“Frank wrote a new ending that I loved. It is the most shocking ending ever and there should be a law passed stating that anybody who reveals the last 5 minutes of this film should be hung from their neck until dead.” – Stephen King
(Author’s note: They all die at the end. Come at me Steve.)
Monsters, a small town, a movie you’ve probably seen.
The mystery angle is very strong in this story: we’re never quite sure where the mist is coming from. Could be a Half Life-style science experiement gone wrong or it could be the town has a vendetta with some dead mariners who’re back for revenge. We get several theories by characters within the grocery store, but never an official explanation. This helps build the suspense in the story, as you never get a clear answer. Even when the military officers show up and explain that Project Arrowhead was opening a gateway presumable of trying to summon The Old Ones for tips at the track. But we never have the one lone scientist who knows exactly how to fight the monsters… you know, like in the movie Evolution. Does anyone remember Evolution? David Duchovny’s big thing towards the end of X-Files that has maybe the most blatent/obvious product placement for Head and Shoulders shampoo? It killed the aliens in that movie, I swear, look it up. That movie had Julianne Moore, fuckin’ Julianne Moore acting opposite Sean William Scott. (Editor’s note: I love Evolution so fucking much. I love everything about Evolution. Orlando Jones is the MAN. Everyone should want some of the Kane Madness.)
I find in this story, there aren’t really many defined characters outside of David and Mrs. Carmody (the religious zealot who could teach Mrs. White and thing or two about being devout because we all know how big Steve feels about religion). But aside from the two leaders, you don’t have many memorable townspeople. It’d be like if The Stand was just Mother Abilgail and Flagg with no one in between. As people join Mrs. Carmody’s side, you never get the impression that her followers would be easily led or have a leaning towards religion. I know that the novella is only a condensed tale, but I would’ve liked a few people in the middle or few more memorable character moments.
Again there are many King tropes here in that ideas of factions based on religion, cosmic monsters, and people being the real monsters. While King has done a lot of other things, the time period this story was written during (late 70’s/early 80’s) sees a lot of the same themes popping up in his work. It’s not a bad thing: he explores these things well, especially in his crowning achievement, The Stand. This feels like another version of that story… except no one “Shines” here.
The Dark Tower – In the movie, Tom Jane is painting a poster for what’s clearly a Dark Tower movie. Can you imagine if they made a movie out of that? They di ?…. and I saw it? Excuse me, I appear to be crying blood.
We have our second Frank Darabont entry in this series (I’ll get to The Green Mile at some point but that book is an investment I can’t make, time wise, right now) and Darabont’s only straight-up horror film. Not including the script work he did on The Blob and Nightmare on Elm Street 3, the best Nightmare film (#FightMe). Not to mention that AMC’s The Boring Dead which… actually if you haven’t read Darabont’s back and forth over the lawsuit with AMC it’s more interesting than the show they allegedly owe him money. Seriously, google it.
All the classic King characters make it across to the movie. Tom Jane is an artist – not a writer, so he’s totally different, you guys. Marcia Gay Harden is the classic religious zealot. Your standard cast of Good ‘Ol Boys, played by an array of “the guy” actors you’ll recognise from all of Darabont’s movies. The whole cast sells what is essentially a one-room movie, which is the real strength of this piece. It doesn’t rely on the CG, which is decent when you see what they were working with, but the tension of other people being the real enemy…. plus the Lovercraftian monsters. Mostly the Lovecraftian monsters.
The home video releases include a black and white version of the movie, which really is the superior version. It fixes some of the dodgier-looking CGI effects and adds a great 1950’s B-movie aesthetic to the whole affair. In our current age of movies trying to recapture that 50’s, Mystery Science Theatre 3000 feel through being campy and ridiculous, The Mist has an earnestness that makes it the best example of this. The plot is ridiculous without being camp or silly. It’s the straight-laced preformances that you’d get out of Steve McQueen (playing the world’s oldest teenager) in The Blob.
In the movie we have David, his son, Amanda, and the old couple leaving the store. After driving around for a while the car finally gives up. They sit on the side of the road for a moment, until David decides to use his last four bullets to kill everyone in the car except himself. Then as he stumbles out he sees the statue of liberty and realises it was earth all along… I mean he sees the mist has cleared up and he’s now a spree killer. I’d actually like to see a sequel that follows his court case and eventual trip to Old Sparky.
“So Mr. Drayton, after your posse killed Mrs. Carmody and made your escape. You then murdered your whole gang?”
In the book, the group drive away and hear a faint sound on the radio that might be “Hartfield,” which is a few towns over. It could be their salvation or just static. This ending is much more open ended and wouldn’t lead to the greatest Law and Order episode ever. It has the feel of something could be expanded to a much larger story, like Night Surf.
Overall: I preferred the movie. Darabont had a clearer idea of what he wanted to do and made an ending that Rod Serling would’ve be pissed he didn’t think up.