Recoiling from the Horror of the Mist

Don’t watch The Mist. You may think you know how things go, having read Stephen King’s short story of the same name. You might like horror and think, “tentacled monstrosities from beyond the edge of time? I can deal with that.”

But trust me. If you’re a geek dad or mom, and the kind of person who’d fight to the very end to protect your family, you don’t want to watch this movie. Hell, I watched it, and I wish I could unwatch it.

Yeah, it’s that disturbing.

Out of the Mists

For the most part, it’s the story we know. A terrible storm hits a New England town, upending trees, destroying buildings, and knocking out power. A father and his son head into town with their neighbor for supplies at the local grocery story. Things then take a very bad turn as a mist rolls into town. A man runs screaming from it, saying there’s something in the mist … something that’s killing people.

The rest of the film unfolds as a series of character studies broken by occasional bouts of terror. At first, there are the skeptics, those who believe that things can’t possibly be as bad as people imagine. When they venture into the mist, and down return, people start taking the threat – or rather threats – seriously. At the same time, it’s not just the horrors outside that they have to deal with – a crazed woman, complete with Bible-thumping and Old Testamant-style ramblings, begins preaching about the end of days. Before long, the survivors in the store begin to split into camps … and it’s clear that the monsters aren’t the only ones going to be spilling blood.

All of this is well and good, and very much in keeping with the story. But then, in the last minutes, they ruin it.

Spoiler Alert

You might think I’m exaggerating, you might think I’m blowing things out of proportion. To dissuade you of this, I’m going to spell out why this movie sucks, and why under now circumstances anyone with kids will want to watch it.

In Stephen King’s original short story – which I read, and then listened to as a radio drama – the main characters survive, They make it to their Range Rover, they drive out of the mists, encountering creatures as wondrous as they are horrible, and finally leave the mists. The miasma that overwhelmed the town is contained, and our hero and his son live on.

In the movie, they don’t.

But what makes it truly horrifying, truly gut-wrenchingly awful, so amazingly bad that you wish that you could unwatch the last five minutes, is that the monsters don’t get them.

The father does.

There are five characters alive as the movie nears its end, and the Land Cruiser runs out of gas. There’s also a gun with four bullets. Faced with the horrors outside, he decides his only out is to kill everyone.

Including his son. He then screams in frustration and insanity … and then watches in mind-tearing disbelief as the U.S. Army rolls in, the mist retreating before it.

I can’t easily put into words how badly this disturbs me. It wound have bothered me before I had kids but now … the thought of such an act, even in such desperate situations, sickens me to the core. My guts churn with dread whenever I even see a headline about someone who’s killed their kids. To watch a movie in which this is an acceptable outcome is to want to erase those two hours of time from my mind.

It’s not just that it ended differently than I expected, it’s that the “new” ending totally negates story’s greatest strength, which is the father’s desire to fight against impossible odds to save his son. It guts the film, and leaves it soulless and dead.