out of the mist. They must have felt like everything – not just their bid for safety but everything else in the world – had reached a blind alley.

    One last thought about the ending (I could go on about this all night): Many people have criticized (or praised) Frank Darabont from changing the ending of the novella. However, the Darabont ending was actually suggested, by David himself, in the novella. I won’t quote the exact language because I don’t want to spoil the film, but it’s mentioned shortly after David and his friend escape from the supermarket. As he is driving south, he ponders the scenario that Darabont used to end the film.

    Anyone want to discuss this further?

  • Bogdan, good stuff.

    I think we’ve discussed this until a lot of us are blue in the face (or suffering CTS, anyway). I’m of the group that believes that despite everything that preceded, the final action carried out by David seemed rushed. There were all sorts of things they could have tried, chiefly among them simply waiting. They were in no desperate need yet of water or food, and no attack seemed imminent. So why do what was done so quickly?

    I think the ending of the film would have been more powerful, and the irony especially poignant, if some passage of time between running out of gas and doing what was done had been depicted. Obviously, I wasn’t in the Scout with them, so I didn’t see everything they saw or experience the same amount of time they did, but I have to say that unless the threat of a nasty, prolonged death was truly imminent, I would not volunteer to proceed as David did.

    See above for a few scenarios that I think would have been even more powerful.

  • Bogdan1939

    You know, that’s a good point and I hadn’t thought of it: Most people, even confronting the scenario the survivors did, probably would not have been “steady” enough to proceed with David’s plan immediately. At the very least, somebody might have wanted time to say goodbye to someone else, this could have led to more conversation among them, and they might just have ended up sitting there in the SUV for a while.

    But that very scenario (five people cooped up in an SUV for a long time, say, even two days, with all of the monsters outside) could itself have led to some very dark endings for the film.

    Think about it: They’re trapped together in the SUV with the sounds of the insects all around them. They have no food (Mrs. Carmody having taken away the groceries that Ollie Weeks had stashed by the checkout). And, of course, everyone is a little dirty after not having bathed for two days plus. At the very least, the people in the car would begin to get on one another’s nerves. After some period of time (I don’t know if it would be hours or days), claustrophobia and hunger would set in. Some of the survivors might begin to hallucinate. In other words, the car becomes like a microcosm of the supermarket – people trapped together and going crazy.

    This “alternative” scenario could lead to any number of dark endings: Someone hallucinates that the mist has blown away and tries to open a door or window. A fight breaks out in the confined space. One survivor kills another (maybe to keep him/her from opening a window). By the time they are rescued, a hundred things could have happened of which would have traumatized, shamed, or even injured or killed one or more of the survivors. (Remember the ending of Lord of the Flies: When the boys are finally rescued, they have become savages. For that matter, remember the Donner Party.)

  • MaryAnn

    They’re trapped together in the SUV with the sounds of the insects all around them.

    But the most likely scenario, given all they’ve seen, is that the monsters almost immediately bust through the car windows. I don’t think they think they have a lot of time to waste if they want to save themselves suffering.

  • Actually, MaryAnn, if they paid attention when they first got into the Scout, the spider that was attacking them made no real effort to get into the vehicle beyond taking one whack at the windshield. None of the aliens, throughout the entire movie, ever showed any real inclination towards trying to break through glass; the only reason the alien birds did so is because they were trying to pick off the flies that were attracted to the light and were sitting on the glass windows. This is all consistent with the theory that the aliens hunt using smell.

    So David and the others could easily have holed up inside the Scout for a day or two, before the water/food/sanitation situation became dire.

  • JonTheRedeemer

    It seems the only factor which no-one on this post was willing to encompass when trying to explain or address the shock ending was the cynical profit motive. When you consider the attempts by assholes like King and Darabont to add reducing their booty to the US criminal code (via capital punishment) it is all too obvious. The only reason this film was made was to separate suckers from their greenbacks. Ipso facto, the reasoning behind the ending was to separate suckers from their greenbacks. That so many industry insiders and afficionados and sycophants can blithley ignore this is breathtaking … or even more worrying. For what it’s worth, I was happy with my investment but I made it EXPECTING contrivance and manipulation. Get real!

  • Um… OK.

  • MaryAnn

    Methinks JonTheRedeemer forgot to take his meds this morning…

  • boz

    MaryAnn I think your judgement is a little bit clouded. There is some sense in Signal30’s theory.

