What lies in The Mist?
By Bert Ehrmann
March 21, 2008
In the previous edition of Dangerous Universe, I discussed three great movies I missed seeing in theaters last year. This time I’ll talk about one movie I did catch in the theater and called one of the best of ’07; Frank Darabont’s The Mist. Unfortunately, though The Mist may have been a great movie, it was mostly overlooked by the public/reviewers last year.
Based on a short story by Stephen King, The Mist follows artist David Drayton (Thomas Jane), his son Billy and neighbor Brent Norton (Andre Braugher) who find themselves trapped inside a grocery store with dozens of other people when a weird mist rolls into town. But this mist isn’t your ordinary average fog – it’s ultra-dense and contains all sorts of weird creatures within.
These creatures are all deadly to people. Some are the size of gigantic skyscrapers and “fish” the ground with long tentacles (snatching up whatever unlucky person crosses their path), others are insect like while another looks like a cross between a dog, lizard and bat…
It’s bad enough for Drayton to protect his son from the flesh-hungry monsters, but as the time inside the store shielding themselves from what lurks outside drags on from hours to days, the people within begin to loose their sanity relying instead on the musings of local town “nut” Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden). Mrs. Carmody preaches that the end times are upon us, and that the only thing that will stop those things outside from getting in is a blood sacrifice. And that Drayton’s son Billy would make the perfect candidate for such a sacrifice.
Most other horror movies would stop there – relying on the overused concept of the things outside unexpectedly snatching away those inside one at a time. This type of movie is played out time and time again relying on shock value to give the audience jump scare after jump scare. The Mist takes a different tack and instead focuses on the loooooong grind for those trapped within the grocery store with the “things” outside.
It’s a claustrophobic film, other than bits at the beginning of the movie before the mist rolls into town the film never really cuts to other scenes outside the store. We never see scenes of others fighting the creatures in the mist or hear radio or TV reports as to what’s happening in the outside world. As far as the characters and audience members are concerned, the world ENDS at the front door of the store where the mist begins.
And when the creatures do break in or characters try to escape out into the mist, it’s a realistic, deadly affair.
Since I’m guessing most people who are reading this haven’t yet seen The Mist, I’ll do my best not to ruin the ending. However, one thing that people either love or hate about this film is the ending. I will say that the ending is rather bleak and deviates greatly from the original King novella.
I’ll admit, at when I first walked out of the theater after seeing The Mist I was a bit perplexed and upset. The ending of the film wasn’t what I had come to expect from this movie, nor the one that the average ordinary horror film would have delivered. Yet it was only a few days after I saw the movie that I realized the genius of the ending.
As I pondered The Mist and talked with others about the movie, I found what I thought to be the truth behind the ending wasn’t what necessarily what others thought. In fact, after talking with these people I’ve been able to come up with at least four equally plausible explanations for what happened at the end of the film. Which, the simple fact that what looks to be a simple b-grade horror movie contains something more is extremely interesting.
And yet, while I delve into all these reasons that The Mist is a great movie that transcends the genera, it also works perfectly well as a throw-back 1950s monster movie to boot, harkening back to the likes of a Them! (1954).