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Literature: The Mist

The Mist is a 1980 horror novella written by Stephen King. The story revolves around several members of a small town community who find themselves trapped in the local supermarket when, following a violent thunderstorm, a thick unnatural mist envelopes the town. While tensions arise within the group, the survivors face vicious attack from abnormal creatures prowling in the mist.

A film adaptation was released in 2007, marketed as Stephen King's The Mist. The film is written and directed by Frank Darabont, who had previously adapted Stephen King's work and had been interested in adapting The Mist for the big screen since the 1980s.

It features an ensemble cast including Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Toby Jones, Andre Braugher, and Sam Witwer. Darabont began filming The Mist in Shreveport, Louisiana in February 2007. The director revised the ending of the film to be darker than the novella's ending, a change to which Stephen King was amicable. Unique creature designs were also sought to differ from creatures in past films.

Not to be confused with Miguel de Unamuno's novella Mist.


This Novella/Film Contains Examples Of:

  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: The ending. Good God, the ending!
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Beauty certainly lies in the eye of the beholder, but Marcia Gay Harden is probably not the old hag Mrs. Carmody is portrayed as in the book.
  • Adaptation Expansion: There is an extra scene in which someone is killed and given to the monsters as an offering, of which Stephen King said he should have thought of it himself when writing the story.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Hilda becomes Irene in the movie.
  • All Webbed Up: Done rather effectively with the spider-like monsters in the pharmacy. Made worse because the webs are coated in caustic secretions.
  • Alternate Universe: In-house rumors about the top-secret Arrowhead Project state that the military was attempting to open a portal to another universe, which explains the mist and its monsters.
  • Apocalypse How: Depending on how far the mist traveled across the world, the novella and movie both depict an awful regional catastrophe, at least, and possibly anything ranging from a biosphere extinction to the complete annihilation of the fabric of the Universe. At the end of the film, a heavily-armed military clean-up crew is moving in and clearing the mist, implying a regional rather than worldwide catastrophe. In the radio play version at the very end over the radio from the rest of the country you hear: "Death comes. Death comes for all of us." This is also the last words heard from the Arrowhead project, which is where the Mist came from in the first place. Even Darker and Edgier. The original novella ends with all of New England, at least, pulled into the mist, and the heroes left with one slender reed of hope.
  • Asshole Victim: Mrs. Carmody.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Near the end, some of the monsters grow... big. In the novella, the heroes nearly run into the footprint of one - and it engulfs the entire road. They see it earlier, and it has some rather large bird-like things hanging from its back.
  • Attack of the Monster Appendage: When the men try to fix the generator they're attacked by a bunch of tentacles, overpowered and one of them is dragged into the mist. We never know what the rest of the creature looks like, at least in the book.
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: The entire point of the movie is to show how most people would believe any notion, no matter how crazy it sounds on paper, and commit any atrocity when put in a sufficiently incomprehensible and dangerous situation.
  • Better to Die Than Be Killed: It backfires. Oh boy, does it backfire.
  • Big Bad: Despite all the alien nasties outside the store, the biggest threat turns out to be Mrs. Carmody.
  • Biological Mash Up: The Gray Widows have incongruously human-like jaws in arachnid bodies. As if having too many legs to be actual spiders was not enough...
  • Black Blood:
  • Bloody Handprint: On the glass exit doors.
  • Body Horror: A very prominent example in the pharmacy; the reason that one of the men in that place is still alive is because he is serving as a nursery to several hundred infant Grey Widows..
  • Boom, Headshot:
  • Bottomless Magazines: Averted to tragic effect. Amanda only had twelve bullets for her gun, and only twelve shots are fired during the course of the movie.
  • Brass Balls: Said of the biker who volunteers to leave the supermarket and brave unknown peril to attempt to retrieve a rifle from a pickup in the parking lot.
  • Cassandra Truth: In the original story, when the main character hears the monster outside of the storage room, several people refuse to believe that anything is out there. This, of course, leads to someone getting killed. Even then, there is a group of people who don't want to think that there are monsters in the mist. It takes them going outside and, of course, being eaten for everyone to figure out that something is a bit...off.
