The Ending of The Mist – A Long Overdue Post

"I just ruined the movie!"

"I just ruined the movie!"

As a “fan” of Steven King there are some works of his I really, really enjoy, and one of them is his novella The Mist. When I originally found out that there was going to be a movie version directed by Frank Darabont who had handled other King stories extremely well, I was balls out excited.

And when I saw it? Man, the movie was exactly how I saw it in my head when I read the original story. It was faithful, and gory, and well acted, and then…. then… that ending. Oh damn it, that ending.

*Spoilers Ahead*

At the end of the Mist it suddenly turns into an ultra depressing episode of the Twilight Zone. You see, the main character David Drayton (played by Thomas Jane) runs out of gas. He along with the few other survivors decide its time to end it all, so they basically commit suicide with a pistol. Drayton kills his kid and runs out of bullets before he can off himself. Wanting to end his life, Drayton leaves his car to walk into the Mist which has proven itself to be a pretty effective meatgrinder for human beings. But instead of dying, all of a sudden there’s military dudes everywhere killing the creatures in the mist. Ohhhh noes!!!!! The hero killed his kid for nothing!

To Darabont’s credit, its a really ballsy way to end the movie, but any time you have such a horrible ending there’s going to be a lot of backlash. There seems to be two camps, those who love the ending and the many that detest it.

My biggest problem with the ending of The Mist is that the original already had a bleak ending. Darabont just made it much more in your face. I’d argue that the original ending of The Mist was more depressing. In Darabont’s version one man suffers, but there’s hope for humanity. In King’s version, Drayton may have lived to escape the grocery store, but it is up in the air whether or not there was any hope that the Mist itself had been contained for the rest of humanity.

While surfing cyberspace the other day, I ran across this video depicting the “original” ending of the mist. I believe more people might have enjoyed the movie more had it ended this way. Of course, I would have gone with a voice over narration, but the person who made the YouTube video didn’t have access to Jane’s voice. However, the way in which the camera pulls away to show you the Earth… damn that’s terrifying. (Please Note: In the original novella you actually didn’t know how far the Mist had spread, this fan edit added it, and it works really well.)

Aside from the question of which ending is more terrifying, there’s also the matter of whether or not it fits. This article goes on at length about how the ending feels disconnected from the rest of the film. The author makes a great argument that the hero doesn’t ever act desperate until the end. The hero’s actions are disconnected from the rest of the film. We watch a survivor for the duration of the film up until the very end when he suddenly decides to give it all up. It could be argued that makes the ending more dramatic, but suddenly having such a character switch is damned jarring. Sure people act out of character in real life all the time, but when watching a film its unsettling when a character turns in such a way.

So what do you say? Is the shocking twist ending better? Or the more low key and open ended ending of the novella?

  • Pete

    This is one of those movies that, having seen once, I will never, ever feel the need to watch again. Despite that, I enjoyed it quite a bit–except the giant insect stinging/killing the girl. Good christ, if that didn’t underline my deathly bee allergy and the resulting quiet terror it provides.

    The ending was SUPER depressing, but I’m not really in either camp–I didn’t love it or hate it. I thought it was a well-shot piece of film-making, and I felt quite a lot of sympathy for the main character, but I sort of let it go after that.

    Except the insect thing. Shudder.

  • Chris

    The movie ending was fantastic. You’d have forgotten about this film without that ending. This makes you think.

  • I think The Mist is damn near a perfect horror film. I say this as someone who also loved the novella, and that kickass radiodrama they did of it where they built a microphone shaped like a human head. But I digress…

    When people talk about the ending to this movie, they rarely mention the scene that makes the ending so compelling. After the window breach and the fire, Billy makes his father PROMISE that he won’t let the monsters get him. And David makes that promise. I am neither a dude, nor a parent, but I understand that fathers keeping promises to sons is seen as pretty important in the grand scheme of things. I think this is promise is what leads David into the ending so many people despise. They wait until they are completely out of gas, still not free of the mist, and are hearing sounds that we know come from the “monsters.” After seeing the thing that dragged Norm away, it’s not unreasonable to think that they didn’t stand a chance.

