Is it fair to judge a movie based solely on its ending?
My inner-critic tells me no, a movie should be evaluated holistically. But there is something so irresistible about praising or condemning a movie because of its ending.
Endings like the ones in “The Sixth Sense” or “Memento” can make you rethink and redefine an entire movie. But the ending for “The Mist” made me want to throw something at the screen. The ending of “The Mist” not only derails an otherwise-decent horror film, but it reeks of nihilism and melodrama.
So, while I will try to be fair to “The Mist” in my review, my feelings about the entire film are undeniably influenced by my disappointment with the last 10 minutes.
Like the Stephen King novella on which it is based, “The Mist” is about a group of people who become stuck in a supermarket after a supernatural mist envelops their Maine town.
Aside from being disorienting, the mist itself isn’t that scary or dangerous.
However, there are creatures lurking in the mist – creatures that are hungry, toothy and tentacled. And slowly, these creatures start to make mincemeat out of the supermarket’s more skeptical occupants who decide to venture out into the mist and seek help.
A good chunk of the movie is devoted to exploring the different ways humans react to situations of extreme stress and violence.
On one side, we have the film’s heroes – David (Thomas Jane), his son Billy (Nathan Gamble), Amanda (Laurie Holden) and a supermarket clerk named Ollie (Toby Jones).
David & Co. are scared out of their wits, but they try their best to remain calm and rational under the circumstances. However, David’s group is opposed by Mrs. Carmondy (Marcia Gay Harden) and her ever-growing flock of religious fanatics, who are all dead-set on performing a human sacrifice to appease the wrath of God.
This dichotomy between rationalism and fanaticism is compelling, but the film gives too much screen-time to Carmondy’s screeds against the impure and the unrepentant. Instead of her character being silver-tongued and malicious as she is in King’s story, here she is simply malicious.
One of the most frustrating things about “The Mist” is that it does contain moments of genuine suspense, including a terrifying scene where the supermarket-dwellers try helplessly and chaotically to kill a creature that has made its way into the store.
However, in between such scenes are too many moments of aggravating speeches by Mrs. Carmondy and too many conversations between David and his allies where the dialogue seems an awkward fit in the actors’ mouths.
And then there’s that ending. The last word in King’s story is “hope.”
The last image in “The Mist” makes the whole thing seem like a pitiless cosmic prank.
Entertainment writer Jeff Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.