I avoided most of the horror that came out in the 2000s. I don’t know if 9/11 had something to do with that era’s complete and utter impotence or what, but I’m glad it’s mostly over, the never-dying string of PG-13 shit-fests notwithstanding. The Mist was among the few I bothered watching back then in that depressing time for horror. I disliked it then, but decided to give it another shot.
The Mist is about a group of shoppers who are trapped inside a supermarket when a strange, possibly poisonous mist settles over the town. A local zealot interprets the event as the end times and quickly rallies a group of brain-dead followers to do her misguided deeds of faith, which will eventually turn sacrificial in nature. Meanwhile the film’s hero, played by the always likable Thomas Jane, just wants to keep the frightened shoppers calm until he finds a way to get his son home.
When you have Stephen King and Frank Darabont providing the brains behind your movie, the result should be much better than what we got. Sure, it’s a damned sight better than Lawrence Kasdan’s Dreamcatcher (another King adaptation which also starred Jane), but the characters in The Mist make decisions roughly as brilliant as getting themselves killed over bloody toothpicks.
Case in point: a group of expendable characters are determined to get themselves killed by the monsters lurking around the back of the store. Granted, they don’t know the mist has monsters in it, not yet, but they also don’t know the mist isn’t harmful to humans. When the hero asks them why they’re being so dense, the small group (led by William Sadler) makes all kinds of flimsy excuses for acting like an idiot. Darabont, who obviously realized the scene was unbelievable, tries to lampshade the moment by having one of the smarter characters explain why everyone is acting so dumb, but it only draws even more attention to this flaw. This is not the quality you would expect from the duo who demonstrated a thoughtful regard for human nature in The Green Mile.
None of this is to say The Mist isn’t watchable. It’s an entertaining stupid movie and in an entirely different manner than most of the stupid movies I thoroughly enjoy here. The sooner you give up expecting characters you can relate to, the better. It’s just disappointing that it’s a terrifying premise with a lousy presentation. (The same can be said about 90% of King’s adaptations.) Meanwhile the CGI monsters look okay when they’re clouded by mist, but shitty otherwise.
That’s all for my review. If you haven’t seen it go watch it right now. The spoilers will be waiting for you when you’re done.
You already know what I’m going to mention next: that ending. It was certainly a shocker, but I’m wondering whether or not the movie really earned it. I’ve complained about happy endings in horror movies for years—if the survivors of the picture end up smiling in an unironic manner by the time the credits roll (see: The Visit), you’ve done a lousy job of putting them through hell. To be sure, the best final shot in a horror movie is probably in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, where the blood-drenched heroine is screaming crazily from the back of a pickup truck. You know she’ll never be right again and the film’s made all the more powerful because of it.
And although The Mist certainly doesn’t take the easy way out—far from it, in fact—it just felt like an afterthought to me. I know King has stated he preferred Darabont’s ending, but it seemed like a pointlessly cruel thing to do to the characters. I’ll never forget it, sure, but wouldn’t it have been more meaningful if there was a reason behind it, other than, “Ha, bet you never saw this coming!”?
Twist endings (not to be confused with surprising endings which effectively rounds off the story) are kind of bush league anyway, especially coming from a filmmaker as esteemed as Darabont. I know I’m being a lot harder on The Mist than most movies I feature here, but considering its pedigree, shouldn’t I be?