I have never read a novel by Stephen King. I was more a Dean Koontz guy. Why? I think one of the reasons is the fact that I have watched too many film adaptions of his works to be interested in the originals. Perhaps – and I hope – I am not the only one with this kind of feeling.

This week I have nevertheless watched the adaption of his 1980 short story THE MIST in a sneak preview.

Poster of the movie adaption of Stephen King’s THE MIST

Well, after watching it I have to say that with THE MIST I again feel the same as with most of “his” films: nice moments, great concept but negligent execution. I don’t know if this problem is also predominant in the novel or only in the screenplay, but I constantly had the sensation that the universe of the movie was not consistent at all.

THE MIST

If you neither read the novella or watched the movie, here is a short summary (spoilers):

THE MIST is about a guy and his son, who are trapped inside a supermarket store in a small village in the mountains when a mysterious mist appears in which anyone seems to get killed.

Nathan gamble and Thomas Jane as son and father in THE MIST

After a failed attempt to repair a generator where a young energetic guy is killed, they finally know the cause of it: creatures loom in this mist, hungry for humans. But this is not the only problem, as some of the trapped don’t belief the eyewitnesses and another one starts to talk about god and the bible by which many start to get fanatical. And this slowly becomes a bigger danger than the creatures outside the windows.

A shot from the movie THE MIST in which some people try to get through the fog

Consistent Universes and the Suspension of Disbelief

OK; this is again a nice situation: I am writing about consistent universes by using a Horror movie as an example. Some might think I am crazy but I believe that it is the more important the more fantastical it gets. And as it proves, this rule is evident in most Fantasy adaptions, be it movies, games or novels. The creators seemingly know that they have to ground their worlds by implying a mass of rules who are part of their worlds and cannot be broken. Or at least rules that have been thought through. Those rules can be as simple as a fight rule, or as universal as a written analysis of the world itself (which creatures exist, what political system is predominant etc. etc.).

As with the Genre of Fantasy I also think that one should do the same with Horror-”Worlds” or Thriller-”Worlds”, since it is not Fantasy but fantastical. Yet, while watching THE MIST I got the feeling that Stephen King did not think about his world and its rules thoroughly. Or, if he did, that the guy who wrote the script could not implement them well (show it, tell it).

Hence, during the whole movie I again and again had questions about questions with counter-answers floating in my mind (full of spoilers):

  • What is this fog? Is this some kind of atmosphere the alien need to live?
    • Well, it seems not, as some of the creatures seem to be alright in “our” atmosphere. Hence, pure story device which means it is not thought through
  • Why do they attack humans so fiercely? They are alien animals who never saw humans before, hence they should ignore them as most of “our” animals do.
  • Why do all of the creatures attack, yet one not? (If you watched the movie, you know what I mean)
    • well, again an artificial story device
  • How does the original environment function? The spider-things seem to mass produce themselves which would mean they ruled the earth. Yet other alien creatures exist. Where are the hunters of the spiders? This leads to:
  • Why do they mostly attack humans ONLY. There is only one short moment in which they hunt themselves. They could have used that possibility.
  • How big is the portal? Some of the creatures are so big even Godzilla would be ashamed. But if the portal was that big how could they close it?
  • Why does the mist/fog disappear at the end?

It is clear that some if not all of the elements and creatures can be taken as a form of symbol or metaphor. And I am the first one to think of them that way. Yet, the questions were and are simply too big to be ignored.

Hence, I wasn’t able to suspend my disbelief, it was more of a retention of disbelief. And this hurt this movie enormously.

Comments

  • Very good analysis. Two points especially:

    You conclude that you had to retain disbelief vs. suspending it. Retaining is a constant act of volition. Hence, it nags at the mind and spoils the experience. As a screenwriter/creator, you must feel an especially strong irritation at this, for you have a better idea as to why this is happening and how it could have been prevented or ameliorated.

    Two, you write, “It is clear that some if not all of the elements and creatures can be taken as a form of symbol or metaphor. . . . Yet, the questions were and are simply too big to be ignored.”

    Perhaps that was this overreaching director’s Big Mistake. He intended to make a symbolic microcosm of human experience first, and stretched a veneer of horror-fantasy story elements over it second. He ought to have gotten his world nailed down first (that is, get the story and its rules down) and then, where possible, tweaked in some social commentary.

    Kubrick shows the way. He has said that the story, first and foremost, drives the process. That’s one reason why he took so long between films–a truly terrific story is not easy to lay hands on!

  • totedati

    “what is …? why …? how …?”

    well, i think you miss completely the red line of stephen king novel and its movie incarnation

    you should try to make a jump in time, back in the dark age of hercule and druids, when this world was full of mysterious supernatural forces and gods …

    the mist is that world, where was little scientific and rational explanation of natural phenomena

    the mist is about faith, bad religions and good religions, intolerance and fear, and how easy is to go back to that dark age of humanity against science and its claim that our universe can have a rational explanation where all you need is logic and human reason applied only to material evidences, and where is no place for irrational faith and supernatural concepts like an almighty benevolent god when you see so much pain and sufferings all around you

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