Stephen King's "The Mist" was on SyFy the other night. My Other wanted to watch it, but the DVR was fumbled and when we went back to watch it last night, the only thing that had recorded was the last two minutes of the previous show.
She wanted to watch it and I had never seen it (although I had seen the abysmal "The Fog" which has absolutely nothing to do with 2007's "The Mist" but with such similar core premises, it's understandable how my uneducated perception of the Frank Darabont film might have been pre-emptively tainted). After a quick check to confirm it wasn't on Netflix (surely if it was airing on SyFy it MUST be on Netflix, right??) we rented it from iTunes.
I hope you've seen this movie, because the reason I'm writing this blog is the mist-ifying ending (sorry). That being said: spoiler alert? I'm not sure if that even applies to a film that's been around for five years, but if I hadn't seen it until last night, maybe you haven't either.
To recap ever so briefly: while shopping at the small town supermarket, a mist rolls in and it is quickly revealed that there are some kind of inhuman monsters lurking within. This traps our heroes in the supermarket for the majority of the movie. I won't spoil where the creatures come from, but it is sufficient to say that the movie paints a bleak, depressing apocalyptic story .... from inside a supermarket.
It's like "Signs" in that respect, only better.
One of the cornerstones of the story (and certainly an element that appeals to me) was a crazy Christian lady going exceptionally crazy, converting anybody who would listen to her, and building to a sequence that reveals a true sense of desperation in humanity: desperately believing in a religion that makes no sense, prompting a mob mentality and the murder of innocents.
A couple of really good -- and enlightening -- quotes:
"He's a fucking kid. He's supposed to be stupid. What's your excuse?"
"As a species, we're fundamentally insane. Put more than two of us in a room, we pick sides and start dreaming up reasons to kill one another. Why do you think we invented politics and religion?"
"We had damage at the school, wouldn't you know. That's what we get for not fixing that roof when we should've. But with funds being cut every year ... You'd think educating children would be more of a priority in this country. But you'd be wrong. Government's got be things to spend our money on. Like corporate handouts and building bombs."
With that "message" established, our shrinking group of heroes finally escape the supermarket and the clutches of the crazy Christian lady and drive off into the mist until they run out of gas. On their brief journey (which could have been several hours, although it certainly wasn't depicted that way) they witness complete destruction by the mist and the monsters within. In a defining fuck-you to humanity, a massive alien monster -- the beast's leg alone seemed to rival a small skyscraper -- ambles across the road, ignoring our heroes in their vehicle.
(Here's the bitter spoiler part.)
When the gas runs out, the vehicle stalls in the middle of the road. They're surrounded by the mist with no end in sight and are consumed with despondency and hopelessness. Four bullets remain in the gun and there are five remaining survivors. In an act of compassion (??) our lead hero shoots everyone else (including his own son) and exits the car to wait to be devoured by the monsters.
What happens next is irrelevant to my head-scratching confusion.
Why oh WHY did they all just give up when they ran out of gas? It's not like they couldn't make a run for another shelter. They had four bullets, probably a tire iron, and whatever else they could find in the immediate vicinity to use as a weapon. Sure, being torn apart by alien monsters probably isn't the most enjoyable way to go, but at least they would have TRIED. I don't know if it's all the zombie survival stories and movies or what, but I cannot wrap my head around five sane people collectively agreeing that eating a bullet is better than taking your chances punching a mutant tentacle-beast that wants to rape you in orifices that don't exist yet.
But then I thought: maybe that's the point of the movie (and the novella it was based upon): to question that which drives us to complete hopelessness. I personally can't fathom the notion, but when I consider how they witnessed what surely was the final remnants of humanity turn on one another over religion and the idea that mist had permeated the entire world -- a world that no longer belonged to humanity -- I guess I can appreciate that sense of total loss.
But even then ... there's a spark. Or maybe just an ember. We must survive. At all costs. No matter what it takes. Let all the crazy people kill each other -- we. will. survive.
From a storytelling perspective, I have mad respect for killing everybody at the end of the story. Or just killing off a character an audience is particularly invested in. That takes guts. But the more I think about it, the more it seems like the point was to question the definition of hope.
Or, as someone on IMDB point out: was the crazy Christian lady right along? Our heroes scoffed at the insanity she spewed early on and at the start of the penultimate third act, the crazy Christian wanted to sacrifice our hero's young son. In the end, he killed his own son out of "mercy". The actions of our heroic survivors -- in the end -- weren't that much different from the people who followed the crazy Christian, they just got around to it from a different angle.
Certainly there's humanity in a mercy killing -- the one saving grace to these final scenes -- but I think it's far more human to keep trying to survive, especially when you're fully capable of doing so (inasmuch as that you're not critically wounded and you can still at least run).
Have you seen the movie? What do you think? Or is it all just entertainment at the end of the day?
The anguished musings of a jack-of-all trades creative professional based out of Longwood, Florida. Find out more about him here. You know, if that's your 'thing'.
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