Fair warning, I am going to give away the entire ending to the 2007 movie “The Mist” in this Untimely Review. This particular Untimely Review is really more of a discussion of the ending of “The Mist” than an actual review. To sum it up, this is a good monster movie but I do not recommend it solely because of the ending.
If all I saw was the ending of the “The Mist”, I may have liked it. Not the movie, just the ending. It continues the trend of bummer endings, which has gotten to the point where a happy ending would be the twist, and actually one-up the competition. Heck, “The Mist” one ups all prior bummer endings. To any movie watching veteran, this is something new to see. Are all of the folks who want to experience the ending for themselves gone buy now? Good. What the hell! He kills them all seconds before they were rescued!
They are all sitting in some dude’s SUV. This is the end of their plan to find rescue. They are out of gas. They have no food or water. They can’t see feces through the super scary mist, but they can hear the grumblings of monster. Those sounds are definitely monster grumblings and not the loud droning hum of a 45 ton tank leading a convoy of trucks. They all glance at each other in silence. Then that some dude shoots everyone else in the head, including his own son. The filmmakers tastefully show us only the muzzle flash through the windows. That some dude steps out of his SUV and (BAM!) there’s a tank leading mile long convoy of trucks. Army dudes are walking all over the place hitting alien spider nests with flamethrowers. Oh, and the fog is instantly gone.
The film makers are certainly working to shock us, but I’ve seen it all before. I remember an Outer Limits episode where Whil Wheaton inadvertently destroys the entire planet. That super bummer of an ending was a fun twist, for a 40 minute TV episode. You cannot expect to have much in the way of exposition in 40 minutes. “The Mist” is 2 hours and 8 minutes long. After that much time watching these characters trapped in a supermarket, I expected better. By better, I mean, having everyone in the SUV, except the child, discussing their suicide plans. Maybe they should have also discussed alternative survival strategies, like say finding another car with gas or taking some gas from one of the hundreds of abandoned cars all around them. We could have seen them wait in the car for a few hours, perhaps days, until they are so besieged by other wordly beasties or otherwise put in a situation in which suicide is an action consistent with the characters.
Lets put all the philosophical debate over the ending aside. The whole point of the ending was to give fans of twist endings a boner. That Stephen King approved of the ending is also irrelevant, because he probably also got a boner from it. What made this ending such a travesty wasn’t that it was so unexpected that they would find rescue only moments after the main character offs everybody. No. The real twist and awfulness of the ending is that a character that clings to hope and survival against all odds would offing everyone in the first place. That is just not something the previous two hours tells us the characters would do.
Such a shame. “The Mist” had some feisty and scrappy characters who engaged each other with some smart dialog fought through their situation with determination and ingenuity. Stephen King has always been great about giving us character driven stories. Nothing in his stories happens unless the characters make it happen. The only deus ex machina is in the premise, here a mysterious fog full monsters rolls into town. For example, when the out of town lawyer walks out into the fog, we don’t question why he would chose certain death. Earlier conversations between the character let us know that not only might he not believe there are monsters in the fog, but also that making a decision in defiance of the locals is his way of coping with an impossible situation. Objectively, his decision is as stupid as it is sad. Subjectively, we understand why he made that decision and we are O.K. with it.
The ending of “The Mist”, though, is entirely deus ex machina. I imagine the film makers have been wanting to get a boner from this ending for some time. When “The Mist” came along, they did not think twice about plugging the predetermined fate of the main characters at the end of “The Mists” story. The main characters chose suicide even though they fought for survival during the entire rest of the movie. I do not really understand it, and I am not O.K. with it.