7 Rated Books Book Reviews Book to Movie

From the Page to the Screen: The Mist

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.

Poor Norm meets what’s in the mist

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.

Rating:

Novella – 7 Very Good

Movie – 8 Excellent

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5 Comments

  • Mollie
    March 25, 2008 at 10:54 am

    I love Thomas Jane. Although the only thing I’ve seen him in is The Punisher.

  • Thea
    March 25, 2008 at 11:10 am

    Mollie, Thomas Jane is awesome. I don’t know why he doesn’t get more love…maybe because he looks very much like Aaron Eckhart? Definitely give The Mist a try–he’s wonderful in it.

    If you like baseball, he was also in the Billy Crystal directed great HBO movie 61*, as a very believeable Mickey Mantle πŸ™‚

  • Katie(babs)
    March 25, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    I read the short story because I am a Stephen King addict and really enjoyed it. BUT I don’t know if they had this scene in the movie, but the father ends up having sex with a woman in the supermarket because he assumes his wife has dies and he needs comfort. That was a major turn off for me.
    Maybe this should be another rental on my list! My video TBW (to be watched) is almost as big as my reading list!

  • Thea
    March 26, 2008 at 8:36 am

    Katie–that was a bit…weird. But, times of stress/fear/desperation, I could understand it in the story. However, this scene is NOT in the movie. There is some attraction/sexual tension between David and the teacher, but they don’t do the deed.

    One further word on the sex scene–it was morally ‘wrong’ and I think one of the coolest things about the book (and the movie executes this brilliantly, especially with the ending) is that no one is ‘right’ or ‘good’. Even our heroes can be so misguided/scared that they make the bad decisions–as is human nature. The movie ending speaks volumes to this theme…

    Definitely, give it a rent!

  • Kate
    April 4, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    Just watched this movie the other night, and damn it was good. I’m pretty sure I’ve read the novella but it was years ago in middle school too, and I didn’t remember a thing about it.

    It screams “Lord of the Flies” to me, and I love how the focus was the fear within as much as the fright outside.

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