Title: The Mist
Novella by Stephen King
Movie directed by Frank Darabont; starring Thomas Jane
Today the film adaptation of Stephen King’s novella The Mist hits stores. Previously published in Skeleton Crew, the novella was marketed on its own shortly before the movie came out in theaters.
A bit of background first: Skeleton Crew is King’s second published short fiction anthology, and contains 22 pieces of work (including this novella, and two poems). I had read this book a while back when I was in middle school, so my memory was a bit rusty. When I heard about the movie last year, I decided to go out for a reread. A bit older now and with more of a SK/horror repertoire, rereading The Mist was a whole new experience.
As an earlier King work, The Mist is a solid, frightening story. The novella opens with a terrifying storm shaking the lake house of the Drayton family in a small Maine town. The next morning the family surveys the damage done and sees a thick, ominous mist gathered over the edge of the lake which appears to be slowly rolling in. David Drayton, the father and story narrator, has some misgivings about leaving his wife behind and the incoming mist, but decides to go into town for supplies. Drayton takes his son Billy and annoying lawyer neighbor, Brenton Norton, hops along for the ride as well.
In the town grocery store, it’s pandemonium. The power is out, so the checkers have to work everything out by calculator and hand written receipts. Many of the townspeople have the same instinctual idea as Drayton: to load up on supplies. Things get even more complicated as the mist rolls in, and cloaks the town. Something causes the store’s generator to hiccup, and a few men (Drayton and store manager Ollie among them) try to find out what the problem is–turns out something has blocked the external vent. One of the workers, a young innocent redshirt named Norm, goes outside to fix the problem…and is attacked by sinister tentacles and sucked out into the mist.
Drayton and Ollie try to convince the people in the store of what they saw, and warn them against going outside, but to no avail. Norton and a few similar minded individuals refute Drayton and Ollie’s crazed stories, and decide to venture outside. They disappear into the thick fog, screaming. When the remaining survivors finally see one of the creatures in the mist, full scale panic hits. The store is thrown into chaos, and divisions are made. Mrs. Carmody, holy-roller and previously ignored as Old Testament crazy by most of the townspeople, now becomes prophet-like in the eyes of the survivors. Incensed and riding this wave of mass paranoia, Mrs. Carmody demands that the end of days is at hand, humanity is being punished for their sins and the only way to appease the vengeful God is through human sacrifice. The smaller, other faction of survivors led by David Drayton fight against Mrs. Carmody, and eventually make their own stand and leave the store to brave the mist outside.
The novella, by itself is very good. It is classic King, involving multiple characters and a truly scary plot, all the way down to its ambiguous ending. After reading the novella, I was hesitant to watch the movie, but boy am I glad I did.
When I left the theater, I was shocked to my very core–this was not what I read in the novella, and not what I was expecting…in a very, very GOOD way. Frank Darabont, the writer/director of other Stephen King adaptations such as The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile manages to yet again improve on an already superior work by King.
This is one movie that is BETTER than the book.
It begins with a still shot of David Drayton (played by the dependable Thomas Jane), painting a cover for an upcoming movie (Dark Tower shoutout!). The movie follows the book storyline to the letter. The storm rolls in, the mist follows, and Drayton goes into town with his son and lawyer Norton. They all hole up in the store when the monsters in the mist appear.
I felt that the movie did a wonderful job of showing the polarization of the different groups in the store, and built tensions between them incredibly well–just as the book had done. The survivors in the store divide into groups–those who believe humanity is being punished for their sins, led by a TERRIFYING Marcia Gay Harden as Mrs. Carmody; those who believe firmly in rationality and that there is nothing out there, led by lawyer Norton; and those that know something is out there, but don’t want to rush to any foolish conclusions led by David Drayton.
Drayton, Billy and company venture out into the mist
The only real difference between the book and movie is with the ending. The ending of the movie is drastically different from the short story–and makes the movie all the better for it (in fact, Stephen King himself has said that if he had thought of this particular ending, he would have written it). Frank Darabont again shows his mettle, and goes against the grain, opting for a truly shocking conclusion that you know he probably had to fight the studio tooth and nail for. This decision pushes the movie from good to truly excellent, in my honest opinion.
Not to say that the film is without fault; there are some flaws with the story–the crappy CGI for one, some unnecessary scenes involving secondary characters…but overall, this movie is one of the most haunting, terrifying stories brought to screen in a long time.
I highly recommend reading the novella, but even more I encourage everyone to watch the movie.
Novella – 7 Very Good
Movie – 8 Excellent