On Nov. 21, 2007, a supernatural horror film premiered that involved a bunch of people trapped in a supermarket while an ominous mist blocked their escape. Based on the 1984 novella by Stephen King, "The Mist" raked in over $25 million domestically, and over $57 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. Clearly, it was a success.
However, anytime you mention the film to people who've seen it, odds are they will instantly exclaim, "Ugh, that ending!" If you haven't seen the movie, stop what you're doing and watch it right now, because major spoilers are about to happen.
The first time I saw "The Mist" was probably in 2009 or 2010. A bunch of us hung out at my buddy's house and decided to watch a horror movie we'd heard of, but hadn't actually seen. Two hours and six minutes later, we all just sat there in the dark, numb. No one said a word. (Well, there was probably an audible "What the f--k?" or two, but that was it.) I remember almost getting up to punch my friend's TV screen, I was so mad. Honestly, a movie hadn't ever affected me in that manner before.
After watching countless people murdered by the alien/squid/Cthulhu-like monster, five people sit stranded in a car, waiting for imminent death. Surrounded by the mist, it's obvious there is no escape. Armed with a small handgun with only four bullets, David Drayton (Thomas Jane) makes the ultimate sacrifice: He uses the bullets to kill his young son (Nathan Gamble) and the other three adults in his car, thus sparing them an even worse death.
Overcome with unsurmountable grief, David screams in pure, raw agony. He then steps out of the car, demanding the monsters take him. Except, no monsters come. Not this time.
Less than two minutes after David murdered his loved ones, the mist slowly clears, revealing men in Army uniforms and driving rescue cars, filled with people who survived the apocalyptic experience. If David had waited two more minutes before killing them, they would have all survived and been saved. Two. More. Minutes.
The scene is powerful enough with the imagery alone, but it's the haunting song that plays over the events occurring in front of us that sends our emotions into hyperdrive. In case you need a refresher, the song is "The Host Of Seraphim" by Dead Can Dance. If you were to watch the final scene on mute, it wouldn't be nearly as emotional.
And what caused the knife to twist into your emotions even more was seeing the woman (Melissa McBride) from the beginning of the movie alive and safe with her children. This begs the question, had David gone with her when she'd pleaded with him to help her find her children, would Billy still be alive?
But what truly makes this movie stay with you, years after it first debuted, is it forces you to wonder, "What would I have done?" Would I have been selfish and killed myself, knowingly leaving one of the people to battle out the monsters on his or her own? Would I have been able to actually look my confused, scared son in the eye and pull the trigger, fully knowing he would be ripped to shreds by giant tentacles, eaten by winged creatures or swallowed up by a horde of spiders if I didn't end his guaranteed suffering now?
If I did spare everyone else the gruesome fate of waiting for death, what would I do with my last moments on Earth, presumably all alone in the entire world? Would I just jump out of my pathetic excuse for shelter and come at the monsters head-on? Or would I stay in the car, surrounded by the people I just killed, counting down the minutes I presumably had left to live?
Surprisingly, this film's controversial ending was NOT how it went down in the novella. King's ending had the surviving group driving to what they prayed would be a way out of the mist. Messing with the car's radio, David thinks he hears a faint word, meaning there are other survivors out there; there is hope. This conclusion is open-ended, but it's a 1,000% more positive way to end the story, compared to director/screenwriter Frank Darabont's ending.
Many fans of the book were outraged at the film's 180-degree different conclusion, but King himself absolutely loved it. According to Cinemablend, King stated, "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 five minutes of this film should be hung from their neck until dead." Well damn, Stephen.
With that being said, it's a no-brainer why "The Mist" did so well at the box office. But as we celebrate the supernatural film's eighth birthday today, the film's moral questions presented to the audience are what really made this movie stay with us all these years later. The constant "what ifs" and "whys" that both entertained and horrified us worked like the monster's ginormous tentacles: latching onto us and refusing to let go.