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The Mist: the book, the movie, and the ending

November 3, 2010

I recently read The Mist, the novella by Stephen King, and watched The Mist, the film adaptation by Frank Darabont.  The story is predictably good.   After all, it is Stephen King (though, I will admit this is only the second story I’ve read of his!)  It’s a quick read that hooks you early, scares you a few times, and leaves you with a typical horror story ending.  The film, on the other hand, starts off weak, picks up somewhere in the middle, and leaves you with one of the more surprising non-traditional Hollywood endings out there.  Is King’s novella better than the film adaption?  If you had asked me during the first forty or fifty minutes of the film, I would have answered yes.  But, like I said before, somewhere around the mid-point of the film, Darabont begins taking some creative liberties with the source material.  And that’s when the film excels.  Unfortunately, the only thing keeping the film from being great is that Darabont doesn’t take enough of them.  In my mind, Darabont stays too loyal to King’s story.  Even though I enjoyed both the novella and the film, I think the concept has more potential than what King and/or Darabont delivered.

The Good.

What would I change?  How would I make it better?  Hell if I know.  But it does make me take a second look at the film’s ending, despite loving it.  Darabont’s ending doesn’t differ from King’s story as much as extend it.  It is, after all, the conclusion King alludes to… so, in a way, Darabont was being faithful to King’s story (King did give the film ending his blessing, by the way.)   The ending, if you haven’t seen it yourself, is both shocking and horrific… and it fits nicely, and disturbingly, with the theme of human sacrifice.  But, by sticking to a typical horror story ending, does Darabont miss an opportunity to take the theme of both religion and human sacrifice one step further?

The Bad.

Crap… looks like I am going to throw an idea out.  Okay… the scene at the end…

So if you add characters into the film then one would assume it’s cool if you take characters out.  In that case, why water down the ending with three more characters than are necessary?  The main characters are David and his son.   That’s all who should be in the car.  David’s relationships with these other characters are nowhere near as developed as they are in the novella… so I’d lose them.  The intensity of the final scene could potentially be greater if its just David and his son with one bullet between them. (oh, and maybe the kid could be awake too.)  Now let’s say David comes to the conclusion that killing his son is the only way to go…. He holds the gun up to his son’s head, his finger tightens on the trigger… AND THEN, suddenly, the mist clears, his son lives, and they live happily ever after.  It’s a much happier ending… and admittedly, a much sappier ending… but it also fits nicely with the themes of religion and human sacrifice… and draws an obvious connection between David and the biblical story of Abraham.  This idea has far less shock-value than shooting four people in the head… but what does it imply?   Divine intervention.  The movie becomes a test of David’s faith in God…

The Ugly.

BUT I’m just throwing this idea out there.  I’m not sure I’d like the film being that religious.   Like I said before, I like both the story’s and the film’s endings.  It may have had even more of an impact if it involved just David and his son (much like The Road) but I’m not about to hold that against King or Darabont.  The fact that Darabont got this downer-of-an-ending to slide past the studios deserves one hell of a high-five.  And the fact that Darabont is helming The Walking Dead television series deserves an even bigger high-five.

So… yeah… just some thoughts on The Mist.  Read an excellent review here.  As for that finale scene…


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