Brent Norton: David, there’s nothing out there. Nothing in the mist. David Drayton: What if you’re wrong? Brent Norton: Then, I guess… the joke will be on me after all. -The Mist (2007)
David, there’s nothing out there. Nothing in the mist.
What if you’re wrong?
Then, I guess… the joke will be on me after all.
-The Mist (2007)
The Mist – Introduction
I saw The Mist many years ago thinking it would be a entertaining cheesy monster movie. A review I read said it was dull and pointless but I still saw it. Watching this movie I went throught a lot of feelings. I have always been skeptical to religion bashing movies and for a great part of this film I thought it was just that; a movie about how religion keeps us down. But watching it to the end, the critique of religion was ambivalent at best. So now, for reason I may post in a later entry I want to analyze the Mist to see what this movie tries to say about religion and humanity in general.
The Mist – Plot summary:
A boy, his father and his neighbor goes to the local mall to buy supplies after a big storm. As they enter the mall, they meet alot of the small towns inhabitants. Among them a cold and angry christian woman, some conscious liberal old people, down to earth good-guys and military personnel.
Shortly after their arrival a thick fog arrives, and a man claims that there is «something in the mist». Screaming from slow moving people seem to prove that. The people in the store then closes the doors, try to find out what´s going on, then try to survive as groups of people start playing each other off for power.
The angry christian claim that this is a punishment from God as she tries to take control over the people in the store. She tells people not to go outside or do anything as «help was on the way»
Towards the end of the struggle the angry cold christian is killed and the father, son and the liberal old people leave the store to try fending for themselves. They travel a long misty road until the run out of gas. Believing it is all over…
*plot spoiler* *plot spoiler* *plot spoiler* *plot spoiler* *plot spoiler*
…they commit suicide. Leaving only the father behind to witness that rescue truly where on it´s way.
The Mist – The analysis
As most good monster movies, this monster movie is not about the monsters. They are primal fears materialized. What really goes on is the human reaction to the threat. The mist works as a fog of fear, and the mall becomes a sample of most kinds of humans from highly educated (“college boy”) to low-level working class. The fog becomes the unknown which is unknown to all walks of life.
The Mist shows human nature at it worst in a crisis. We see Xenophobia of the «out of towners», disbelief. lack of faith, egotism, paranoia, fundamentalism, bias, “us-them” mentality, lack of scientific ethics and many more. I will mention the impact some of these behaviors and attitudes affects the story´s progression and conclusion and find out if the true essence of this film is a critique of religious faith.
Duty vs fear.
After the mist is encountered and the threat is explained the first reaction we get to observe is the maternal instinct vs. cowardice or more generally duty vs fear. A mother, with a strong sense of maternal duty, begs for help as she has to go out in the Mist to get to her children. No others in the mall dare to exit, and she has to leave on her own. We watch her walk out into the mist alone, seeing everyone else watching her in fear. This scene is probably important for many reasons. It gives us a quick understanding of the group as a whole. No one in the supermarket is interested in helping anyone but themselves. And as the mother leaves the mall she says “You can all go to hell” and to hell they went.
Then a romance plot start between a pretty blond and the father. They never explore the tension, but seems to hint that the protagonist lives in the moment, almost forgetting his wife as long as he has the company of this pretty blond. It is not stated explicitly but it would seem the protagonist has had an affair with this woman (especially if there is any continuity between the movie and the novelette). This shows that the protagonist does not have a strong sense of duty either.
At least in the beginning many of the characters shows a great disbelief in the dangers outside since it´s to far fetched. In real life we can find these farfetched threats everywhere; islamization, Illuminati, capitalism agenda of keeping the man down, cultural-Marxist thought control, 2012 hysteria, 9/11 conspiracy, glass-ceiling theory, apocalyptic signs in our time and terrorism threats. Anyone who has any credibility needs to laugh out loud by these ignorant nonsense. They are all wrong. How could they be right? Well, in this movie seeing was believing and they couldn´t doubt it. Unfortunately not everybody saw it at the same time, and a conflict arises when warning is met with ridicule.
The protagonist, «a college boy» gives lots of warnings in this movie, but he says them in a patronizing elitist way, making others ignoring him. When it turns out he was right, it becomes clear to others that they should have listen to him on faith, and apologizes. The protagonist then becomes angry as well and punches the disbeliever. This shows a unbalance between taking one´s own opinion on faith and other´s
The mist seems to thematically revolve around belief /disbelief. Characters experience changes in their beliefs throughout this movie. Some believe stronger, some loose theirs (see also my analysis of the ending). Also faith in the different characters is about different things. Some have faith in humanity, some in God, some in rationality. These different values are tested trough this nightmare and some seem more resilliant than others. I.e. Faith in humanity dies at the 53 mark as the last part of The Mist there are numerous acts of suicide.
To much faith.