  • The Cavalry Arrives Late: Possibly the cruelest example in film history. Made worse by the fact that they were driving away from the advancing Army. The Cavalry was minutes behind them the entire time.
  • Coitus Ensues: The original story has David and Amanda randomly having sex just to have the former feel guilt about cheating on his wife. This is removed in the film.
  • Combat Tentacles: Whatever it was that drags poor Norm to his doom possesses these in spades.
  • Cool Old Lady: Irene, the lady who beans Mrs. Carmody with a can and torches a spider monster.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: Just a bit, yes. Lovecraft would nod along, ticking the the elements in it off the list.
  • Creator Cameo: Averted for once, although a store window is labeled "King's Pharmacy" in a nod to the author's usual bit parts.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Not so much a moron in this instance, but meek, unassuming assistant manager Ollie Weeks proves that he's actually pretty handy with a pistol, much to the surprise and unease of his boss. He makes every shot he takes with his handgun, a phenomenal feat considering how terrifying and weird the monsters are, while maintaining presence of mind enough to refuse to take shots that would endanger other people. Well, right up until he has to kill a person and has a nervous breakdown because of it... In general, he handles the crisis/subsequent nightmare better than everybody else except for David, but he is the main protagonist so it is expected.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: With extra Downer Ending sauce and Irony shavings.
  • Death by Adaptation: Stephanie Drayton, Billy Drayton, Amanda Dumfries, Irene Reppler and Dan Miller's fates were left ambiguous at the end of the novel. Here...
  • Death by Pragmatism: The film goes way past the original story with this. The pragmatic characters who try to help themselves are wrong all the time and mostly end up dead. A woman goes out into the mist at the beginning to save her kids and somehow ends up surviving with them. About three different scenarios go something like this:
    David: We're going to go do X to help everybody
    Carmody: You can't do that! It's blasphemy/sin/death!
    David and friends try to do something proactive anyway and end up completely screwed over
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The DVD includes an extra copy of the movie in black and white.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: Averted; things get bad pretty quickly.
  • Downer Ending: With their car out of gas and the mist closing in, David shoots his son and everybody in the car, but comes up one bullet short to kill himself. He then steps out into the mist to be killed. But instead of monsters, the military emerge from the mist and destroy it as he screams in anguish. Stephen King himself, who created the original short story The Mist, was shocked by the ending, and wished he had come up with it himself.
    King: "Frank wrote a new ending that I loved. It is the most shocking ending ever and there should be a law passed stating that anybody who reveals the last 5 minutes of this film should be hung from their neck until dead."
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • The two soldiers trapped in the supermarket hang themselves giving credence to the idea that the mist was caused by a secret government experiment. In the film, a third is left alive to try and explain the situation. Also, several people in the supermarket commit suicide by overdose. Also in the movie, the group of survivors plan to kill themselves to avoid being eaten by the creatures in the mist. This ends very badly.
    • Heroine Amanda Dumfries, who has been looking after Billy, discovers her friend Hattie has committed suicide by overdose after almost getting Billy killed during the monster insect attack.
  • Eaten Alive: The main cause of death in the movie.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Subverted with the monsters. While they're certainly alien and look like absolutely nothing from this world, they're not fundamentally WRONG, either. Their physiology is not too far removed from anything that can be found here, their intelligence seems to be on par with most Earth-based predatory lifeforms, they don't rip the laws of physics a new one, and they're generally pretty easy to injure and/or kill. They definitely don't belong here, but they're hardly unfathomable.
  • Evil Luddite: Carmody seems to think that any scientific advance past 1940 is an affront to God. Stem cells and abortions are surprisingly her last appeals to Science Is Bad, although she appears to be going roughly in chronological order.
    Carmody: We are being punished! For what? For going against the will of God! For going against His forbidden rules of old! Walking on the moon! Or... or splitting His atoms! Or... or... or stem cells, and abortions!
  • Expy:
    • Half-Life was heavily inspired by the book, so many places and things from the book have their own versions in the game. For example, Black Mesa is Arrowhead Base. Many of the creatures in the book were adapted to Half-Life as well.
