I’ve been a Stephen King fan for many years, and read a ton of his works. While I love his novels, it’s his ability to deftly craft a creepy short story that I admire the most. I’ve had the pleasure of reading several of his collections in the past, including the one that contained the original novella version of The Mist, and loved the story.
The 2007 movie adaptation, while lacking some of the verve and punch of the story, was an enjoyable film in my opinion. I thought that it had an even better ending that the novella. But really, what can beat a story about a strange fog that blankets a huge region and is filled with all sorts of weird monsters that attack and kill people? Not much… that’s just how I roll.
So while looking for something to watch this weekend, I came across the first season of The Mist on Netflix and decided to give it a roll. We binged the entire 10-episode season one arc on Saturday and Sunday, and I can accurately say I came away feeling like this was a complete piece of warmed over dung, mixed with a heaping pile of stupidity. Warning: lots of spoilers ahead, because I just don’t care.
First, let’s hit the obvious problems. A girl is raped. Trope. Big trope. Like the most overdone trope ever these days. If a writer wants to make a girl fragile and yet strong, they have her raped. But even worse than using that trope was having her act friendly towards her rapist later in the first season. Who does that? No one… ever. It was absolutely the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen on television in a while, and I’ve recently watched the remake of The Magnificent Seven, so that’s saying a lot. No one who has been raped would EVER act in this manner. They can’t even let their family members hug them, let alone start making out with a boy who they earlier thought raped them (and never mind that it turns out he’s her half-brother… just more bizarre stuff this wannabe-edgy show tossed in).
Another problem is the gay character who is the raped girl’s best friend. He’s a major part of the plot of the first season and plays a key roll. So of course, the writers made him an evil and psychotic prick who is off his meds and, thus, capable of raping a girl (a gay man who rapes a woman?) who is his best friend to keep her away from the guy she likes (because yeah, I always rape people to keep them away from others), and killing folks when he gets angry, or upset, or whatevs. The major character to represent LGTBQ inclusion, and they completely went off the rails with the character. There’s a jock character in the show who beats him up a lot who also turns out to be gay, and that character actually made way more sense from the “I must act manly and hate all things homoerotic and smash them” sort of way. The kid had some potential, but was barely utilized.
Let’s stop here and address ALL the bad character choices and tropes. First, we get the “mother who was a party girl but was saved by her now husband.” Fuck that. Fuck that in the head with a brick. I hate that concept, hate that motivation, and it strikes me as a weak basis for a relationship. Then we have the soldier who has lost his memories, and his love interest who is a junkie. God, I’m sooooo tired of junkie story lines. As if there’s not enough problems, but now here comes mysterious stranger chick looking for money and passports, and oh, by the way, she’s addicted to pill popping. Worse, though, is they three quarters of the way through the first season had her go through “rapid detox” and she’s now clean. It struck me as the writers trying to get themselves out of the roadblock of her addiction instead of having to deal with it constantly throughout the story line. We’ve got handsome jock wannabe lover of raped girl, we’ve got the priest who slowly goes dark in the name of religion, the prophet who arises and leads people falsely, and a bunch of other standard dystopia bullshit story lines that struck me as dubious inclusions. So many dull, overdone characters its hard to focus on any one of them. Oh, but they all seem happy to kill at the drop of a hat. There’s no self-reflection, no angst, just… well you’re dead now, sorry. Character motivations swing wildly and crazily, and there’s no one really to root for. We watched the whole ten episode arc merely to see where they were going with this thing.
I have to pick another bone for a moment, though this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, simply something I noticed. There were quite a few minority actors in the movie. It’s great to see Hollywood including others, and it should be commended. But the movie takes place in Maine, where I grew up, and the whitest state in the union. Not only did we not get any New England accents (which could be a good thing, because most actors fumble them horribly), but the inclusion stuck out in my mind due to my knowledge of the state. For anyone not from there, it might not seem as strange, and again, I don’t want to strangle any attempt Hollywood makes to include more actors outside the normal demographics.
Another problem: why, after many days of living in their homes or the mall, eating whatever they could scrounge, and most with no running water, aren’t all the people dirty and scruffy? Men still look fairly well shaved, and I know after just two days I have WAY more growth than any of these guys. Clothing is clean and unrumpled. Come on, it’s a disaster… even the Walking Dead knows you gotta make folks look like a mess during these disasters.
And let’s not forget the actual plot of the show, which is such a muddle mess that I still don’t know what the hell is going on. Natural disaster? Military chemicals? Something else? In the original story, there were several kinds of monsters, and more hinted at. They never really try hard to explain why, it just… happened. Maybe a military experiment, maybe something like Stranger Things with a rift to another dimension opened. The monsters were concrete, the same for all folks. This story has some nature goddess stuff, mingled with hallucinations, and the fog has a life form in it, the military is involved, amnesia soldier is actually an officer, a train with prisoners tossed out… I don’t know, it’s bizarre shit that never got clearer as the season progressed, and simply got more convoluted and messy. There was no sense of any sort of picture emerging. I don’t want all the answers… hell, I don’t need ANY answers. But I need a sense that the writers understand the underlying backstory and are serving it up to us piece by piece. I didn’t get that at all from this, it felt more like a kitchen sink approach at writing. “Hey, this is cool, let’s toss in this, too.”
Overall, I give this 3 out of 10 on the Reynolds rating scale. 3 because creepy fog and monsters and an old woman’s naked ass (I swear that was a stunt double, no way a seventy year old looks that good from behind). But you should pass on this show, it’s one you can mist. (see what I did there? Yeah, you did… ). I know King takes a hands-off approach about television and movie versions of his properties, and I’m sorry to see others take such a poor handling of an otherwise awesome story.