The Mist by Stephen King (1980)
The Mist directed by Frank Darabont (2007)
This is another Stephen King novella which was first published in the short story collection Dark Forces which has stories from various authors. It was also included in the 1985 King collection Skeleton Crew.
I read the majority of this while I was getting my hair done and that probably wasn’t the best setting because after it’s been an hour or two, I start getting antsy and then sleepy. So, I don’t know how far it is to give this book a middle of the road review, but that is how I feel about it. It is interesting, I just was never as engaged in the story as I would have liked. I also didn’t find it creepy or scary which was disappointing. I’m so conflicted with wanting a book to scare me, because on one hand I like when a book can do that but then if it is too scary that I can’t sleep, then that is too much lol.
The movie is directed by the same guy who did The Shawshank Redemption, and this also stars Thomas Jane who was in a lead role in Dreamcatcher!
Darabont had been wanting to make this movie for 20 years and he was so dead set on his ending, that he sacrificed a bigger budget in order to avoid having a studio make changes. I like that he stuck to his vision, but unfortunately the CGI is pretty bad at times and takes away from the experience. It isn’t all bad though and there are a few scenes that are really well done.
The movie ending is different from the book and wow, it is a downer! King loves the movie ending though and I’ve gotta say it is one that will stick with you.
From here on out there will be spoilers for both the book and movie!
Before the store
The book and movie begin with a really bad storm hitting David’s home which he has with his wife and son Billy. The morning after David says he is going to go to town to get some stuff and his neighbor Norton, a man that David isn’t on great terms with, asks if he can join because his car was smashed by a tree.
In the book, David stalls for time and for some reason feels the need to try and get his wife to join them. She isn’t interested in going though, so David, Norton, and Billy head out without her. The movie leaves out David feeling the need to get her to join them at the last minute.
The store is crazy busy and while they are standing in the long check-out line, someone runs in saying there is a mist coming up the road. David had also seen the mist out on his lake before they left. Anyway, at first the mist is just a random thing, but then they see someone get grabbed into it. Eventually the mist takes over all of outside and no one wants to go out in it. In book and movie though there is a woman who says she left her small child at home, being watched by an eight-year-old and she wants to get home to them and she braves the mist on her own.
David sees what is in the mist when he goes to the back there is something wrong with the generator so a bagboy offers to go outside a bit and fix it. There are a few other guys and two think it is fine for this kid to do it even though David tells him not to. The kid ends up being killed by something with a tentacle. Through this we learn that there are some kind of monsters out in the mist.
The “flat earthers”
Ollie is one of the store managers who has a head on his shoulders and he and David kind of partner up. They decide they should tell Norton about what is in the mist, and with this help they can make sure no one goes back outside. However, Norton disbelieves it and when they tell him he can see the tentacle in the back, he refuses to even go look.
Not only does Norton not help them stop others from leaving, but he starts a group that refuses to believe there is anything outside and they plan a way to leave. In the book, David refers to them as the “flat earthers” because they are in denial of the truth.
That group does end up going outside, and David asks if Norton will just tie a rope around his waist, so they can know how far he gets. Norton refuses, but another guy doesn’t see the harm and agrees to. In the movie, some guy who wasn’t part of Norton’s group says he will go outside to try and get a gun from someone’s car, and he will tie the rope around.
In both, the people presumably die, because the rope is pulled on and comes back all bloody.
Another key character is Amanda, in the book she is an out of towner who just happened to be there when all of this happens whereas in the movie, she is someone who has somewhat recently moved there to be a schoolteacher.
In the book, David eyes her and finds himself lusting after her. Even though he is aware it is such an inappropriate thing to feel at such a time, he can’t help it. Then at some point in the night she goes up to him and says a lady is watched Billy and that the office is empty. The two of them have sex in the office and Mrs. Carmody knows about it.
The movie leaves out them having sex which I think was a good call.
