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Is The Mist the Darkest Stephen King Movie Adaptation?

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Thomas Jane and his son stand outside the store in Stephen King's The Mist, from Frank Darabont

Stephen King’s The Mist was directed by Frank Darabont, who has adapted several Stephen King books and stories, including two of the best: The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption. Based on King’s novella of the same name, The Mist follows a group of people from a small Maine town who are trapped in a supermarket while a thick mist envelops everything, containing dangerous creatures enshrouded by the fog. What results is a disturbing horror, a bleak look at humanity which posits that just beneath the veneer of our materialist society lies a vast abyss of violence and brutality capable of surfacing anytime.

The film resembles George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead in the way that its bottle movie structure reveals dark truths about the human condition. In that film, a group of people are gathered in a house, and can’t get along well enough to protect themselves from the terrifying zombies outside. They threaten each other, and it is clear that the real danger is not zombies but fellow human beings. This explains the nihilistic ending of the film, when the lone survivor of the house is shot to death by rednecks with guns and then his body is burned.

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The Mist is very much like great zombie movies in many ways. While the former has flying bug-like animals with tentacles, they are analogous to the zombies in that they seemingly exist just to kill. The film is also similar to another zombie franchise, The Walking Dead television series, which Frank Darabont also developed and produced at the beginning. Three of the lead characters in The Mist were cast members of The Walking Dead, and the makeup for both the movie and the series was created by Greg Nicotero and Howard Burger.

In The Walking Dead, the zombies are really just background, and the real danger is the threat of other people, hungry for power and control, full of violent, sadistic impulses and a tribalism that ensures the destruction of humanity. The zombies might be scary, but not the real threat. People with different ideologies are the ones who argue amongst themselves and resort to murdering each other, even though each believes that they are in the right, “the good guy,” the one with all the answers.

Related: Here’s Why Frank Darabont Was Fired From The Walking Dead

When “the good guys” fight amongst themselves, we don’t even need monsters or zombies to kill them, something the wars of the past century has proven; the human race has a long history of humans killing other humans because of fundamentalism to a certain ideology, in wars over territory, religion, and values. This implies that there are no “good guys,” just fighting factions, their loyalties divided by religious and other values, which serve to create differences and cause war, rather than peace and unity. So many people have died in the name of religious fundamentalism, a point that The Mist makes which continues to be relevant.

Even more relevant is the fact that the monstrous creatures in The Mist are manmade (or at least unleashed by humanity). We learn from some soldiers in the store that there had been experimentation that led to the existence of these monsters in something called the Arrowhead Project, which was meant to provide a portal to other worlds. Thomas Jane plays David, the protagonist and one of the last of the rational people, and Marcia Gay Harden is incredible as a downright evil and horrible character, the demented religious fanatic Mrs. Carmody.

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