When you have Stephen King and Frank Darabont providing the brains behind your movie, the result should be much better than what we got. Sure, it's a damned sight better than Lawrence Kasdan's Dreamcatcher (another King adaptation which also starred Jane), but the characters in The Mist make decisions roughly as brilliant as getting themselves killed over bloody toothpicks.
Case in point: a group of expendable characters are determined to get themselves killed by the monsters lurking around the back of the store. Granted, they don't know the mist has monsters in it, not yet, but they also don't know the mist isn't harmful to humans. When the hero asks them why they're being so dense, the small group (led by William Sadler) makes all kinds of flimsy excuses for acting like an idiot. Darabont, who obviously realized the scene was unbelievable, tries to lampshade the moment by having one of the smarter characters explain why everyone is acting so dumb, but it only draws even more attention to this flaw. This is not the quality you would expect from the duo who demonstrated a thoughtful regard for human nature in The Green Mile.
That's all for my review. If you haven't seen it go watch it right now. The spoilers will be waiting for you when you're done.
You already know what I'm going to mention next: that ending. It was certainly a shocker, but I'm wondering whether or not the movie really earned it. I've complained about happy endings in horror movies for years—if the survivors of the picture end up smiling in an unironic manner by the time the credits roll (see: The Visit), you've done a lousy job of putting them through hell. To be sure, the best final shot in a horror movie is probably in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, where the blood-drenched heroine is screaming crazily from the back of a pickup truck. You know she'll never be right again and the film's made all the more powerful because of it.
And although The Mist certainly doesn't take the easy way out—far from it, in fact—it just felt like an afterthought to me. I know King has stated he preferred Darabont's ending, but it seemed like a pointlessly cruel thing to do to the characters. I'll never forget it, sure, but wouldn't it have been more meaningful if there was a reason behind it, other than, "Ha, bet you never saw this coming!"?
The Chiropractal Pterodactyl strikes again!
Twist endings (not to be confused with surprising endings which effectively rounds off the story) are kind of bush league anyway, especially coming from a filmmaker as esteemed as Darabont. I know I'm being a lot harder on The Mist than most movies I feature here, but considering its pedigree, shouldn't I be?