Monday, March 31, 2008

DVD Review: The Mist - 5/10


I'm not really sure I should be calling this a review, as it's really more of a rant. However, a "rant" for The Mist will not attract search engines, and I would like to warn as many people as I can that no matter how happy you are when you start watching it, by the time you're done, you'll wish you'd rented something really cheery, like Pink Floyd: the Wall or 8mm.

Before I move on, I have to say that I love the movie. I read the novella when I was in my teens, then again in my twenties. I have a great appreciation for the Lovecraftian monstrosities, which are realized in the film to superb effect. I like being scared. I like monster movies. And I loved The Mist. I just hated the ending.

Hated it. Loathed it. There isn't a word in English for the contempt I feel for it.

It's different from the book. But that isn't what bothers me. I can deal with adaptation. I forgave the changes made to I Am Legend because they worked for the film in a way a literal adaptation of Matheson's novel might not have. It bothers me, because it's utterly hopeless. In fact, the last chapter on the DVD before the credits is aptly named "Hopelessness." (I'd footnote this point if I could, but the blog won't let me, so I'll settle for a bracket. The hopeless ending isn't necessarily a bad thing. I've seen films where it worked. The reason it doesn't work with The Mist is that there's no way in hell the main character played by Thomas Jane would have made the choice he did. He retains hope throughout the film, even when others lose it. So for him to lose hope right before his hope would be rewarded was like a kick in the nuts. It was cheap, and unoriginal. I said it about Silent Hill, and it still holds true. There's nothing original about bleak endings anymore, especially in horror films. Wanna be really original and subversive? Find a way for a happy ending to work in a horror movie. Another recent Stephen King adaptation, 1408 did. And, interestingly, so did John Carpenter when he made The Fog). I wish I'd known how crappy I'd feel after watching it. Which is why I'm warning you all.

It made me want to walk into the Blockbuster I rented it from and say, "This DVD doesn't work for me."

Of course they'd reply, "Well, we'll rent you another copy."

"I'm pretty sure that one won't work for me either," I'd say.

"How do you know? Did it skip?"

"Actually, if it had skipped, at say, 1:46:43, that would have been awesome."

"Well, we can rent you another copy."

"Does it have a different ending?"

Now I know, someone is out there saying, "You can't give a movie a bad rating just because you didn't like the ending!" And that's where you'd be wrong.

Watching a movie where the ending is utterly hopeless is a lot like going for a fantastically sumptuous meal, where the appetizer does what it should; it's not too large a portion, and it whets your appetite for the main course. The main course comes, and it's just as good as you hoped it would be. Your mouth waters with every bite. You sit, looking at the love of your life across the table, and comment on how incredible the food is, and how glad you are to share it with each other. Finally, the waiter comes to ask if you'd like to see the dessert menu, and you decide to share a decadent creation. As you wait for the waiter to return, you stare into each other's eyes and sip wine of a excellent vintage. The waiter returns, your anticipation mounts, and then he places an empty bowl on the table.

And takes a shit in it.

It's bad enough you're closing off the night with a bowl with a fresh steaming turd in it, but now you're wondering about the soup...did the waiter piss in it? What other abominations did you ingest over the evening?

A bad ending makes the whole film shitty. It's the last taste we leave with in our mouths, or brains, or whatever. After The Mist, I needed to cleanse my palette in the worst way possible. I'm not alone in my estimation that the ending ruined the experience. Ty Burr of the Boston Globe said the following: (Spoilers Ahead!!)

"Then, as if to underscore that he's above such silly things as sci-fi and horror, Darabont throws his curveball of an ending. (OK, last chance. Exit's that way. Abandon hope all ye who enter here.) Having escaped with three others, David and little Billy drive through the mist until their car runs out of gas. Around them are the shrieks of horrible things ready to pounce and rend. The five humans have a gun with four bullets; David does what he must and exits the car alone to await his fate. Two minutes later the army shows up. Bum-mer.

