The Mist – Frank Darabont – 2007

Frank Darabont’s The Mist may very well be my favorite horror film of the double-aughts. From it’s iconic Lovecraftian imagery to the amazing and empathetic characters that populate its’ story, each scene is both deeply emotional and harrowing, while still being a zany creature feature, the likes of which were most popular during a Saturday morning matinee during the 1950s.

Let’s think of these concepts in terms I’ll return to: The Artist and the Grocery Store. The artist has taken his son; let’s call him, generations to come, to the store to get supplies. The grocery store here under Ms. Carmodys’ influence becomes a circle of closed thought. The artists’ goal throughout the film is to get generations to come out of a circle of closed thought.

Now that we have that out of the way, a storm comes to a small town. A blinding white mist fills the town and many residents are forced to band together in a grocery store to fend off demons of fearsome viciousness, while a fanatical Christian creates an attitude of dangerous piety from within.

Each scene illuminates with truth the way that many branches of thought would respond to the situation. When David Drayton tells the hicks he suspects something awful outside, they meet his attitude with difference. This stubborn behavior gets them into a pretty serious mess with some tentacles and a kid dies. Simple minds want problems to be simple and would rush blindly into the fog, but for the artist who tries to warn them and keep them safe.

When the locals go back into the Grocery Store, they attempt to tell David’s neighbor, a judge, the truth about what they have seen. Distrusting, and disgruntled, the neighbor sees nothing but personal politics and avoids recognizing the problem. Here again the Artist is presented as leading the mind away from politics and toward truth.

As more attacks come and more people are killed, Ms. Carmody acquires acolytes, even one of the simple minds from the tentacle attack, convinced that God’s absolution is the only escape from the impending Hell. Carmody is presented not as convincing but as opportunistic, seizing control of the chaos around her and placing herself in the middle, using the frightened nature of souls against them and making them a same-thinking weapon. Near the end of the film a young enlisted military man is slain for only the loosest of associations with the mist. Fanatics will have blood, they are the rot from inside the Grocery Store.

What is the Mist? We hear only that military scientists were working on creating doorways to other dimensions. We are to assume then that this backfired and not only were they successful, but only the worst possible things were on the other side. Is this a criticism, of military, science or of military science? Is it simply a riff on Shelly’s “do not play in Gods’ domain”, by way of HP Lovecraft? It’s hard to say where this film comes down on the military considering their role in the films dramatic conclusion.

And what a finale it is! After Ollie kills Carmody, David and company make a break for his truck and make it with a few deaths on the way. No one ever said following the Artist was safe. Those souls who do make it drive into the unknown as far as the gas will take them. The car stops for a creature to pass, massive, weird, tentacled, six-legged, the beast could stomp on or devour the car, but lumbers by in careless abandon, all the strangest thoughts one could ever have manifest.

When the gas runs out and the final decision left to the Artist to save everyone from being chewed up nightmare food, the Artist takes the short way out. In a way, the truck has become a new closed circle of thought. David slays his family, slays even generations to come, his son. A surrogate family to be sure, but the only family he has. The mistaken sounds of horror are revealed to be the sounds of military rescue. It’s an obvious moral, but still one that should not be taken lightly. Never give up. Never take the short path. It is always darkest before the dawn.

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