'The Mist' Director Frank Darabont on the Shocking Ending to His Haunting Stephen King Adaptation

THE MIST, Thomas Jane, Chris Owen, Toby Jones, 2007. (Photo: Everett)
Thomas Jane, Chris Owen, and Toby Jones in ‘The Mist’ (Photo: Everett)
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Halloween is fast approaching, so all this week, Yahoo Movies will be publishing interviews with people who’ve scared us silly in classic horror movies. Go here to read our complete Halloween coverage.

Halloween is a time for costumes, candy, and binge-watching as many creepy, crazy horror films as time will allow. To that end, there’s maybe no more haunting a modern-day chiller than Frank Darabont’s 2007 The Mist, the director’s third adaptation of a Stephen King tale (after The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile), which concerns a small Maine town plagued by the inexplicable, malevolent mist of the title. Like its source material, Darabont’s film focuses on a disparate group of residents — and in particular, Thomas Jane’s movie poster artist David Drayton — who take refuge in a local grocery store, where it soon becomes clear that the monstrous threats that await them outside are no worse than the very human dangers they face indoors. All of this leads to an unforgettable finale that is as shocking and disturbing as any ever committed to film. “I was in something of a mean mood at the moment,” Darabont told us a few weeks ago in an interview about the ending.

Spoiler alert for those who still haven’t seen the movie:
While the King story from the anthology Dark Forces has its heroes driving away from the mist and hearing a radio broadcast that implies there may be hope, the movie goes into far bleaker territory. In Darabont’s version, David and four others drive out into the fog, only to run out of gas. Believing they’re destined to meet a grisly death at the hands of the beasts, they agree to end things themselves, with David as the triggerman. After fatally shooting his passengers — including his young son — the mist suddenly clears, and a military convoy with survivors races by, suggesting that the crisis is over, and that had they waited a couple of extra minutes, all would have been well. Horrified at what’s transpired, David tries to kill himself…but he’s out of bullets.

When we spoke with Darabont last month, The Mist’s ending was at the top of our to-discuss list, and he had plenty to say about it. Here’s a reprise of his thoughts:

“When I first read King’s story back a zillion years ago, I thought, ‘Wow, that’s a great story,’ but I thought that for a movie, it should have a more conclusive sort of feeling. So I was trying to puzzle through what that conclusive ending would be, and he kind of lays the groundwork for that, actually. There’s a line of the story where he contemplates that eventuality. And I thought, well, that seems like a clear marker for me.”

Director Frank Darabont attends The Academy's 20th Anniversary Screening of
Director Frank Darabont in 2014 (Photo: Amanda Edwards/WireImage)

“When that came to me, it just felt like the kind of Twilight Zone ending that really stays with you. You know, ‘Time Enough at Last’ where Burgess Meredith breaks his glasses — that kind of ending, where you’re like ‘Oh no, if he’d only waited two more minutes!’ I liked the horrendous irony of it. At that time, I was feeling a little bit pissed off at the world. There’s definitely a political element to that movie, which you don’t have to look too hard to see. I was feeling a little angry at the world, and at our country at that time [The Mist was released in 2007], so it felt like a valid way to end a movie. It doesn’t always have to be a happy ending. It shouldn’t always be a happy ending. Having grown up in the ’70s, it wasn’t always a happy ending.”

“But I thought, ‘OK, I’m going to let Steve decide.’ If Stephen King reads my script and says, ‘Dude, what are you doing, are you out of your mind? You can’t end my story this way,’ then I would actually not have made the movie. But he read it and said, ‘Oh, I love this ending. I wish I’d thought of it.’ He said that, once a generation, a movie should come along that just really pisses the audience off. He pointed to the original Night of the Living Dead as one of those endings that just scarred you.”

“And it felt OK to me! On balance, it seems like, thematically, it’s a pretty good companion piece to Shawshank, in a weird way. Because if Shawshank is the movie about the value of hope, then The Mist becomes a movie about the danger of hopelessness. And believe me, I knew that it was going to be one of those endings that people either really dug, or really hated.”

No matter how upsetting that conclusion is, however, Darabont confessed that even his family prefers The Mist to his other, Oscar-nominated efforts. “Weirdly, my mother likes it the most. And my wife likes it the most, of all the movies I’ve made. They think The Mist is the best one. When they told me this, I said, ‘Ma, what about Shawshank?’ And she said, ‘Oh, that’s good. But I really like The Mist.’ Mom, I had no idea you were into flesh-eating tentacles and carnage! [laughs] But there you go.”

For those in search of a great scary movie to check out for Halloween, you can’t go wrong with Darabont’s The Mist. And you can read more of our chat with the director here.

Watch a trailer for ‘The Mist:’

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