The Mist (review)

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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.

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Rykker
Rykker
Mon, Nov 19, 2007 7:10am

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
Johnny
Mon, Nov 19, 2007 9:20am

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
Tue, Nov 20, 2007 10:24am

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
rogue
Tue, Nov 20, 2007 7:47pm

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
MaryAnn
Tue, Nov 20, 2007 10:28pm

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).

Cathryn
Wed, Nov 21, 2007 10:49am

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
BG
Wed, Nov 21, 2007 11:08am

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
MaryAnn
Wed, Nov 21, 2007 11:14am

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

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

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Fri, Nov 23, 2007 3:36pm

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
Tay
Sun, Nov 25, 2007 12:03pm

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
Kat99
Sun, Nov 25, 2007 2:52pm

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
MaryAnn
Sun, Nov 25, 2007 6:37pm

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
Signal30
Mon, Nov 26, 2007 4:53am

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
endymion
Mon, Nov 26, 2007 5:05am

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
Kat99
Mon, Nov 26, 2007 6:49am

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
bitchen frizzy
Mon, Nov 26, 2007 9:37am

**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.

bitchen frizzy
bitchen frizzy
Mon, Nov 26, 2007 1:51pm

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.

bitchen frizzy
bitchen frizzy
Mon, Nov 26, 2007 2:57pm

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

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Mon, Nov 26, 2007 3:13pm

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
bitchen frizzy
Mon, Nov 26, 2007 3:58pm

***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
MaryAnn
Mon, Nov 26, 2007 4:45pm

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
MaryAnn
Mon, Nov 26, 2007 4:49pm

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
MaryAnn
Mon, Nov 26, 2007 4:50pm

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
bitchen frizzy
Mon, Nov 26, 2007 5:12pm

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
bitchen frizzy
Mon, Nov 26, 2007 5:19pm

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.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Mon, Nov 26, 2007 5:37pm

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
bitchen frizzy
Mon, Nov 26, 2007 6:41pm

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
Signal30
Mon, Nov 26, 2007 7:25pm

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
Signal30
Mon, Nov 26, 2007 8:46pm

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
MaryAnn
Mon, Nov 26, 2007 9:44pm

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
Nathan
Tue, Nov 27, 2007 12:35am

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
Kat99
Tue, Nov 27, 2007 8:12am

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.

Kat99
Kat99
Tue, Nov 27, 2007 10:07am

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
MaryAnn
Tue, Nov 27, 2007 1:59pm

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
Kat99
Tue, Nov 27, 2007 3:28pm

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
MaryAnn
Tue, Nov 27, 2007 11:47pm

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

Steven Wolma
Steven Wolma
Wed, Nov 28, 2007 12:28am

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
MBI
Sat, Dec 01, 2007 1:29am

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
Signal30
Sat, Dec 01, 2007 2:26am

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
davey khaos
Sat, Dec 01, 2007 3:00am

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
MBI
Sat, Dec 01, 2007 4:01am

“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
Nathan
Sat, Dec 01, 2007 11:58am

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.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Sat, Dec 01, 2007 4:24pm

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
Nathan
Sat, Dec 01, 2007 6:10pm

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
MBI
Sat, Dec 01, 2007 10:22pm

“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
davey khaos
Sun, Dec 02, 2007 1:59am

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
Kat99
Sun, Dec 02, 2007 6:07pm

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

davey khaos
davey khaos
Sun, Dec 02, 2007 11:44pm

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
MaryAnn
Sun, Dec 02, 2007 11:54pm

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
Signal30
Mon, Dec 03, 2007 12:37am

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…