While unpacking boxes, I came across a lost Netflix disc of The Mist (Darabont, 2007). I thought it was a relatively interesting exploration of the socially destructive power of fear. But the movie made at least one huge mistake: they gave the Mist a bullshit sci-fi explanation. I think it would have been better if they had left the source of the monsters unknown (as in Hitchock’s The Birds). It’s impossible to explain these things without sounding silly. Interdimensional rifts are no more plausible than the crazy fundamentalist character’s explanation: “the wrath of God”.
In fact, I thought it was interesting that we’re never given any reason (other than the other characters’ disdain) to discount the fundamentalist’s theory. The movie (probably unintentionally) left it open that her explanation is correct. She herself is left unharmed by the Mist, and when another human kills her, that human is immediately killed by the Mist.
As far as I can see, the only reason not to accept the fundamentalist explanation is Albert Camus. The movie ends up being an argument for the necessity of hope in the face of fear. Notice how many characters commit suicide throughout the film. This reminds me of the opening line from Camus’s The Myth of Sisyphus: “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide.” Camus goes on to argue that any belief in a transcendent meaning of life (including religious philosophy’s “leap of faith“) constitutes what he calls “philosophical suicide”. So, on this view, fundamentalism makes the same mistake that suicide makes: it gives in to the despair of thinking that this life is not worth living. The ending of The Mist is a cautionary tale against this same mistake.
While Stephen King‘s original 1985 novel ends with an affirmation of hope as the heroes set out into the unknown of the Mist to seek other survivors, the movie ends with a mass suicide just before the revelation that the heroes would have been saved if they had held out hope for five more minutes. Combined with the silly stuff about the military experiments into interdimensional portals, the message seems to be that even when our government seems intent on destroying civilization (such as the Cold War era nuclear weapons in King’s 1985 or the creation of future terrorists through our meddling in the middle east in Darabont’s 2007), we must not lose hope in the future of humanity.
As I read The Mist, the point is that we must not give in to the fear that leads us hate those different than us. There is no guarantee that we will be rescued in the end. In fact, surrounded by the mist of terrorism, it seems likely that we will not be rescued. But all we can do is “give it a good shot” and stay human while resisting despair.