    • Silent Hill was also inspired by the book, as evidenced by the fog-shrouded town and the pterodactyl-like creature flying through a storefront window. Many references to King and his works are placed throughout the game.
  • Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong: The MP found All Webbed Up in the pharmacy. And, even more horrifiying, David's wife, whose death we do not see...but her webbed-up corpse, split open.
  • Fire and Brimstone Hell: Mrs Carmody's interpretation of how one should be a Christian.
  • Fog of Doom: It's in the title.
  • Follow the Leader: Half-Life was inspired by the book.
  • Food Chain of Evil: The bat/bird-things prey on the fly/wasp-things.
  • The Fundamentalist: Mrs. Carmody takes her religious fundamentalism to psychotic extremes. She's outright trying for Dark Messiah — she'll save as many souls of the deserving as she can, but forget actual lives... or how she goes about deciding on the "deserving": throw them to the monsters and sacrifice children.
  • Gainax Ending: The book.
  • Genre Savvy: David, especially when he's trying to warn some of the store patrons about what he heard on the other side of the loading dock. "What do you think is going on here? Are you people dense?"
  • Gentle Giant: The "Impossibly Tall Creature", a skyscraper-sized monster that appears at the end. Well, at least it doesn't instantly attack the humans' car.. It's so large (larger in the book, but still utterly gigantic in the film) that it probably doesn't even notice them. Which, given everything else, is probably for the best.
  • Giant Enemy Crab: What finally manages to take out Ollie the assistant manager.
  • Giant Spider
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Jim, one of the members of the pharmacy expedition, is reduced to a gibbering mess upon seeing the spiders hatch from the MP's body. He joins Carmody's cult after he recovers slightly.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: The scene at the end of the film where David shoots his son and the other three passengers. Then you hear a scream of pure anguish.
  • Government Conspiracy: Although it is never stated outright, the secretive Arrowhead Project at the Shaymore military base is believed by most of the characters to be the cause of the disaster. In the movie one of the soldiers in the store confirms this theory.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: Was that shotgun really worth it?
  • Harbinger of Impending Doom: The first guy who runs, bleeding, into the store.
  • Hate Sink:
    • Mrs. Carmody. Big time. And it is done almost disturbingly well, as, when Ollie kills her, the emotion the viewer experiences is pure joy.
    • Brent Norton. Primarily it is because of how stubborn and how much of a Straw Vulcan he is. Despite the fact there are monsters outside the mist, he firmly keeps saying this is all because David wants to "get back at him" for some lawsuit that occurred before the events of the book. The movie makes him way worse and he is just completely as unlikable as Mrs. Carmody, but without all the Large Ham moments.
  • Holier Than Thou: Mrs. Carmody.
  • A House Divided: Roughly half the cast are more interested in bickering with each other than actual survival.
  • Humanity Is Insane: As Ollie calmly illustrates when the humans start tearing each other apart: "As a species we're fundamentally insane. Put more than two of us in a room, we pick sides and start dreaming up reasons to kill one another."
  • Human Sacrifice: Mrs. Carmody persuades her cult to start doing this to appease God and the creatures outside in the mist. Ironically, it probably did the exact opposite and just attracted more of them to the scene of an easy meal.
  • Humans Are Bastards: It's pretty pretty disgusting and pathetic how quickly anarchy takes over after poeple took shelter in the supermarket. As Amanda disbelievingly points out, it doesn't even take 2 days!
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: If they get scared enough, humans become downright monsters, which is actually the point of the whole story. The "monsters" from the mist are just animals (granted, dangerous, mostly predatory alien ones) doing what comes naturally.
  • Idiot Ball: Nobody thinks that attracting creatures with light will end badly. The smart thing during the night is to keep it dark (humans have decent night vision).
  • Jerk Ass: Several characters in the store, mainly Jim and Brent. But the ultimate one has to be Mrs. Carmody, a horrid religious bitch who slowly goes from a mere annoyance to pure evil.
  • Karmic Death: Mrs. Carmody's very well-deserved date with two revolver bullets near the end.
  • Kill It with Fire: Fire is very effective against the monsters. A torch takes down one of the pterodactyl monsters, Irene uses an aerosol flamethrower to kill a spider monster, and the military uses flamethrowers to clear away the mist at the end.
