When it was released in late November 2007, writer/director Frank Darabont’s adaptation of the Stephen King story “The Mist,” in which a group of people are trapped in a grocery store when a mysterious fog rolls into town contain some very nasty beasties, split audiences right down the middle. You absolutely loved or absolutely hated the film, and what side of the divide you landed on would all come down to how you reacted to The Mist‘s final minutes.
Even though it has been nearly nine years since the film first hit theaters, I won’t spoil The Mist‘s ending here. Either you’ve seen the film and know what I am talking about or you haven’t yet and really shouldn’t have the ending spoiled for you. Needless to say, at the time I described the film’s closing moments as “a cinematic gut punch, a knife twist that leaves some of the surviving characters facing an even crueler horror than the ones they have escaped.” It was certainly not the uplifting holiday fare that usually gets released at the end of the year.
In a new interview over at Yahoo Movies, Darabont talks about the controversial movie, by first admitting with a laugh that he was “in something of a mean mood at the moment” when he first wrote the final pages of the film’s screenplay.
When I first read Steve’s [Stephen King] story back a zillion years ago [in 1980’s Dark Forces anthology], I thought, “Wow, that’s a great story,” but I thought that for a movie, it should have a more conclusive sort of feeling. So I was trying to puzzle through what that conclusive ending would be, and he kind of lays the groundwork for that, actually. There’s a line of the story where he contemplates that eventuality. And I thought, well, that seems like a clear marker for me, that Steve laid in there.
When that came to me, it just felt like the kind of Twilight Zone ending that really stays with you. You know, “Time Enough at Last” where Burgess Meredith breaks his glasses — that kind of ending, where you’re like “Oh no, if he’d only waited two more minutes!” I liked the horrendous irony of it. At that time, I was feeling a little bit pissed off at the world. There’s definitely a political element to that movie, which you don’t have to look too hard to see. Though it’s not a political movie, it’s in many ways a very political movie. I was feeling a little angry at the world, and at our country at that time, so it felt like a valid way to end a movie. It doesn’t always have to be a happy ending. It shouldn’t always be a happy ending. Having grown up in the ’70s, it wasn’t always a happy ending. And I always loved endings like that.
But I thought, “OK, I’m going to let Steve decide. If Stephen King reads my script and says, ‘Dude, what are you doing, are you out of your mind? You can’t end my story this way,’ then I would actually not have made the movie.” But he read it and said, “Oh, I love this ending. I wish I’d thought of it.” He said that, once a generation, a movie should come along that just really pisses the audience off, and flips their expectations of a happy ending right on the head. He pointed to the original Night Of The Living Dead as one of those endings that just scarred you.
And it felt OK to me! On balance, it seems like, thematically, it’s a pretty good companion piece to Shawshank, in a weird way. Because if Shawshank is the movie about the value of hope, then The Mist becomes a movie about the danger of hopelessness. And believe me, I knew that it was going to be one of those endings that people either really dug, or really hated. I was OK with that, because I think that at the end of the day, we should be willing to go either direction. It shouldn’t always be about making the audience love you and about pandering to their approval.
Follow the above link back to Yahoo for more of Darabont talking more about The Mist as well as his other two King adaptations – The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption.