I saw the 2007 film version of Stephen King’s The Mist years ago, and having finally picked up the original novella this month, I’m pleased to say it’s an adaptation that remains largely faithful to the source material, whilst attempting to enhance the themes and ideas that King laid out. For those unfamiliar with either version, the story follows a group of survivors trapped inside a supermarket when a strange mist hiding deadly creatures descends upon their town.
Written and directed by Frank Darabont, the film hits all the same narrative benchmarks as the book, but it fleshes out a few sequences and characters to accommodate the two-hour runtime. In terms of the few plot changes there are, two stand out in particular, and I’m pleased to say it’s for all the right reasons. One of my few complaints about the novella was an entirely unnecessary sex scene that felt both out of place and out of character. Mercifully, the film omits it. The biggest change, however, is undoubtedly the ending. Whilst King’s version is deliberately ambiguous, with a small gesture of hope, Darabont’s take is utterly devastating; one of the most daring final sequences I’ve seen in a horror film.
There are some slightly hammy moments from the ensemble cast, it must be said. The positive highlights are easily Marcia Gay Harden as Mrs Carmody, a religious fanatic who believes the mist is a punishment sent from God, and Melissa McBride, whose tiny role is easily one of the most pivotal and memorable. In fairness to the wider cast, this was clearly a horror film where they had little to no practical creature effects to help fuel their performances, and some clunky dialogue didn’t help them either. Made in the mid-2000s, when many directors favoured highly imperfect CGI over practical effects, the visuals have sadly not aged well (though I’m told the director’s cut is presented in black and white, which is a little more flattering).
Most of all, I was very pleased that the monsters continued to play second fiddle to the threat from fellow humans. The point of King’s novella was to show how extremism can rise when society is placed under enormous pressure, and the lengths (both selfish and selfless) that people will go to in the name of survival and mercy. Darabont takes these notions and runs with them to much success.