Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Missed

You say Stephen King movie and immediately, my perimeter alarms go off. What is it about King movies? They’re either phenomenal and moving (Shawshank Redemption, The Shining, Stand By Me) or just awful drivelly train-wrecks (Dreamcatcher, Desperation). The Mist got my hopes up, and then dashed them on foggy cliffs of poor taste.

I’m not a big reader of King, I’ve read The Stand (enjoyed it), and that’s it. I’m not crazy about his mode of writing. This isn’t about Stephen King, though, he did his part in this case, he wrote the original story with a FINE ending (so my husband tells me). This is about the attempt by director Frank Darabont to be “edgy.” Oh, it was edgy, I guess. In an unrealistic, unnecessary, and mean-spirited way. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So we put the kids to bed, and start watching The Mist. I’m digging it, despite my reservations on the hit or miss nature of King movies. It was Lovecraftian in a way that I liked much better than any film attempt at Lovecraft so far (see, Lovecraft, that’s more my style of reading, that and The Name of the Rose…ok, and Harry Potter). The religious fanatacism was a tad over the top, but so far so good. The movie drew me in, and I was thoroughly enjoying myself, disbelief suspended, eagerly waiting to see what would happen next.

And then the ending came along, that nasty little pointless ending. Mr. Darabont, why did you have to do this to us? If you haven’t seen The Mist yet…do yourself a favor: when 5 people are in the car and they see a giant behemoth slouching its way towards Bethlehem…STOP THE MOVIE. That’s the actual ending that King wrote.

If you want to see why I’m irritated enough to post about this, keep watching. Not to ruin the ending but...oh wait, they already did. The actions that this film portrays a parent taking at that particular moment, I’m sorry, I can’t suspend my disbelief that far. No parent would take that ultimate step unless imminent threat was present, and at that point, there was no imminent threat. I'm not sure if I'd feel the way I do had I seen The Mist before having children of my own, but I think even then it's evident bad taste.

Now, had the car been utterly swarmed by monsters, and the outcome seemed inevitable, ok, then I can buy it, but instead, the shock decision comes at a relative lull in the action. You have to create justifiable cause, and that was not done. And to add insult to injury, rescue arrives on the scene seconds later…the other wrong choice. That’s not shocking, that’s just mean. If you ARE going to have your heroes off themselves at the end, paint a bleak ending like that, and leave the main character to deal with his reality, that’s fine. The film could have ended with an overhead pan up from the car, until it disappeared into The Mist, without knowing that help ever came. I’m a fan of apocalyptic films, and that would have been a fine ending, too.

Neither of these options was chosen. Instead, our hero makes a ridiculous choice, and then gets a cosmic one-finger salute moments later for it. That’s horrible! This “shock” was almost done as an afterthought, just shock for shock’s sake. I guess the reason I’m so annoyed by the whole thing is that the rest of the movie was really good, and if a non-director like me can come up with two viable alternatives to end the film darkly but smartly, well then so could a director.

So Frank (can I call you Frank?)... we all make bad choices in life, and I guess I forgive you. Just don’t let it happen again, OK? I’ve been hurt before…Tack.

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