    Let’s suppose I am a devout christian or evangelist or whatever they call themselves. When I watch this movie I’ll clearly get one message “Carmody was right”. I read novella before and it was one of my favourites (shame on you darabont to destroy it) also I am an agnostic. So I know Carmody is a nutjob. But I can also see other peoples viewpoints here.

    HERE BE SPOILERS

    Let’s sum it up in their angle. After a storm(natural disaster, gods domain) some mist traps some people in a market. There is a religius lady who can tell what will happen tries to save “good people” by sacrificing “evil ones” who mocks believers faith and god almighty. Even executioners of god does not harm this lady. And evil ones, the unbelievers escape, killing beloved Carmody. Because of this their leader is condemned with damnation. And glorious US army protects and saves believers.

    You may choose not to accept it but this make sense in some minds.

    The Mist was an open ended story. You had no explanation about mist’s origin( arrowhead was just a speculation) you had no idea about what happenned to lady with two kids, or our protagonists fate.

    This movie does not give you anything to dream. Mist: It’s caused by a failed scientific experiment.
    Monsters: They are from another dimension see Mist.
    Lady: She survived and having fun with her kids.
    Our team: Mostly dead because their leader suddenly decided to become an impatient idiot who is incapable of buying gas.
    Frank Darabont: I won’t watch anything with his name on it unless held at gunpoint.

  • Oy

    Carmody was the only person who wasn’t scared of the creatures. This could explain in many ways why the thing didn’t poke her. Same goes for the woman going after her kids.

    Was it all part of God’s will and was she spared by the creatures as a result of her accepting that as reality? Did the creatures sense something similar between her and themselves and spare her life? Do they react to fear much like other insects and animals? If she doesn’t fear the bug and it doesn’t feel threatened as a result would it then leave her alone?

    Carmody did accurately predict far too many happenings to have it be coincidence. These weren’t moments of hypothesis and likelihoods. This was, “You specifically will die if you go out there.” It happened a lot.

    Regardless of her methods, she was accurate about virtually everything that was actually happening. Strip away the old testament rants and revelations quoting and she was right. Even down to the end. She tried to prevent the people from leaving. If they had listened to her they all likely would have lived.

    The scene with the soldier being stabbed to death was chilling but given time to consider exactly what happened I’ve come to a conclusion. The soldier is not blameless in the actions of the military scientists. When you work for an organization and get word that bad things are going on there you ultimately end up with two choices: accept or denounce. He accepted and died as a result. Another of Carmody’s predictions comes true in that they were not bothered that night by the creatures after tossing him out there.

    What is catalyst for Carmody’s ultimate demise? Up to this point she’s accurately predicted happening after happening. She’s been directly targeted by a creature and not only lived but was “let go,” to a degree by the giant “wasp.” She’s built a massive following. She tried to prevent the group from leaving at the end as well. Had they not gone against her they likely would have lived.

    What was the moment that she died though? “We want that boy… Grab the boy.” Children are innocents. Biblically speaking and not. But with particular regard to the biblical recognition of children as innocent we come to her first HUGE mistake. In terms of the old testament, sacrificing children was a massive no-no. It’s mentioned many many many times. Almost directly after demanding the sacrifice of an innocent child she takes a bullet through the stomach and a bullet through the head. Probably just another coincidence though…

    The thing that makes me mad is that if you pluck her character out and throw in Jack Bauer, EVERYBODY loves the character. I ask you to literally do it. Stick Bauer in there prior to the, “We want the child,” moment and that character is a fucking hero. The military guy is culpable. Stab him and toss him out there to feed the creature in an attempt to buy more of us time. Unite the people. Calm the people. Predict accurately everything bad that is going to happen. Show no fear in the face of the creatures. Prevent people from trying to leave the store.

    My point is not to defend Carmody. My point is to note that regardless of whatever you believe about the character and her methods EVERYTHING she did and said panned out perfectly until the EXACT moment she demanded the sacrifice of an innocent child. And prior to that point, given a small retooling of the character, the people calling her a whack job and a nut job would be lauding the character as a hero.

    Also, it was blatantly obvious that it was David’s suggestion to commit suicide at the end. Everybody can say “agree to disagree” all they want but it doesn’t change the reality of the situation. If you don’t think he was the instigator in that little endeavor you are mistaken.

