By: Capt. Creeper (aka Mike)
WARNING!!! HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!!! CONTINUE AT YOUR OWN RISK. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
So, as I’ve stated before, I have been reading Stephen King since I was like thirteen years old. When I got to the collection of short stories called “Skeleton Crew” I think I found one of my favorite stories of all time. Sitting here after re-reading the novella “The Mist,” and having watched the movie again, I honestly couldn’t tell you the names of any of the other stories in that collection without looking them up. I am sure they are good stories and I am sure I liked at least some of them but none have stuck with me as much as “The Mist.” Flash forward … ahem… a few years to 2007 when the movie adaptation was released. Now as a diehard King fan I can tell you I love his movies… kind of. They are based on great works and transferring them to visual cuts down on some of the exposition that I feel tends to bog down the stories at times. However, unfortunately a lot of the films based on his stories just don’t capture the essence of the books, or they have a great build up then end with a show down with a giant spider thing with human hands (i.e. “It”). So when they were doing “The Mist” I was both excited and apprehensive. So lets jump right in and I will tell you what I think about the movie in comparison to the novella.
First of all I think the cast was spot on with what I pictured in my head… well, with basically one exception… Mrs. Carmody, the old witch. I got the impression from reading the story that she was much older, whereas, the movie made her slightly older than middle age, like 40 or 50. But, I liked Marcia Gay Harden in the role. The rest of the cast was equally well picked, from Andre Braugher as the skeptical neighbor to, well, everyone else. The casting was superb! Although, having just recently seen Thomas Jane as “The Punisher” there were a few times I was expecting him to rip of his shirt, have a skull shirt underneath, whip out some heavy duty weapons, and in a gutter growl tell us its all about punishment. Jane, however, has a much more emotional presence in this movie. Especially at the end where you can basically see his sanity ripping away as he deals with his grief. Before that though, after he continually comes up against creatures that were never meant to be seen by human eyes, you wonder if the next thing will cause him to snap.
The ever escalating tension in the market is done equally well in both the movie and the story with some slight differences. In the story there are just two soldiers and they commit suicide long before it happens in the movie, and, there is no there isn’t a third soldier to create a rising conflict or to get more information on the Project Arrow Head. Mrs Carmody also attracts more followers through sheer conviction as opposed to in the movie where she is supposedly saved from the mutant insect sting by the will of God. I guess a big contrast between the movie and the book is their reason for going next door to the pharmacy. In the movie they do it to get medicine for the man burned earlier where in the book its a scouting mission. At this point they have been stuck in the market for over 18 hours and they have to wonder why no one has tried to venture over to the market for food. In the book they never make it past the doors since David sees the webbing right off and immediately realizes what it means. In both versions they are attacked by spider like things and suffer causalities, but, in the movie it mostly happens in the pharmacy and because they wait too long to leave.
This leads me to another point… there are a great deal more deaths in the movie than there are in the book. In the book, since they never really make it into the pharmacy there is no death of the soldier from the spiders nor is there any idea how many people might be in the webs. As I stated previously, there are only two soldiers in the story and they kill themselves quiet earlier on where in the movie they also commit suicide but there is the third soldier that is stabbed and ultimately sacrificed to try and save the others. In the movie we see that David’s wife has become a victim to the spiders but in the book we are told that he doesn’t even get close enough to his house to know for sure. I feel these extra deaths were done to enhance the tension of the movie but I don’t feel they were unnecessary or outside the point. Also, the spiders exploding out of the soldiers body still gives me the heebie jeebies.
