Happy belated First of July (Canada Day) to my Canadian friends, and Fourth of July (Independence Day) to my American friends and relatives! I hope you had a safe and happy day, and celebrated in whatever way was appropriate to your day! (Oh, well, I’ll toss in a VERY belated Feliz Cinco de Mayo to my friends in Mexico! ¿Porque no?)
And for those of us who reside in Canada, or are Canadian citizens residing elsewhere, may I point out—in a somewhat self-serving manner—that next weekend (July 15th) marks the beginning of the Aurora Awards voting period; and all you have to do to vote (for me, I hope!) is to reside in Canada or be a Canadian citizen residing anywhere and pay your $5 annual membership to the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association (CSFFA), then you can go to the http://www.prixaurorawards.ca/aurora-awards/ site and vote!
(I’m in the Best Fan Writing and Publications category, since you asked.) But seriously, folks, there are some wonderful people nominated in all categories, and you need to vote! CORRECTION: It’s $10/year, not $5! Sorry!
In this review I’m going to talk about another one in the seemingly endless stream of adaptations of Stephen King’s work for the big or small screen: The Mist. Despite what it says in the TV series itself, this was a novella, not a novel.
Here’s the thing: you never know what you’re going to get with a King adaptation; some are really well done adaptations that worked as movies (The Shawshank Redemption, Carrie, The Mist [movie], Dolores Claiborne, Mercy, etc.); some are reasonably well done adaptations that, despite bad casting choices, worked as TV series (The Stand, It); some worked surprisingly well despite director interference (The Shining); and some just sucked big time (Maximum Overdrive, Under The Dome).
But because I’m a diehard King fan—and yes, I recognize his limitations as a writer, but he’s one of the best writing today in his genre (whatever that is)—I will give every adaptation at least a fighting chance to make it into my affections.
Let me say again that I’m biased. I absolutely loved this story from the first time I read it, which was in a review copy of Kirby McCauley’s Dark Forces, from Viking Press, in 1980. Like thousands of others, I pondered the meaning of the last line, where the protagonist is listening to the radio and says something like “I heard two words, and one of them sounded like ‘hope’.”
I played the video game (never finished it) and listened to the “3D sound” audio version, with an extremely adenoidal kid playing Billy. I agreed with King that the movie version’s ending was (although a terrible, terrible thing) in some ways more consistent with the story.
On the website AceShowBiz.com, the TV show’s creator said “I wanted to be respectful to the source material, but my feeling was there was already a great adaptation out there by Frank Darabont,” says show creator Christian Torpe to Entertainment Weekly, referring to the 2007 film which is also titled The Mist. He adds, “The novella is 200 pages and one location, and we needed to change that to make an ongoing series. But we wanted to remain faithful to the heart of the story.”
See, first off, why did they need to make a series out of this? Frank Darabont covered it really well in the movie version, IMO. Secondly, if you had to add stuff, why add stuff that weakens a very powerful horror story?
First thing Torpe did was to add a totally gratuitous underage date-rape to the story. The protagonists are no longer David Drayton, his son Billy, Amanda Reppler (one of my favourite characters), and so on; although some of the “monsters” we see are insectile, they aren’t all that way, leading one to believe that there may be a dimensional rift (caused by Project Arrowhead) that has allowed this mist with its killer creatures into our world.
The mist itself is a character—described as a solid white wall; as soon as one steps into it, one can’t see more than a few feet. Mrs. Carmody in the novella is a religious fanatic who sees her chance for “greatness,” and jumps on it, feeding on the fears of the people trapped in the supermarket. Ollie Weeks, the supermarket manager or assistant manager, turns heroic; and the conflicts shown in the novella—besides the obvious “monsters”—are human conflicts: suspicion of “outsiders” (set in a Maine town in the novella, it’s explained that if you aren’t born there, you’ll always be a newcomer, even after twenty or more years); religious fervor, possible misdoings by the US Army, and so on. There’s enough conflict in that story to make a good 6-episode mini-series without adding new people and settings.
***MORE SPOILERS AHEAD***
The Mist stars Morgan Spector (Boardwalk Empire), Alyssa Southerland (Viking), Okezie Morro & Darren Pettie (Mad Men), Dan Butler (Frasier), Isaiah Washington, Jr. (The Wire) and Frances Conroy (American Horror Story). The Copelands are the family in this one, rather than the novella/movie’s David Drayton and son. They have a 15-year-old daughter and the mother, despite being a schoolteacher, refuses to let her daughter do what I’d consider normal teenage stuff; her father is inclined to be more lenient, but he bows to the mother’s wishes.
Oddly enough, the mother is suspended by the school board for teaching sex education against the town’s wishes…but she doesn’t take the obvious step of teaching her daughter about predatory boys and date rape and stuff. She (the daughter) has a crush on the big-time football hero at the high school; her best friend is referred to as “a freak” because he sometimes wears makeup and says he doesn’t choose genders to love, but personalities.
Her dad lets her go to a party with the football hero, and just tells her “no drinking and be home by midnight.” She gets (duh!) drunk, possibly roofied, and date raped. What the frack? What kind of parents are these, anyway? So there’s a reason right at the start to dislike this so-called “adaptation.”
By the way, I’m not putting in many names of characters, because frankly, the showrunners gave me no reason to care about them. (In case you haven’t guessed by now, I’m not a fan of this series; in fact, I don’t like it at all.)
Anyway, an anonymous soldier dressed in camo fatigues wakes up on the mountainside; he can’t remember his own name, but his wallet says he’s Bryan Hunt. He is joined by a German shepherd, and immediately decides he’s the dog’s owner. There is a mist, and the dog runs off, yelping, to find out what’s in the mist; the soldier hears a commotion and later finds the dog’s flayed body. Oh, and there’s foreshadowing; he slaps away a spider on his body; this is just the first of perhaps half a dozen insect-related foreshadowings in the first episode (yeah, I know, a spider’s an arachnid… do the showrunners know?).
Let’s see, what else happens in the first two episodes? (The third one will air Thursday night—too late for me to review it.) The wife and daughter are trapped in a mall—instead of a grocery store as in the novella; more room to add unrelated characters and sequences. In case you’re familiar with the novella, the religious fanatic is Mrs. Carmody; in the series, Mrs. Carmody refuses to believe there’s something in the mist…she and her son leave the mall, but she comes back with her jaw missing. There’s no sign of the son.
The woman in Figure 4 (Frances Conroy as Nathalie Raven) was wandering in the mist with her husband, when a man came up to them and asked if they were real, pointing a gun at them. Her husband tried to talk the man down but he was shot. I believe from what I’ve read that she will become an ecological doomsayer, possibly serving the same purpose as the novella’s “Mrs. Carmody.” And so on goes the series; we find out that the police chief’s a real creep; leaves the station with two people locked in a cell. The other police officer we see goes out to take selfies with the mist and comes back with his eye missing and his body stuffed with insects.
So my take on it is this: if you want to read “The Mist,” go find a copy of Dark Forces or King’s own anthology Skeleton Crew. If you want to see The Mist, find a copy of the movie—but unless you have a very strong constitution, skip the ending. It’s sad and horrifying (but logical). But unless episode three (of ten) of “The Mist” TV series takes a quantum leap in logic, special effects and acting, do yourself a favour and skip the TV version. I give it no thingamajigs. None. Zero.
Please comment on this week’s column, even if you strongly disagree with me. I can be wrongheaded and/or ignorant, and discussions with you all can only make me better. So your comments are all welcome, whether you agree with me or not. Remember, my opinion is, as always, my own, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Amazing Stories or its owners, editors, publishers or other columnists. See you next week!