    That said, the attitude that all movies have to end happily, or even less tragically is the reason that Hollywood keeps making awful remakes of foreign films. I live in fear of what they’re going to do to Martyrs, which was fantastic despite an ending that would probably cause mass suicides if it opened in American theaters. We hate seeing bad things happen to people we empathize with. That’s why we’re so shitty at empathy.

  • I like both endings. But I must admit this one is much more epic. Less shock value but more haunting.

  • Wednesday, a couple of points:

    1. If my father keeping his promise meant him killing me, no thanks. He could have waited until a more final moment before making that decision. You know, when a monster was on top of the car or something.

    2. I understand your point about not every movie having to have a happy ending. To clarify, I clearly don’t think this movie needed a happy ending. The novella certainly didn’t and neither did this fan edit. I prefer a more understated horror than an in your face one.

    And while it’s not unreasonable for them to think they didn’t stand a chance, I’ll give you that. However, these people were survivors. They fought through numerous obstacles to survive. They lived where others died. To give up them just seemed contrary to their actions through the rest of the film.

    Also, yeah I listened to that audio drama. It was kick ass.

  • Will

    The ending was SHIT. I dont care if it was depressing or not , it just made
    no sense, it was so disconnected from the rest of the movie, there was nothing dictating this ending. it was like this shitty director jad an idea and forced it into this movie despite t not making any sense. americans truly are at the bottom of movie talent (and everything else)

    this ending was stupid…what was the point? what did it have to do with the rest of the movie? When did the theme of “look before you leap” EVER come to place prior to this part of the movie? this ending is literally disconnected from the entire movie, its like the retard of a writer thought “Lol wudnt it b epic if he killed his boy for no reason” “Yeh ok…but um, its not clever and seems redundant” “lols i kno im a hollywood writer its my job to be shit”

  • Beckoning Chasm

    The ending to the film was terrible. He spends much of the previous running time trying to SAVE his son from a woman who wants to sacrifice him to save humanity…a woman we are clearly shown as crazy…then just does it himself?

    The only way it would have worked is if they’d cut out the military at the end, just had him emerge from the car, then the camera tracks away to see the mist covering the planet.

    When you see people FIGHTING and CHOOSING to survive, it makes no dramatic sense for them to turn around and do the opposite. They’d have been better off staying in the supermarket.

  • RobotsPJs

    Agree. A million times.

  • BJ

    I’m in the minority, I guess. I understand the arguments against the ending. They’re probably more legitimate than my argument for liking (not going so far as “loving”) the ending.
    It wasn’t necessarily the character change that it’s thought to represent because the circumstances dictated Jane’s actions in the store and on the side of the road. Obvious enough. But, if the circumstances changed enough, so would the character’s, as most people’s, actions. In the store, there was still hope of getting outside, finding his wife, and going somewhere safe. In the store, other people were the obstacles as much as the monsters. So, naturally, he would be set opposite the crazy religious lady (and it’s half the tragedy when he becomes like her and sacrifices his son to despair so needlessly.)
    He was fighting for survival because he thought it was possible. When he loses his wife (perhaps he had assumed her death before but it’s one thing to guess someone’s death and another to know it, as any missing person’s relative can tell you) and then drives as far as he can only to find that there’s no real escape, then the only hope had become a quick death without fear or pain. If the car had a full or semi-full tank, they could’ve been driving for hours as they slowly realized the vastness of what was happening.
    We weren’t given the hours to watch their reaction and horror as death became a certainty. So, we couldn’t see the time spent switching from seeking survival to just wanting to spare his son a gruesome death. I don’t think I could’ve done it. But, he did. And, then, to be spared death to live a life full of the image of watching your own child die at your hands. That’s a scary thought. To be pushed so far and be so wrong in the end.
    The story was always small. Not global. So a global ending is not as interesting to me. I want to know where the characters are left at the end. And, being left with the possibility of turning into a monster (as you perceive yourself) by fear and hopelessness is a scary thought. He had been the foil of the religious zealot, who thought she was doing the right thing and was willing to harm others to that purpose, at least until the end. He also believed he was doing the right thing and was willing to kill for it. Then, with the arrival of the military, he’s able to see his actions in a way the zealot never could.