  • Knight Templar: Mrs. Carmody again.
  • Large Ham: Marcia Gay Harden takes the cake for this. She takes a religious woman and makes her go from sane to insane and it works. Also note that Harden is playing VERY against type.
  • Lawful Stupid: Every member of Mrs Carmody's cult.
  • Mama Bear: Call her what you will, but the woman in the beginning who leaves the store alone proves she is one. Could you leave your young children alone without trying to get back to them? Oh and she survives and rescues her kids. And though the movie doesn't go into it, it's possible that she survived due to leaving early when there may have been less creatures about.
  • Moral Myopia: Mrs. Carmody is shot by a good guy after commanding her flock to sacrifice a young boy to the monsters that invaded. (Being cooped up in a Walmart for a week with monsters outside will make you try anything.) The response from one of the flock: "You murdered her!"
  • My God, What Have I Done?: When Mrs. Carmody's cult starts to attack the surviving military officer, you can see Mrs. Carmody's shocked expression basically saying this, possibly her one moment of true sanity in the whole film... and then it melts away as she turns around and orders him thrown to the monsters as a sacrifice.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Inverted. "Carmody" should be the name of your sweet high school music teacher, right? Not an evil cult leader.
  • Never Mess with Granny: Irene Reppler, the elderly school teacher (Frances Sternhagen), fries a FREAKING GIANT ACID-SPITTING SPIDER with a lighter and a can of bug-spray, all the while having a facial expression saying "I'll show YOU!" in that way that only old ladies can say. She also clocks Mrs. Carmody in the face with a can of peas and then said there was plenty more where that came from. King writes awesome old people.
  • No Ending: The book, lampshaded.
  • No Name Given: The woman with the kids at home.
  • Ominous Fog: The entire setup.
  • One-Woman Wail: The last ten minutes or so. Incidentally, the track used is "The Host of Seraphim" by Dead Can Dance, who provided most of the One-Woman Wail in the film that popularized it, Gladiator.
  • Only Sane Man: David, to begin with at least.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Toby Jones (Ollie Meeks) has a full-on English accent for one line near the end of the movie.
  • Our Monsters Are Weird: The Giant Spiders spin horribly corrosive webs and brood their offspring in corpses, and those are the most typical creatures about. Others include the four-winged pterosaur-bats, a largely-unseen creature whose cephalopod tentacles have mouths instead of suckers, and the... err.. six-legged behemoth covered in prehensile tendrils. Another creature, seen mostly in silhouette only, vaguely resembles a preying mantis the size of a small house.
  • Papa Wolf: David
  • Pet the Dog: A minor one, but the Cult evidently let the Manager back inside after he got separated from the others, despite the fact that his buddies killed their leader.
  • Revised Ending: The book simply ends with the survivors getting into their car and driving across a Mist-shrouded New England, with only a slender reed of hope to follow. In the movie, the lead character kills his son and the people he is traveling with to spare them the pain of being killed by the monsters then steps out into the fog to be killed himself, because he has no bullets left in his gun. Just then, the military shows up and destroys the mist. David doesn't take this well. Stephen King approved of this change, and said he should have done it in the original story.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: In the ending, the lead character kills his entire party including his own son (it would've been group suicide instead of euthanasia, but he was one bullet short). About five minutes later the military finally shows up with tanks and flamethrowers, along with cars and cars full of survivors, meaning the insane cult they had just left to escape likely survived. To top it all off, he finds himself face-to-face with the woman brave enough to leave the supermarket at the beginning of the movie.
  • Shout-Out:
    • David is painting Roland of Gilead, from Stephen King's opus The Dark Tower, when the storm hits. The monsters, and the implications of the Arrowhead Project also seem similar to the Todash monsters in that series.
      • Furthermore, when the MC is describing how one's mind opens up after experiencing a certain amount of horror, he mentions just accepting things like the dead walking and talking, and roses singing.
    • Another design in the room is that of the poster of John Carpenter's The Thing (1982) (1982). Shouldn't come as a surprise that he directed a similar movie called The Fog (1980).
