What’s Lurking in the Mist? by Tyler Smith
So, there’s this movie called The Mist. It was directed by Frank Darabont, based on a novella by Stephen King. The reviews of the film have been so-so. Many critics comment on the film’s overwrought allegory. And, it’s true, the thoughts and feelings of the film are hard to miss. The theme of people’s fear (or, more specifically, the exploitation of it) is very obvious. However, just because something is obvious doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not powerful all the same.
The story, as many know, is about a mysterious mist that rolls into a small town. Lurking in the mist are several otherworldly creatures. Some are big, some are small, but they are all dangerous. People soon find themselves trapped indoors; it’s the only place that’s safe. Of course, cram enough people into an enclosed area in a high-stress situation, and you soon find that danger comes in many forms.
Among the townsfolk stuck in a small grocery store are skeptics, psychopaths, and the normal people.
The normal people accept the danger and try to deal with it in a practical, intelligent way. The skeptics feel that there is no danger at all, despite the evidence they’ve seen. These people don’t stick around long. They’re all too happy to go traipsing off into the mist, confident in their own smug assessment of the situation. These people are never heard from again. Then, there are the people who choose to exploit the fear that others are feeling for their own gain. One woman in particular starts to blather on about this being the end times. At first, she is harmless. But, soon enough, she starts to win people over. After all, they can’t come up with a reasonable explanation, so perhaps the unreasonable is, in fact, true.
Of course, the allegory is clear. In a post-9/11 world, where there is a terrorist seemingly around every corner, people often find themselves falling into three camps: those that ignore the threat, those that overplay and exploit it, and those that have to deal with it. The ones that ignore it can’t be taken seriously. Those that exploit it should be taken very, very seriously, for they could wind up making things much worse.
There is one scene, in particular, that is haunting and infuriating to me. Marcia Gay Harden has, at this point, won over most of the townsfolk. Soon, this mob feels that they know who is responsible for these horrible creatures’ descent upon the town. This character defends himself, stating that he is not to blame. But the crowd will not be swayed. Soon, the young man is attacked and carried, kicking and screaming, to the front of the store. He is then thrown out into the mist, where he is soon killed by one of the creatures.
Never has the evils of the mob mentality been more clear than in this scene. I was so angry by the end of it, that I wanted to kill every single one of these characters. I was absolutely furious; that’s how much this scene drew me in. That is when I realized that these characters, out of a reasonable fear, figured out that there was nothing that could be done about the creatures. So, instead, they turned their attentions toward someone else; someone they could handle. This young man had absolutely nothing to do with the mist, but the people needed an enemy; an enemy that they truly thought was associated with the creatures in the mist.
Like I said, just because something is obvious doesn’t make it any less true.
So, yes, The Mist is not a perfect film. Many of the characters are archetypes. We pretty much always know who is going to die, and when. But everything is played out so well, that I didn’t care. I was completely involved for the entire film. Give it a watch and see what you think.
For all the films that dealt head-on with American foreign policy post-9/11 and the frustration of the Iraq War, it’s interesting that it was a by-the-numbers horror film that really hit it home for me.