Okay, so, I finally managed to get my hands on a copy of The Mist this weekend. Annnnnnnnd, the verdict?
It’s not TERRIBLE. But it’s not really that good either. At least, that’s what I was thinking until the ending, anyway. After the ending, however, I mostly found myself thinking about how great it would be if it were based on a true story so that I could track down writer/director Frank Darabout and FEED HIM TO A GIANT COCKROACH.
For those that don’t know, the movie (and the Stephen King novella it’s based on) is about a group of small-town Maine residents who have just weathered a big storm. The morning after, local artist David Drayton (Thomas Jane) is out surveying the damage to his yard and boathouse when he and his wife notice a strange mist rolling in off the lake. They don’t pay it much mind, though, and after getting a list of essentials from his wife, David gathers up his son and his cantankerous neighbor Brent Norton (Andre Braugher) and heads to the supermarket for supplies.
Lots of townsfolk have gathered at the store (having lived on the East Coast myself, I can attest to the fact they’re all there buying bread and milk, by the way). Many of the townsfolk are alumni of other Stephen King movies, which is how we know something bad is about to happen. There’s Thomas Jane, of course, from Dreamcatcher. Andre Braugher, who was in the Salem’s Lot remake. William Sadler from Shawshank Redemption. Jeffrey DeMunn from, like, EVERY Stephen King movie I’ve seen in the last five years. And finally, Frances Sternhagen, who was the cop’s wife in Misery.
And only fifteen minutes into the movie, I’ve already figured out the moral of the story: If you ever walk into a supermarket that has four or more Stephen King movie alum roaming around in it, TURN AROUND AND WALK BACK OUT.
Because sure enough, though everybody’s in pretty good spirits at first, the cheer grinds to a halt when Jeffrey DeMunn runs into the store covered in blood and yelling something about the mist grabbing his buddy.
At first, people aren’t sure what to believe — what do you mean the MIST grabbed your buddy? But the guy IS covered in blood, so, led in part by David, everyone quickly decides they should stay put until they have more information. The group is murmuring in agreement when, in one of the only truly poignant moments in the film, a young mother announces with distress that she CAN’T stay put — she told her kids she’d be right back and she can’t just. . . NOT. Desperately, she begins to pleads for one of the men to go with her, but the only response she gets is a bunch of averted eyes and shameful glances. So, she pulls herself together, opens the front door, and sallies forth into the mist. It gently wafts around her, and soon she disappears from sight.
And that was it — there was no BOO! moment, nothing grabbed her, there were no screams or blood. And that’s when I thought to myself, “Hey, maybe this movie isn’t going to suck after all!”
Alas, despite the fact this film was written and directed by Frank Darabout, who also wrote and directed the wonderful Stephen King movie The Shawshank Redemption, this flick shares NONE of that film’s subtlety and grace. It’s not long before we have lots of really stupid-looking bugs flying into the windows (BOO!), some LAME looking tentacles grabbing a stock boy, and a truly ridiculous explanation for all this having to do with the military accidentally opening up a portal to another dimension.
Really, though, the story isn’t about the bugs or the danger that lurks outside the store. Instead, it’s about the dangers of fear coupled with the irrationality of religious nutjobs. Inside the store, the townsfolk fairly quickly begin to splinter into two groups — the sane group, led by David and Truman Capote (okay, okay, Ollie Weeks, played by Toby Jones, who PLAYED Truman Capote), and the raving lunatics, led by Right-Wing Religious Whacko Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden, overacting the bejesus out of her part, I must say).
Mrs. Carmody is convinced that this is the end of the world and that those who don’t side with her will be going straight to hell. And it’s not long before fear and panic (or, as Obama might theorize, bitterness about the government) drive a bunch of others to cling to her crazy Jesus talk for comfort as well.
Long story short, things start to get a bit worrisome in the store when the sane people begin to realize they’re quickly being outnumbered by the panicked whackos. David, in particular, is concerned that they are going to attempt to kill his son as a sacrifice to God to keep themselves safe. So, despite the fact that death-by-giant-hymenoptera lies just outside the door, they decide to make a run for David’s truck and see if they can get the heck outta dodge.