    I really enjoyed the film on every level though. Carmody indeed was stomach-turning but brilliantly acted and portrayed. I say that as a Christian and human being. I accept that there are people like her out there. I’m also smart enough to recognize that zealotry and madness is not purely within the ranks of God-fearing people. As pride and various other ugly qualities are not relegated to the religious in totality. I have to say I’ve never been a fan of Tom Jane’s either. He surprised me in this film about as much as Paul Walker did in Running Scared. That is to say quite a bit.

  • Oy

    Another thing I really really liked was the camera work. I kept thinking how familiar it was during the whole movie. I just read somewhere that the camera crew from The Shield was used in shooting the movie. Gotta’ be one of my favorite shows of all time. Makes perfect sense now.

  • MaryAnn

    The thing that makes me mad is that if you pluck her character out and throw in Jack Bauer, EVERYBODY loves the character. I ask you to literally do it. Stick Bauer in there prior to the, “We want the child,” moment and that character is a fucking hero.

    Not everyone thinks Jack Bauer is a “fucking hero.”

  • Oy

    Very true, but the average person isn’t exactly turned off by him.

    I still believe my point stands though. Far more people would find the character much more appealing had she not been a “religious whack job.”

    I watched the movie again today. I’m very struck by it’s ability to be many things to different people. The rational fear of Carmody by the “group” and the irony of their conversation that mentions “kool-aid.” The idea of fate versus coincidence and right versus wrong. Hope versus hopelessnes.

    There’s a million things to be said about this film and very few of them are bad. I’ve got a newborn teetering on the verge of sleep here though so I’ll leave it to what I’ve mentioned for now.

  • WriterGuy

    So MaryAnn, how do you like having a quote of yours on the back of “The Mist” DVD?

  • MaryAnn

    I feel like that and two bucks gets me on the subway…

  • j4yx0r

    @MaryAnn

    Oh, c’mon. Is that snarky modesty or does it not make you the LEAST bit happy to see your own words chosen for that purpose? Yes, obviously the ‘critical praise’ borrowed for DVD covers or book inserts is incredibly shallow (if I see “‘Superlative!!!’ – Chicago Sun Times’ used to promote anything ever again I’m going to shoot a Barnes and Noble clerk), but it’s YOUR QUOTE, right? I think I’d still be a little puffed up by the whole thing.

    ~j

  • MaryAnn

    Sure, it’s my quote. But when you see how quotes are used to sell movies and DVDs (and, as you note, books too, though I don’t see how that’s the fault of a lowly bookstore clerk, who has absolutely nothing to do with the production or sale of books), it’s hard to get too worked up about it.

  • Cagey

    When David sees his wife cocooned, there is another set of eyes at the left of the scene. I thought it might be David’s eyes seen in the window of his vehicle, but they look like female eyes. Any theories? You may have to run it again to see it.

  • “Best movie of 2007 – period”??? Nice way to get your quote on the jacket but are honestly ranking it higher than ‘No Country for Old Men’? ‘I Am Legend’? Eastern Promises’? ‘Into the Wild’? Even ‘Juno’ had more believable characters.

    “Best horror movie ever . . .” Are you seriously putting ‘The Mist’ up against ‘Psycho’? ‘Alien’? ‘The Exorcist’? Come on! ‘Blair Witch’ was both scarier and more realistic.

    I’ve never seen such a more stock collection of one dimensional, overused caricatures . . . dumb hicks, religious whackos, evil military men . . . oooh, genius! A 12 year old could have made this movie – and probably would have had scarier and more realistic monsters (human monsters included). The biggest shock for me was how this tripe could come out of the same minds that birthed Shawshank.

  • MaryAnn

    “Best movie of 2007 – period”??? Nice way to get your quote on the jacket

    I don’t write anything to get quoted — it’s pointless — and I didn’t call this the best movie of 2007 — I said it was ONE OF the best. And if you take a look at the obvious link to “2007 films ranked” that appears at the top and bottom of this page, you can see how I ranked all those films you mentioned.

  • MBI

    For some reason, Doug up there included “I Am Legend” in his list of greatest films of 2007 list. That makes far less sense to me than including “The Mist.”

  • DougB

    My bad – I was quoting from memory, it was late, and I was medicated. :) But it was actually your review that pushed me over the edge to rent ‘The Mist’ in the first place.