This is the main reason for my analysis of this movie. An atheist, that I talked to online, made “the evils of religion”, the explicit theme of this movie. In a scene we see the cold cynical christian woman in the toilette praying to God for strength to comfort and preach. This is her refuge in the crisis a real or imagined God. She believes it is needed, but she is also obviously mentally unstable as she is crying and talking to herself. A conflict in her mind is stated as she says «Don´t condescend me.[...] Don´t mock me.». Why she says that is unclear but there seems to be bad blood between the blond woman and the angry christian. Also, and this is pure interpretation, as the other character says «I wasn´t mocking you», there seems to be an honest disbelief in her face.
The irony of it all is the parallel conflict of christian fundamentalism and the disbelief of the very real outside threat that goes on in the first part of The Mist. Also it may be worth noting that although a God is never seen in this movie, the angry christian do experience some miracles and she shows some bravery when she was not afraid of dying when a monster bug is resting on her chest. As she prays the bug flies away. It may be a atheistic coincidence or a the directors real intent of showing divine intervention.
In analyzing text we often use the term “hero” or “protagonist”. I have tried here to be consequent in referring to the character that drives the story forward as “protagonist” because “hero” he ain´t.
Towards the end of the movie the protagonist and his allies are discussion leaving the mall to rescue themselves. A debate about the rights and wrongs of abandoning the rest of the people is concluded with
You don’t have much faith in humanity, do you?
I can’t accept that. People are basically good; decent. My god, David, we’re a civilized society.
Sure, as long as the machines are working and you can dial 911. But you take those things away, you throw people in the dark, you scare the shit out of them – no more rules.
In this dialogue, ideals are faced with misanthropy and cynicism. The cold truth becomes funny in it´s terror, but even more important this cynicism will lead to the conclusion that self preservation is more important than altruism.
Lack of scientific ethics.
This theme is so overly used in horror, and especially monster movies, that it has become a clisje. Resident Evil 1-3 , Frankenstein, Re-animator, Alien: Resurrection, Island of Dr. Moreau, Species, Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, many Villains in comicbooks, Jurassic Park, The Fly, Doom, Piranha (1978). The list is endless. It is, what I will call, a healthy skepticism to science. But it mostly goes unheard. Constantly we can read in newspapers of groundbreaking discoveries in science that we didn´t even knew they did research on and what is discovered (i.e we can clone things/eugenics, atom bombs, bio-weaponry, medical discovery through torture  .) “BUT IT´S PROGRESS! NO ONE SHOULD QUESTION PROGRESS!”
Yeah, we all heard stuff! Like uh, how they… they thought that there were other dimensions. You know, other… other worlds all around us, and how they wanted to try to make a window, you know, so they can look through and see what’s on the other side.
Well maybe your window turned out to be a door. Isn’t it?
Not my door! It’s the scientists!
Oh, the scientists.
Yes, the scientists! They must’ve ripped a hole through by accident. That’s how their world keeps on spilling through into ours. That’s what Donaldson was saying right before he killed himself. I didn’t understand half of it.
As I said earlier, I do not believe that this is a tribute to atheism ideals, and not logic and scientific conquerors either. We most not forget that it is strongly implied that this monstrous ordeal was started by military scientist with government founding. And by this, this movies as basically showed fault in everything.
The ending of the Mist is not like the ending of the novella by Stephen King. In the movie there is a collective suicide where 4 of the 5 people in the car get´s killed just before the military arrives to rescue them. In this ending we also see that the mother from the beginning survived as did her kids.
This differs a lot from the novella where there is no collective suicide, but instead ends openly with the party moving towards a loose hope.
According to the director, Frank Darabont, this change was a gamble to him that could either be rewritten or reduce the budget of the movie . He chose the last alternative.
The result was a real anti-climatic ending, with a shocking twist. All this gives me the impression that the change was important to the director, and should be emphasized. Why did the protagonist kill his child instead of fighting until the end like in the novella? He had fought for his child in the mall against the religious fanatic, why now kill the child himself instead? I think it is because the fog was no longer a fog of fear but a mental haze. No longer seeing any possibilities of safety or meaning for the struggle to go on. As the car runs empty of gas, so those the protagonist run empty of sense.
Doing some research on the web a lot of people disliked the ending. Some even re-editing the ending to fit the novella, and I find that fascinating.
The overall theme and meaning of the movie.
The theme of the movie seems to be the conflict between faith vs fear, idealism vs realism and rationalism vs fundamentalism. The end scene of the movie shows us something important. There was one person who did truly the right thing. The mother leaving the mall for her children.
The Mist Conclusion
I think this movie is as misanthropic as it can get. In 1hour 30 min it basically shows all the human faults that could emerge in a crisis. Xenophobia of the «out of towners», Disbelief. Lack of faith, Egotism, paranoia, fundamentalism, retrospective quarrels (what happened in the past is the genesis of new anger), bias, us-them mentality, lack of scientific ethics. And almost every single character, even the protagonist, shows powerful signs of this.
But also, and this is perhaps the most important point, it´s an entertaining horror movie about fantastical out-of-world monsters.