I don't think you have to be a parent to hate a movie that ends with the kid getting shot in the head by his dad. As a favor. And just think: All they had to do was turn on the car radio.

Someone must think such a finale is dark and daringly tragic and uncomfortable and cool. Someone is wrong. "The Mist" doesn't provoke further thought; it provokes active annoyance at being punished in the service of a pulp morality tale with pretensions. Even Hitchcock knew that: When he blew up the little boy in the bus in 1936's "Sabotage," he ended up having to issue a public apology. And Darabont, need I say it, is no Hitchcock."

Chuck Wilson of the Village Voice had this to say: "All this would be disappointing, but not infuriating, if the film's ending weren't so unforgivably bad ... which is so distasteful and untrue to all that's come before it as to be a slap in the face to characters and audience alike. The last word in King's story was "hope," and while Darabont certainly has the right to head in the opposite direction—in our own monster-filled world, happy endings are harder than ever to buy—he does so in a manner that's both pretentious and cruel. The Mist made me want to scream, but for all the wrong reasons."

Writer/Director Frank Darabont, has been responsible for adapting two of King's works into film with the greatest success accorded any filmmaker who has undertaken the task. We all loved The Shawshank Redemption Frank. You know why? You didn't change the ending. We all loved The Green Mile Frank, and you know why? You didn't CHANGE the ENDING. It's a little ironic, because you mention in the commentary at the end of the film that the composer was humble enough to "get out of the way" and allow you to use a Dead Can Dance song. He didn't think he was better than Lisa Gerrard. He knew a master musician when he heard one. Maybe you should have done the same. Stephen King isn't the bestselling writer in America because he makes stupid choices. He ended The Mist the way he did for a reason. You should have done the same.

8 comments:

  1. i liked the ending!

    hahaha

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  2. Michael10:53 AM

    I hate movies like that, and I'm sure I'd hate this one too. Thanks for the heads up!

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  3. the ending kind of fucked with me too... but after calming down a bit, i can see different ways to "interpret" it... if you notice towards the end that the dad basically put it on himself to be the savior of the group... at a certain point it almost became obsession-like... remember the tearful plea by the son not to go to the pharmacy next door? or at the end when they ran to the vehicle, everyone shouting for him to leave the gun on the dashboard and just leave? if he wasn't so stubborn and left the gun, they would still be alive... and as far as there being no hope, i see what you are saying... it is utterly devastating... however, you can pull out a little hope by seeing that, if they just held on a LITTLE BIT longer, hope would have came... instead they made a rash decision and died... to make matters worse was when the lady in the beginning that ran home to save her kids, was still alive passing by on the truck!!! in short, for me at least, i can be reminded that when things seem clearly hopeless, to try and hold on just a little bit longer... you may be surprised when hope arrives...

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  4. It's absolutely because if they'd only waited a little longer it would all be good that the ending licked. It was like, "ah, damn, we're out of fuel...guess I gotta shoot you all." As a parent, that would be my LAST resort. The bug would be ramming its head against the window before I'd choose to put a bullet in my kid's head. It's a sloppy ending; after all the striving they've done, they just give up. I'd have assumed they'd have tried to loot some food from someplace - siphon gas out of a vehicle. DO SOMETHING, rather than just effing give up.

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  6. some of the "conflict" that goes on is kindof annoying too, it's like: "There's a monster out there" ... "no there's not"... "yes there is" ... "no there's not" ... "but look here, something tore my arm off" ... "no, you're faking it"...

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  7. Very much agreed Patrick.

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  8. I think it's worth adding that the poster underscores just how cheap the ending is, given the father-son relationship. Okay, sure I'm biased because I'm a parent. I'll see how much Nate digs the movie (you sick little Monkey!) when he's got kids. "Never leave me Daddy, and don't let the monsters get me."

    "I won't."

    BLAM.

    Cheap.

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