So far, I didn’t HATE this movie — I thought it was pretty silly but I was being successfully entertained. I had some quibbles with the acting, but figured it really had more to do with the writing than the actual performers (Harden and Braugher’s parts were just bad roles — there wouldn’t have been a way to play those characters effectively, I don’t think).
But suddenly the movie goes from silly to ARE YOU KIDDING ME? with inordinate speed. The group of the last few sane people make a mad dash for the front door of the store and. . .
SPOILERS COMING UP NEXT — DO NOT SCROLL DOWN AND KEEP READING UNLESS YOU’VE SEEN THE MOVIE OR DON’T CARE ABOUT HAVING THE ENDING RUINED FOR YOU! ALSO, I AM GOING TO SWEAR IN THE SECTION BELOW, SO IF YOU ARE EASILY OFFENDED BY THE WORD “PUSSIES,” YOU MAY WANT TO STOP READING NOW!
Okay, so, everybody runs outside and makes a break for David’s truck, right? They all pile in, except for Truman Capote, who got eaten on the way (DANG! He was the only character I actually liked in this movie!). Their brilliant plan? To drive until they run out of gas. Yep, that’s it! That’s the whoooooole plan!
Of course, they DO run out of gas, and fairly quickly too. Sitting in the car, they begin hear the sounds of big man-eating bugs not far from them in the mist. They look at each other, think for a few moments, and then immediately decide. . .
TO SHOOT THEMSELVES?!
And, oh no! There are five of them and only four bullets left! So David promptly takes the gun and shoots everyone, INCLUDING HIS LITTLE BOY! A mere TWO MINUTES after they’ve run out of gas!! A mere TWO DAYS after the bugs crept in on little cat feet with the fog!
Seriously — that made NO SENSE WHATSOEVER!
First of all, it occurs to no one to turn on the radio and see if there are any human voices broadcasting from anywhere? Would that not have been the first thing you tried? It would’ve been the first thing I tried!
Second of all, if Plan B is SUICIDE, why not at least first send someone outside to try to score some more gas? Can’t be because they were too afraid of DYING, after all. Why didn’t they pull into a gas station when the needle got towards the E and give it a try? Why didn’t they stop next to that bus they passed and attempt to siphon some fuel out of ITS tank? Why didn’t they sit in the car until they actually started to get ATTACKED before killing themselves? You’re telling me that rather risk being eaten by a bug while trying to get some gasoline for his truck, a father would rather SHOOT HIS OWN SON? David’s whole reason for wanting to escape the store was to PROTECT his son. But at the first sign of trouble, he pulls out a gun and pops him in the head instead?
And did I mention that this is all happening a mere TWO DAYS after the mist came rolling in? What a bunch of pussies! You don’t last 48 HOURS without throwing in the towel? Frankly, the gene pool’s a better place without your DNA in it, you morons. Bring back Truman Capote — at least that guy had some balls!
The BEST part, though (by which I mean the WORST part, of course), is that, as David is outside daring the insects to devour him (EAT ME!!), what comes rolling out of the mist but. . . THE MILITARY! To the freakin’ rescue!
And it was at this point that both me AND Thomas Jane both began to yell, in unison, “Noooooooooooooooooo!” Him because he’s just killed his future girlfriend and his son and dammit, if they’d just waited two more minutes, they would’ve been saved (again, you pussies!). And me because I cannot BELIEVE Frank Darabout could be that big of a jackass.
Of all the LOSERY, LAME-ASS ways to end this movie, I am serious (this isn’t how the book ends, by the way). Not only was it just ineffectively emotionally manipulative (obviously the goal was to make our hearts ache with the horror the father is going through, but instead it just MADE ME REALLY ANGRY), but it was totally CHEESY too. Thomas Jane’s acting in that moment was utterly laughable, and that he was two minutes from rescue? Pathetic and infuriating.
In any case, up until that point, I will agree with everybody else that this movie isn’t utterly unwatchable. But the last ten minutes completely ruined the entire thing for me. Which is why, Frank Darabout, to you I have only one thing to say: HANG UP YOUR SPURS. This town ain’t big enough for the both of us ANY MORE.
[Netflix me | Buy me]
Cast: Thomas Jane, Andre Braugher, Marcia Gay Harden, Nathan Gamble, William Sadler, Alexa Davalos