“The Mist” could have employed a more Hollywood ending, where the survivors head for Hartford in their car and live to hope for another day. But as Darabont also put it, “Life doesn’t always hand you a happy ending, does it?”
One person who fully supported Darabont’s decision to deviate from the original “Mist” book ending was Stephen King himself.
“When Steve read the script,” Darabont continued, “and I said, ‘I won’t make it if you don’t want me to,’ he said, ‘We need movies that dare to piss people off. We need movies like that, too.’ We need that ‘Night of the Living Dead’ thing, where it’s not just tied up in a nice bow and there’s just this reassuring happy Hallmark bumper sticker thing.”
The ending of “The Mist” is perhaps the ultimate cautionary tale about not surrendering to hopelessness. Five years ago, when the film turned ten, I wrote about its harrowing ending and how it illustrates the danger of giving up hope. For a fuller explanation of the ending, you can also read this analysis. Suffice it to say, the ending shows that rescue was right around the corner for Drayton and company, if only they had managed to hold on a little longer.
This makes “The Mist” a rather interesting bookend to “The Shawshank Redemption”—a comparison Darabont himself recognizes. In “Shawshank,” while Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is in prison, he clings to his hope of escape, and we see it pay off for him and Redd (Morgan Freeman). “They went through some grueling stuff,” Darabont said, “but at the end of the day, there’s a big hug.”
“The Mist,” by contrast, is a true monster movie, so it’s only fitting that hugs give way to horror.