Monday, January 12, 2009

Better Late than Never: The Mist

Liz and I have been planning to watch this movie together since sometime in October. Since I finally got around to visiting her, I thought I'd share my impressions.

Minor spoilers are contained within, however, this movie has been out a while, so I don't feel too bad. I promise not to reveal THE ENDING, arguably the only marginally interesting thing that happens in this movie.

Thematically, Stephen King got stale somewhere in the middle of The Tommyknockers. That may be the last interesting or new statement he made on anything. Thankfully, The Mist isn't another "technology is bad" story, but it does involve one of King's weakest premises (something that appears in almost all his work)--namely that there are VERY BAD things in the supernatural world, and that these things are bad precisely because they aren't from our world, and that (oh yes) they want to KILL US. Evil, in King's work, is always evil for evil's sake. Nevermind that there are no actual instances in reality of anyone actually being evil for no other reason than they're evil. King writes about VERY BAD things, which are bad because they're VERY BAD, and that's really all there is to it.

The Mist boils down to the idea that we've somehow accidentally opened the door to another dimension, and the VERY BAD things in that dimension are coming for us. What to do in a situation such as this? Hide out in a grocery store, obviously.

Said grocery store has a front wall made entirely of plate glass. Outside said grocery store are a host of creepy-crawly things (big bugs, massive spiders, tentacle-ly things, etc.) A bunch of noise is made at the beginning about how these things are going to break in and kill the people in the grocery store, but for the most part, nothing all that bad really happens. Sure, one night, a bunch of locusty-looky things get inside, but our heroes quickly dispatch them. Nothing else gets in again, even though the glass has already been SHATTERED in like five places. (However, a piece of plywood works wonders in situations like this. Duh.)

No, no. The real danger in this situation COMES FROM WITHIN. Yes, we humans, the nasty bunch of us, will resort to religious group-think when frightened, even in a relatively short period of time. All it takes is one crazy lady talking about the end of the world. Then it's just a hop, skip, and a jump to human sacrifice.

Before long, our heroes are faced with a quandary. VERY BAD things are outside, but inside there are also VERY BAD things: people. What to do in a situation like this?

Leave the grocery store, drive until you run out of gas, and then--

Oh, wait. I promised not to talk about the ending.

Well, let's say this. If The Mist had focused more on the ambiguity of power of God (even if he's speaking through a crazy person) versus rationality, it might have been really cool. As it is, it's a muddled film with kind of cheesy effects, with an interesting ending that feels, well, tacked on.

This is probably because it's not the ending of the original novella (which ended in much more ambiguous and vaguely hopeful manner). Also, it's not an earned ending. Its violence seems shocking, useless, and uncalled for. The last few moments are gut-wrenchingly ironic, but hollow somehow as well.

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