So now lets talk about the monsters. The book is much vaguer on their look etc than the movie which I guess is the point since a movie is obviously much more visual. With the very first creature we never find out what the tentacles are attached to but we have to guess its big. They may appear different in the book’s description but they still work and add a major creep factor. In the movie we get good looks at the bugs and the “birds” that feed on them and I think they work well, although, the bugs in the book were more slug like and didn’t kill anyone. The biggest changes, as far as the creatures go, are the spiders and the behemoth creature at the end. There is a crab like scorpion creature that does in fact kill Ollie, but I got the impression from the book it wasn’t nearly as big as the shadowy creature shown in the movie. Actually, and maybe its because I watch too many movies, but the first time I saw that particular creature all I could think of was the green giant crab thing from “Star Wars Ep II: Attack of the Clones,” but maybe its just me. As for the spiders… well in the book they are described as “spider-like with at least 10 -14 legs…” I feel my skin crawling already… and they do shoot webs. But, in the movie it was like they couldn’t quite get what the book stated so they went with giant spiders (only 8 legs) with fangs and stuff, still creepy… just not as terrifying as the book description. Finally, there’s the behemoth… towards the end of the film we see some sort of giant creature walking across the road. It’s huge! We can somewhat guess its size because we can see up beyond the legs that it has some tentacles and what appears to be the bird things circling it. I am assuming they did this just to give some perspective because up to this point there should have been no way they could have seen that far up through the mist… hell they couldn’t see much past a few feet sitting in the market but now they can look up and see something hundreds of feet up? Anyway, in the book all they can see is the legs and David says he gets the impression that a blue whale would look like a minnow next to it. The foot prints it leaves in its wake are so big and deep that they have to drive around them. One final thing about the creatures, its discussed in the book but only hinted at in the movie, and that’s that the creatures hunt by smell. The mist is so think that there is no way that anything could hunt by sight. Its also stated that the mist, much like a natural fog, has an odd dampening effect on sound making it hard to hunt by sound. They discuss this in the book as the reason why the creatures don’t actively attack anyone in the market i.e. the tentacles only attack because the loading bay doors are opened, the bird like creatures only get in because they are after the bugs, more to the point, the spiders inhabit the pharmacy because they had left the doors open while the market had them closed. This is sort of shown in the movie when the spider going after David, who has left the car to retrieve the dropped gun, loses interest as soon as David is back in the car after basically having lost his scent.
Now in case you missed it at the beginning or somehow haven’t been paying attention… HERE THERE BE SPOILERS. I am about to discuss the biggest one, the ending. If you don’t want to know how the book or the movie ends LEAVE NOW!
OK, now that we’re alone. As I think I mentioned in our review on the show, the books ending is very vague and in no way coincides with the movie ending. In the book we find out the story we just followed was left by David as a letter in a hotel somewhere south of where they left. They had a full tank of gas and the couple of survivors that managed to make it out with him are spending the night. They have driven for some time and haven’t seen any survivors. They are hoping to drive far enough to escape the mist and if failing that at least find other people. David has some hope because he “thinks” he heard a word on the radio. This is a common ending for Kings work, vague, and frustrates the hell out of me because I want to know what the hell happens. Even if it means they all die I want to know but now I have to just wonder and imagine. Now the movies ending is a completely different matter. David still escapes with a couple of others from the market however his first destination is his house where he discovers his wife enshrouded in webs. After realizing there is no way to help her he and his band drive off, like in the book, hoping to escape the mist. However, this is where the movie really starts to deviate. They run out of gas and seem to have left the road, it almost looks as if they are on a dirt track. Now at this point I get angry because I cannot fathom why they haven’t tried to find a place to get gas or switch vehicles and they seem to have left the main paths. So, having screwed themselves they realize are out of options; if they leave the truck they will surely die a horrible death at the hands of monsters, if they stay in the truck they die of starvation or dehydration. Thus, without any discussion just knowing looks, David uses the four bullets left in the gun and kills everyone… including his own son!! What? I never saw this kind of thing coming. They NEVER kill the kid in these movies, and to make things worse David only had 4 bullets and none left for himself. In his anguish he does the only thing he can… he leaves the truck to be killed by the creatures. After a long agonizing few minutes where he awaits his fate he hears a rumbling noise which he thinks is his end coming. But for the final blow… it’s the military coming to save the day not the monsters to eat him. David stands and looks on in disbelief as a line of military vehicles and personnel pass him burning away the mist and killing the monsters. David realizes then that had he waited just a few minutes longer he would still have his son. If they hadn’t kept driving they all would have been saved. Its simply gut wrenching.
So in conclusion, which is better? It’s a draw honestly. They are equally good and for a change they didn’t screw the pooch with an adaptation of King’s work. I like and dislike things about both and I think you should watch and read each of them and enjoy the merits of both. Whether you’re a King fan or not they are both worth the time and money. ~Capt. Creeper Approved
Hear more on Creepercast 90: Creepy Crawlies!