    • The line "My life for you," spoken by Mrs. Carmody, has been said by a number of villainous characters in the Dark Tower books. Most notably Trashcan Man in The Stand.
    • The siren that goes off as the fog comes rolling in sounds similar to one that went off every time creepy stuff was about to go down in another story about a town shrouded in mist and filled with monsters. It's likely (although not confirmed) that the original novella influenced the game. note 
    • The dead creatures liquefy in the same way as the "things" in From A Buick Eight, another work by King.
    • The painting used on the CD cover of Pan's Labyrinth in the studio.
  • Skyward Scream: David makes one at the very end after he finds out the mercy kill he gave his son and surviving friends has been for nothing.
  • The Soulsaver: Let's just say that Mrs. Carmody is not the kind of person who knocks at your door asking for a few minutes of your time to talk about Jesus. Well, alright, she does offer you a chance to repent and join her. If you refuse, however, she has... a very extreme opinion about what to do with heathens when The Lord Almighty is pissed off.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: As noted in One-Woman Wail, the survivors' drive away from the supermarket across the misty, web-entangled New England landscape — and under a gigantic Eldritch Abomination — is set to Dead Can Dance's "The Host of Seraphim", making it even more haunting. And then it starts again when David sees the Army coming in through the mist after he just shot his son and companions.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: The fate of the woman with the kids at home was left ambiguous after she left at the book. The film showed that she and her kids managed to survive.
  • Straw Vulcan: Norton and his group of skeptics who leave the store because they don't believe there are any monsters in the mist. Lets back up a step. If the skeptics are right about the mist being natural and stay in the store then the weather will blow over in a few hours to a day or someone will come by looking for the grocery store and update them on the situation. They are on their way after a short delay, at most a minor inconvenience. If the other groups are right about the mist and there are monsters outside the best bet for survival is not to go outside to be picked off by monsters. The risk analysis of the situation, however low the probability of lethal monsters, would point to staying in the well stocked grocery store and not wandering off. So of course they choose the 'rational choice' after concluding there are no monsters and immediately decide to leave. Norton tells David right before he leaves that if he's wrong the joke will be on him. Poor decision or not, he is at least willing to admit that much. In the novella, David thinks that Norton is, at some level, committing deliberate suicide.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Neighbor Brent Norton disregards David's and his own common sense to prove himself by walking straight outside into the creepy fog. The result shouldn't be surprising.
    • The survivors decide to take Mrs. Carmody's advice and use Human Sacrifice as a way to appease God and the creatures in the mist. That kind of stuff will only draw more monsters to the immediate area around the store. Predators swarm at the smell of blood or the chance for an easy meal, so sacrificing people was actually the stupidest thing they could've done. The mist creatures seem to hunt by sense of smell or hearing because of low visibility, so attracting them to the store with an easy, injured meal would've also alerted them to the people hiding inside of it.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: Mrs. Carmody, who turns half the people trapped in the store into religious fanatics, making it increasingly more dangerous for those in the store that still have their sanity. And most watchers are likely to be thrilled upon watching her being "disposed of".
  • Vagina Dentata: The tentacle monster's mouth.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Carmody's remaining cult isn't seen again after David and his group kill her and leave the store for good. The cult was likely saved by the army, given they had no intention of leaving the store. Either that, or their earlier behavior wound up attracting more monsters.
  • Your Cheating Heart: In the novella, David grows increasingly attracted to Amanda - while still loving his wife, of course! - and they eventually have sex to relieve their tension. King himself says he didn't approve of this (despite leaving it in after an edit) and the film understandably leaves the subplot out.
  • Wilhelm Scream: The infamous scream can be faintly heard amidst the man's other screams as the spider monsters mutilate him in the mist during the escape attempt from the store near the movie's end.

Book of the New SunWorld Fantasy AwardFevre Dream
MiseryWorks By Stephen KingMr. Mercedes
MiseryLiterature of the 1980sThe Mists of Avalon
MiseryHorror FilmsThe Monolith Monsters
A Mighty HeartFilms of 2005 - 2009 Mister Lonely

alternative title(s): The Mist; The Mist
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