Why Stephen King Adaptation The Mist Makes Guys Cry

the mist header

You may think horror movies can’t be tearjerkers, but The Mist proves otherwise.

The goal of this series is to show that being “manly” and being disconnected with your emotions do not necessarily go hand-in-hand. While the approach to these articles is one of comedy and satire, the emotional core of these movies is very valid. Manly movies make guys cry, for example:The Mist-y Eyes. (The Mist. We’re talking about The Mist.)

Stephen King is hit or miss with the film versions of his work, but when he hits… boy howdy. I suppose it helps when Frank “I created The Walking Dead for TV” Darabont directs and adds an ending King admitted was better than the book. There are actually two ways to watch this horror film, color or black and white. Which version you prefer depends on who you are and your sphincter strength. I personally chose the color version, only because I don’t have diapers large enough to handle the monochromatic horror. Can this movie make guys cry as well as pee their pants? Oh, you betcha.

Horror movies generally get easily lumped into the “manly” movie category, only because they’re traditionally movies that guys take girls to in order to get the coveted Scare Cuddle (©Firefilm and Escapist). This movie delivers on that front in spades. To my recollection, aside from the first Hellboy, this is the only Lovecraftian horror film done with a decent budget. We’re talking tentacles attached to unfathomable terror coming out of the mist (ah, so that’s why it’s called that). Not romantic, not gentle, nothing but the horror from outside trying to get the protagonists, and the equally laxative-simulating horror of the human reactions in the face of this disaster.

It’s manly in the same way getting shot in the shoulder and continuing to beat up the bad guys is manly: one is judged by the ability to endure the pain. There is A LOT of pain in this film to endure.

Thomas “Punisher” Jane is a family man with a wife and 8-year-old boy, and a tree through his window following a gargantuan storm. With the power out and a shortage of emergency supplies, Punisher and an inexplicably dickheaded neighbor drive to town with the boy to stock up. While perusing the local Piggly-Wiggly for…a new window, possibly?…Tom and the rest of the store are horrified and confused to see a huge cloud, or fog…something…covering the entire town. Hysteria follows confusion like an annoying little brother, and soon people are arguing the merits of staying put or running for the hills. One lady in particular ventures out alone to find her children and is never seen again (except she’s absolutely seen again, but more on that later). The generator goes out, a stock boy goes to fix it, and HOLY *%#@! A TENTACLE/TEETH MONSTER TOTES KILLED HIM!

The store has suddenly become the center of a trapped-in-the-cabin horror scenario, except the cabin is a grocery outlet, the horny teenagers are a bunch of rural yokels, and the evil hell-beasts are…well, evil hell-beasts, but particularly scary ones. As folks start splitting into factions of increasing stupidity, Thomas is being forced into the role of pragmatic leader (despite being a fine artist by trade and not particularly interested in telling everyone what to do). This sudden responsibility is heavy stuff. Thomas is being forced into yet another universal quandary that pulls forth the emotional coil of us, the audience, as he is torn between his new job as the level-headed, reluctant hero and the panic-stricken parent trying desperately to hold his family together. This is a common archetype in disaster films, but Thomas’ son is portrayed much more realistically as a petrified, emotionally-scarred child falling deeper into catatonic despair.

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Through all the chaos, Thomas continues to tell his son nothing’s going to happen to him, Punisher’s honor. Even when their neighbors are being murdered at the cellular level by barely-seen monsters. Sure, dad. Everything’s fine, now go make a run to the next door pharmacy for more supplies, only to be attacked by acid-web-slinging xenomorph spiders. The hell, man? Thus, Leader-Thomas is forced into another corner, lying to the innocent people following him to spare their fears.

Just to add to the responsibilities piling up, a local crank of an old lady has taken this opportunity to reenact the Book of Revelation in the frozen food aisle. I’m not saying that praying during a crisis makes you crazy, but this lady is so over the top she may as well be yelling that Jesus killed the dinosaurs who bought Xbox Ones instead of PS4s. One pterodactyl-bug doesn’t kill her and suddenly half the sheeple follow her like she can turn water into iPods. When a soldier admits his base probably caused the mist, she convinces everyone to stab him a butt-load of times and throw him outside to be devoured.

(Side note — Hey look! He’s the vampire from the American Almost Human! AND Starkiller from The Force Unleashed! Nice guy.)

And who would be her next choice of human sacrifice? The boy, of course. Because this movie wants Thomas Jane to choose between being a father and being the chiseled Survivor-Leader he has become (starting to ring any bells, Walking Dead fans?).

He proposes an escape plan, but religo-nut refuses because vaccines cause autism or some such nonsense. But before she can appease Cthulhu by killing Thomas’ child, assistant store manager Dr. Zola steps up to the plate and puts a bullet through the religious extremist’s head. Nice one!

Able to escape, Thomas discovers that damage to the house he was supposed to fix allowed the nightmare spiders to gank Mrs. Punisher. Chores, man, gotta do ’em. As I’ve said in past articles, guys are motivated by the need to protect their family. Thomas barely got his kid out of the store alive, and the kid’s sanity is hanging by a thread. Now he knows that he failed to save his wife…that’s pretty soul-crushing for anyone.

But we’re not done yet.

The group drives through the horror until they run out of gas, with no end to the terror in sight. Five people strong but only four bullets accounted for, Thomas needs to protect his group the only way he can. He has fully embraced the pragmatic horror-film hero persona, and abandoned parental protection duties. Luckily his son is sleeping and will never know what his dad had to do…DAMMIT KID WHY DID YOU WAKE UP JUST NOW AND STARE AT HIM IN HORROR?

He did what needed to be done, no matter how much it hurt. Thomas walks outside, the only survivor, and begs for the creatures to kill him. He doesn’t want to live, neigh, he CAN’T live with what he’s just done. He couldn’t protect his wife, he couldn’t protect his son, and he’s even lost the group of strangers that became his responsibility. He’s failed, utterly. And then…out of the mist…

…the military comes with tanks and flame throwers. He had been driving away from help the whole time, and just killed his 8-year-old-son for NONE OF THE REASONS! Frank Darabont, reminding us that he is the man who twists the knife, has the random lady who ran out of the store at the beginning appear, with her kids intact. Take that, Jane! You just lost/murdered your family to become the hero, failed at that too, and all you had to do is leave the store the moment you heard a siren!

That is why guys cry at this movie. *Drops mic*

Like what you see? Secure enough in your masculinity for more? Dan also works on No Right Answer, the weekly debate show that knows what’s really important: Pointlessly arguing about geek culture.

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Daniel Epstein
Father, filmmaker, and writer. Once he won an Emmy, but it wasn't for being a father or writing.