    I have been a fan of Stephen King since I was a kid (‘Firestarter’ was my first “big book”!). But with the exception of a few classics (‘Carrie’, ‘The Shining’) I have always been unsatisfied with his “horror” books. They are either goofy (killer cars and cell phones???) or the ending flops (Thinner’, ‘Pet Sematary’). Worse, King’s books often do not translate well to the screen (‘It’, ‘Dreamcatcher’) so I was extremely skeptical. BUT . . . between Darabont (‘Green Mile’ and ‘Shawshank Redemption’ were so money!) and your praise I thought I had a winner.

    By the time the tired ‘Religous Nut’ character and the Animatronic-Disney-Tentacle creature showed up I was back to my original intuitions. When the majority of the town went from clear thinking, down-home folks to crazed, child-sacrificing “Christians” because they spent two days in a grocery store . . . well . . . that’s just stupid. If they had all turned into crazed, child-sacrificing democrats I doubt the reception would have been quite so good.

    Besides the cardboard characters, paint-by-the-numbers storyline, plot holes (while I was mildly amused by the ‘Stand’ nod, I still don’t get why the religious nut didn’t get stung), and monsters that look like they came from the Star Wars cantina, the ending just didn’t work with the rest of the film. I think one reviewer got it right when he called it “cruel and pretentious.” What began as a tale of hope in the midst of trial concludes with the hero basically saying, “Well, we’ve run out of gas . . . screw it, let’s just kill ourselves.”

    Such a heavy-handed ending was simply not earned by the rest of the film. (‘Gerry’-ex-machina anyone???)

  • MaryAnn

    Well, if I felt as you do, I wouldn’t have written the review I wrote.

  • Tom

    So much discussion on this film. I am glad I came here.

    Oh I loved the film… But it left me sour and empty. Watch the film in the evening, and you’ll feel down for the rest of night.

    The ending, however poignant, just didn’t fit. Whilst the Novella version would have undoutedly left you wanting more, becuase the movie was so good, I think it would have been “best”.
    Hope and “rationality”, and “faith” and uncertainty could all have been reconciled in the Novella version. Darabont’s pointlessly cruel, powerfully cold ending is quite literally like a kinfe in the heart.

    Either way, the movie suffers beaneath it’s own brillaint performance, leaving every possible ending wanting.

    I can’t see how some reviewers here can equate “hope” with what happened at the film ending. however There is absolutely no hope at all, apart from the appearance of army, and the unbearably cruel re-appearance of the 8yr old’s mother. Rationality dies, quite simply, in the supermarket and in the car.

    -As for the US army being able to defeat the monsters… I felt they’d have no problem at all ridding the town or the smaller critters. Perhaps carpet-bombing the surrounding area would work.

    But I really wanted to know what happened to Mr ITC… That thing was huge, and how would the army deal with that? Of course, with the dissapearance of the Mist, we can only guess that the creatures would be forced to “return” to thier dimension, or would die.

    How far away were they from the ITC when the films end? 5 Miles? Maybe.

  • Bogdan1939

    I assume the ITC was liquidated by an airstrike. The last thing we saw (and heard) in the film was a helicopter gunship flying overhead. Presumably, once the mist started to clear, the pilot could have launched a bunch of missiles at his head.

    However, this might actually cause far more problems than it solved.

    First, following the rocket strike, the ITC would presumably drop dead, completely demolishing any houses, buildings, roads (or people) underneath him and probably causing a minor earthquake to boot.

    Second, there would then have been an enormous rotting corpse in the middle of rural Maine. (Does anyone remember that MAD Magazine satire of “Jack and the Beanstalk,” where Jack’s neighbors are telling him, “Hey, Jack, you gotta do something about that rotting giant; he’s stinking up the whole neighborhood!”)

    Third, apart from the smell and the general unpleasantness, the corpse would attract enough terrestrial bacteria to cause a major health hazard.

    Fourth, as we know from the book, the ITC was covered with thousands of smaller, parasitical-type creatures. Once he collapsed and died, these creatures would have been swarming through the forest, looking (unsuccessfully) for another “host.”

    Fifth…well, you get the idea. The best bet would probably be for the Army to mark the location of the corpse, and then completely incinerate it with napalm. (True, this would cause a forest fire, but presumably the whole of Maine is going to be uninhabitable for a generation or two, so probably no one would care.)

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