When I heard that there was a new version of Stephen King’s The Mist available to watch, I ran to my nearest cable box and found the ten episodes of season one buried in Spike TV’s video on demand on FIOS.
The Mist has always been one of my favorite Stephen King stories. It was a novella at the beginning of the collection Skeleton Crew. (Survivor Type is the other memorable story from that book.)
Anyway, The Mist was made into a mediocre movie in 2007. I don’t have any specific memory of hating it, so I’m assuming it was “okay”—not terrible, but not fantastic. I recall that the movie took liberties with the book, but it followed roughly the same plot: A group of people become stuck in a supermarket or something when a supernatural mist surrounds them. It’s the classic stuck-in-an-elevator story, with a Stephen King survival horror spin.
Fast forward to 2017, and now we have The Mist in a television series. The first season contains 10 one-hour episodes.
The first episode is terrible. Just mind-bogglingly awful. The script is terrible and the acting is terrible. It’s an absolute train wreck of exposition as they try to setup the backstory for the characters before they get trapped in the mist. Everything is forced and stilted and incredibly unbelievable. It’s very clear that they made no attempt to adhere to anything from the novella.
It was so bad that I couldn’t stop watching it.
The metallic shrieking catastrophe continued through the second, third, and fourth episode.
Then something happened. In the fifth episode, suddenly the actors started to act. Dramatic tension developed. The tone of the show shifted from a Lifetime special back to where it belonged: Horror. Instead of listening to the show in the background while I went about my Internet browsing, I suddenly found myself watching scenes all the way through from start to finish.
The characters finally morphed from robots delivering terrible dialog into people that I could care about. In the initial episodes, we were supposed to care about them because of the artificial backstory they tried to jam down our throats, and it was hilariously ineffective. But as the series went on, we started to care about them because of the terrible situation they were in, and that is the entire point of The Mist in the first place.
They should have started the show at episode 5, and filled in the Lifetime drama backstory in flashbacks.
Toward the end of the series, the tone shifts from a tense psychological horror into more of a straight-up survival horror, which is what we were expecting all along. By the time it gets to this point, around episode eight, the show is not that bad, all things considered. The actors are better at portraying characters on the edge of sanity than they are at portraying regular people on a normal day.
But it’s asking a lot to make people sit through four terrible episodes and another three or four mediocre episodes, before you get to a good part. I can’t imagine very many people sticking around to see it through that far.
Still, it’s nothing like the novella. They tried to give the mist a personality or an evil spirit quality and to me that falls completely flat. There isn’t supposed to be any kind of intelligence to the mist. It’s just supposed to be a plot device to force strangers together into a survival situation, so we can watch them fall apart or rise to the occasion.
In conclusion, read the book. :)