The Big Picture
- The Mist has the biggest gut-punch of an ending in all of horror history, making it one of the most notorious in the genre.
- The movie’s ending differs from the original novella, but the deliberate choice to go with this ending made the movie more memorable.
- Frank Darabont, known for his adaptations of Stephen King’s works, was an interesting and unexpected choice as the director of The Mist, but he captures the characters of King’s stories well.
Horror movies aren’t typically the cheeriest, but believe me when I say that The Mist has the biggest gut-punch of an ending in all of horror history. This 2007 Stephen King adaptation spends most of its runtime as a super solid cosmic horror story. It’s creepy, disgusting, mysterious, and atmospheric — all traits of many great horror movies. Then the movie has to wrap up, and boy does it. The final few moments of The Mist have lived on as some of the most notorious in the entire genre. Maybe even in all of movie history! But the ending wasn’t always supposed to be this way. King’s original novella of the same name actually has a different finale than that of the movie. That means it was a deliberate choice by Frank Darabont and company to go the way that this movie does! Well, for better or worse, maybe we should be glad that they did because it only made this movie more memorable. Better than it being forgettable, right?
By the time The Mist hit theaters, casual fans of Stephen King might have thought that they had the filmmaker all figured out. He writes pretty straightforward horror stories, sometimes with very bizarre characters and plot choices. But by and large, Stephen King is telling fairly accessible ghost and monster stories. That’s what makes his 1980 novella, The Mist, so interesting. It’s basically Stephen King by way of H.P. Lovecraft. Yeah, you know, one of the least accessible horror writers out there. An author whose stories of unfathomable other-dimensional creatures and horrors are fit only for the most seasoned of this genre’s fans. Cosmic horror was not yet, and still isn’t often, a genre that King had been affiliated with.
That being said, The Mist is one of the better cosmic horror stories from the second half of the 20th century. The novella and its film adaptation follow David Drayton and his son Billy (Thomas Jane and Nathan Gamble, respectively) as they hide out in a supermarket after a mysterious mist completely enraptures their town. Soon, it becomes clear that the mist isn’t just rolling along in the aftermath of a storm; it has unseen, vicious monsters running around inside of it. The longer David, his son, and the other townspeople stay posted up inside the supermarket, the more everyone takes sides and factions become built, and the more the monsters end up closing in on their shelter.
Frank Darabont Is an Interesting Choice for ‘The Mist’
So when you think of a director who might be perfect for this kind of horror story, your mind might run to a modern King vet like Mike Flanagan, who has adapted many of the author’s works. Then you have past King experts like Rob Reiner, who has great experience tackling both the author’s sentimental and nightmarish sides in Stand By Me and Misery. David Cronenberg would have been a great pick for The Mist considering his expertise in body horror and gross-out visuals, although his adaptation of The Dead Zone is pretty tame considering the rest of his filmography. No one would have expected Frank Darabont to be the choice to take on King’s cosmic horror tale, but he actually makes more sense than you might realize. He had already adapted three of the author’s works by this point, the short story “The Woman in the Room”, the novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, and the full-length novel The Green Mile. Sure, none of these are bone-crunching, terrifying horror stories, but they prove that Darabont gets the characters of Stephen King, through and through.
Well believe me, if you’ve only seen and absolutely adore The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, but you seriously doubt that Darabont can actually, genuinely scare you, then fire up The Mist now before you have this movie’s ending ruined for you. It is absolutely nuts and will leave you walking away with your head hanging low, wishing you were never subjected to its awful ending. No, not awful like the movie is bad, awful like “I can’t believe they had the guts to put that on-screen.” Okay, still here? Let’s do it.
How Does ‘The Mist’ End?
The movie ends with David, Billy, and a few other survivors leaving the supermarket in a car to try and find shelter elsewhere. David drives to his home to rescue his wife, only to find her dead and his house destroyed. They continue their journey of five, driving endlessly through the mist, and eventually run out of gas. If David, his young son, and the three other passengers get out of the car, they know they’ll be killed by monsters, so they all decide to end their lives there in the car. From outside the car, we see flashes of the gun going off, making it more than clear that David has just shot everyone in the car, including his son. David starts screaming and tries to shoot himself as well, only for the gun to click — completely out of ammo. He gets out of the car and starts yelling for the monsters to take him, and eventually hears something coming in the distance. A few moments later, the army rolls up, the mist clears, and David falls to his knees screaming, realizing that he killed his son and the others just before being saved. Sheesh!
There’s no way that you can walk away from this ending happily. In no world could anyone ever watch The Mist and walk away with joy in their hearts and a smile on their face. Just when you think this movie has knocked you down hard with David killing everyone in the car, it drags you down even further. If he had just waited one more minute, then everyone in that car would have been okay. It’s an absolutely devastating ending for a movie that already wasn’t joyous to begin with, but boy, nothing is worse than those last few minutes.
How Does ‘The Mist’ Novella End?
Well, if you’re a fan of the movie adaptation but have never read Stephen King’s original novella, and you’d like to, stop here. It doesn’t necessarily end with sunshine and happiness, but considering the movie’s ending, anything will have an infinitely happier ending than that. The novella ends with David, Billy, and a few survivors leaving town and driving aimlessly through an entirely mist-covered New England. They never run out of gas and David doesn’t end up shooting everybody in the car. No, instead, the novella ends with David searching radio frequencies one night, only to come across the distorted signal of somebody saying “Hartford” on the other end. Again, this isn’t a clear happy ending, but it’s more pleasant than the bullet that Darabont puts in his audience’s heart.
If you’re looking for a great horror movie, then for the most part, The Mist will do the trick for you. That being said, the last few minutes will really be an endurance test for the kinds of horrors that you’re willing to put up with. It is a great ending, in the sense that it very well fits the movie that came before it, but man… it’s definitely not one that you’ll want to go back and watch over and over on YouTube afterward. It’s the job of a horror movie to disturb you though, right? To upset you? Well congratulations Frank Darabont, you did it — you crafted the biggest gut-punch in all of horror history.