The Mist (2007)

Rated R. Our ratings: V- 6; L-7; S/N-1 . Running time: 2 hours 7 min. Note that there is a spoiler in the last paragraph, as well as in the discussion questions.

Give ear to my prayer, O God;
do not hide yourself from my supplication.
Attend to me, and answer me;
I am troubled in my complaint.
I am distraught by the noise of the enemy,
because of the clamour of the wicked.
For they bring trouble upon me,
and in anger they cherish enmity against me.
My heart is in anguish within me,
the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fear and trembling come upon me,
and horror overwhelms me.
Psalm 55:1-5

David, Billy and friends try to escape.
(c) 2007 MGM-Dimension Films

This is the third Steven King work that writer/director Frank Darabont has adapted for the screen. But do not let Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile mislead you into expecting a similar film of warm feelings (at least if you are unfamiliar with the original, as I was). This is a horror film, filled with blood and gore and an ending that will leave you with a downbeat, wrung-out feeling.

David Drayton (Thomas Jane), an artist who creates book covers, lives with his wife and son in a home overlooking a Maine lake nestled among mountains. A violent thunderstorm storm sends a tree smashing into his studio, totally destroying his current project. The tree had been located on the property of hostile neighbor Brent Norton (Andre Braugher), but David manages to make a shaky truce with the man. When the two adults and David’s son Billy (Nathan Gamble) go into town for supplies, they soon learn that the storm and the loss of electricity was but the beginnings of their troubles. While they are in the grocery store a mist is blown in from the mountains, soon cutting off all visibility.

A man with blood streaming from his head and nose runs screaming into the store, telling them not to go out there. Of course, some do want to do just that, but when they disappear into the mist and then cry out in pain and terror, the rest of the crowd agrees to stay put, at least for a while. The people consists of a cross section of the community, from the small but plucky store manager Ollie (Toby Jones) to soldiers from a nearby base to mechanics and housewives and store clerks to dear ole Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden), the local shrill voiced evangelistic Christian obsessed with the prophecies of the Book of Revelation. She will become the inside counterpart to the horror lurking outside enwrapped by the mist.

The film is gory, but is as much of a character study as it is a blood fest, with a bit of social observation of racism, class conflict, and religious fanaticism thrown in. It is also an interesting study in how our preconceptions influence what we see and believe—the rationalist Brent Norton, for example, refusing to believe David’s account of a battle in the stock room against a tentacled creature: he refuses to even go back and look at the evidence in the belief that his neighbor is racist and trying to pull a practical joke on him. Writer Darabont changed the ambiguous ending of the original, resulting in one of the most downer of an ending that you are ever likely to see.

For Reflection/Discussion

1) How is the film’s initial slow pace important for the build up to the horror?

2) Which of the characters surprised you somewhat? Ollie? Not exactly the heroic type, is he? What do you think of the depiction of the only avowed Christian in the group? Pretty stereotypical?

3) How can such religious fanaticism be as horrible as the mist creatures? What do you think of the comment of the man who tells her that her god is too much Old Testament?

4) Do you see any political implications in the observation “You scare people enough, and they’ll do anything” ?

5) What signs of racism and classism do you see in the film? How do these affect the characters’ willingness to accept the testimony of others concerning the existence of the mist creatures? In other words, do our preconceptions accept the way we “see” things?

6) Did you feel manipulated by the depiction of Mrs. Carmody—that is, what were your feelings when she met her fate? (The audience cheered and clapped at the screening I attended, much as they did when Dirty Harry dispatched his enemies in gruesome ways.)

7) How does the dawning realization of the source of the mist and creatures make the film a variation on Frankenstein?

8) How did you feel at the conclusion of the film? How does the ending show the vital necessity of hope? Hope was an important theme of Shawshank Redemption: compare the two films in regard to this. What might Andy have done if he had been like David?