Speaking of Mrs. Carmody! In the book we hear about her beforehand when David’s wife mentions her because she believes in various old wives’ tales which she likes to talk about. In both, once the mist appears, she goes a little cuckoo. The movie has a great scene early on when she is in the bathroom talking to God, asking how she can help basically. In both, she believes she has a direct line to God and she is God’s mouthpiece. She preaches that God caused the mis and the creatures to appear as punishment. Things get out of hand enough that she starts to say they only thing that will put an end to it all is for them to make a sacrifice.
There is a scene in the movie when some of the flying bug creatures get inside and one lands on her but doesn’t sting and just moves on. She sees this as confirmation that she is in the right and God is protecting her. In the imdb trivia there was this great bit someone submitted where they speculate why the bug didn’t hurt her. After making some guesses, it ends with saying we don’t know for sure the reason ultimately and, “who knows what motivated giant insects, especially extra-dimensional ones.” Looool
The Arrowhead Project
In both, there is a military group there that is working on the “Arrowhead project” and there have been different rumors on what is going on. In the book, there had been three military guys in the store, but very early on David and Ollie find them in the back of the store having hung themselves. It is assumed they did this to avoid blame for the mist and the creatures. The book never gets too specific on why the creatures are there and what the Arrowhead Prject had to do with it.
In the movie, there are the three military guys but they stick around until after the pharmacy visit. In the pharmacy (in the movie) there is a military police officer who is on the verge of death and he says something about how he is sorry and that it is their fault. After this, two of the military guy’s hand themselves and then the third is dragged out by the mob and with Mrs. Carmody in the lead this poor guy is stabbed and then tossed outside to be killed by the creatures. But before he dies, we do learn that the Arrowhead Project opened portals to other dimensions, which caused these strange creatures to get into their universe.
But to talk about the pharmacy really quick, in both, they see it is overrun by these crazy spiders and this part in the movie was really well done. We still get some sub-par CGI, but we also get the MP getting all gross and creepy and then a bunch of spiders come out of him.
Wanting a sacrifice
In the book, the solider isn’t killed, because like I said, the three of them kill themselves early on. In the movie, even after they have killed him, Mrs. Carmody says they need another sacrifice and she wants it to be Billy, David’s son. This is in the book as well, but in the book, she also says it the sacrifice could be David or Amanda because they had “sinned” earlier.
In both, as things are getting out of hand, Ollie shoots Mrs. Carmody and kills her. Mrs. Carmody was bad in the book, but in the movie, she just seemed even more unhinged and it was such a relief to see her be shot!
David, Ollie, Amanda and some others decide to leave the store and take their chances. Some of them make it to David’s car, including David, Amanda and Billy, but others die on the way including Ollie.
In the book, they drive around and see various creatures in the mist but they are safe in the car. David talks about how he has three bullets in the gun, but there are four of them, so if it comes to a point where they are better off killing themselves, he will have to figure out what to do. But the mist just goes on and on, and they are running out of gas. The book ends on this ambiguous note, with us not knowing what happens but we are left to think that maybe they found a safe place to go.
In the movie, they drive a while but eventually run out of gas but are still in the mist. David takes out the gun and says they have four bullets, but there are five of them. There is a tense moment as they look at each other, knowing what has to be done. Then the camera goes to outside of the car and we hear/see the four gun shots. We then see David getting hysterical trying to shoot himself but unable. He then gets out of the car and yells at the creatures to come get him.
Instead of seeing the creatures, he sees various military vehicles drive past with survivors. We slowly see that the mist is dying away and military people are trying to get things under control. David then gets even more hysterical because he just shot four people, including his own son, for nothing. And that’s it!
Book vs movie
The movie ending is suuuch a downer, but I do love it. My complaint though is this weird choir kind of music that goes on for the last 20 minutes of the movie. Like, can we give that music a rest please?? I got so tired of it.
I don’t mind the ambiguous ending of the book though, and we do get some decent character development into David that we don’t have as much in the movie. Nonetheless, I will say the movie wins here! I thought it was creepy, or at least has creepy moments, the acting is superb (Marcia Gay Harden as Mrs. Carmody was amazing), and that ending is just wow!
I do really like the overall story though just with what happens when a group of people are trapped in this crazy situation and the mob mentality that can happen and jus all of that craziness.