Ladies and gentlemen, the feel-good movie of the year!
Now I’m not one to get bothered by dark, depressing movies… I’ve enjoyed and appreciated plenty of films with disturbing or “sad” endings. I subscribe to Roger Ebert’s maxim that good movies aren’t depressing (no matter their subject matter) so long as they’re good.
So maybe the problem is that The Mist isn’t a good movie — because, Jesus, is it ever depressing! I’m going to give a massive SPOILER ALERT here and discuss the ending in detail. Nobody who reads this blog has any interest in this movie, I’m guessing, and if you did, you will thank me for revealing the ending and saving you the grief. That said, if you do want to see it for yourself, stop reading now.
OK. So there’s this mist.
It descends on a small Maine town after a storm, and our hero and his son are in a grocery store when the mist envelops everything and creepy crawlies emerge and start chewing people up. Inside the store are an assortment of movie types… some hicks, some Army men, a religious kook (played with gusto by Marcia Gay Harden), a skeptic, some old people and a couple hot women. The most interesting part of the film is the changing dynamic between these people as things turn from bad to worse. They start off working together but turn on each other as the kook convinces half of them that the mist is God’s retribution for mankind’s sin. Some of this is heavy-handed, but it makes for good drama.
Anyway, a lot of people die. Sympathetic people, unsympathetic people, old and young, men and women. I was impressed by how uncompromising the film was — you never feel like anybody is safe, and that’s a good thing.
Until the end, that is. I had heard the film had a questionable ending, and to me that meant they would probably discover the source of the mist and somehow solve the problem. In the novella (which I read a long time ago), the hero and his son drive off into the mist and realize that it doesn’t end for as far as they can see. It ends ambiguously, and powerfully. So I was ready for a pat Hollywood ending.
Yeah, I wish! Instead, the hero, his son and three other likeable survivors drive into the mist until they run out of gas. Then they realize they can’t go any farther except on foot, and are fully aware that they’ll be devoured by beasties should they leave the car. So the hero takes out his gun and sees there are only four bullets left. With permission, he proceeds to kill the three passengers and his own son. He then screams madly and steps out of the car to meet his fate… only to see an Army tank roll up, followed by a whole caravan of vehicles that has apparently discovered how to dispel the mist and save the day.
Give me a freakin’ break! While I appreciate the Twilight Zone spirit in which this sick climax was conceived, it strikes me as way too cutely disgusting. Perhaps writer/director Frank Darabont deserves credit for riling me up, but I prefer to give him the finger. He took a perfectly enjoyable B-movie and turned it into a big F-you.