The questionable endings for some of Stephen King’s biggest works number among horror literature’s most debate-worthy elements. And the discussions don’t just end at the page, either, with some of the worst live-action adaptations of his books and stories coming down to botched conclusions. Frank Darabont’s The Mist holds the distinction for having one of the most polarizing resolutions of any Hollywood effort, which is made all the more noteworthy for going in a completely different direction from the source material. But as it turns out, King actually was indirectly responsible for inspiring the 2007 film’s dour denouement.
For those unaware, Stephen King’s novella The Mist caps off with something of an open ending, with the surviving protagonists heading in the direction of Hartford with the hopes that there’s salvation to be found. The film, on the other hand, features a far more concrete ending, in which the army arrives to save the day and kill all the deadly creatures, though not before Thomas Jane’s David has mercy-killed his son and others. It’s extremely dark and depressing, but certainly fits the mood of the film.
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Stephen King himself has praised the ending, putting all of the impetus for it in Darabont’s metaphorical hands. But in an interview with Hans-Åke Lilja, as collected in The Stephen King Companion, Frank Darabont shared the real story behind where the ending came from, citing the novella’s own text as the biggest influence. In his words:
Granted, Stephen King writes more words in a year than many people write in their lifetimes, so it’s no surprise to hear that he can’t keep every single phrasing in mind decades after the fact. But I can only assume that Frank Darabont has felt more than a bit of pride over the years, knowing that he more or less fooled King into enjoying his own idea without realizing it.
Darabont made it clear that he had no intention of adding any of his own preconceived ideas about how the story should end, and relied on his instinct of using the source text to guide him. He continued:
It’s not quite irony or poetic justice, but there’s something special about Frank Darabont having beautifully adapted two of King’s most beloved non-horror works in The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, only to come back around years later and deliver the most devastating gut-punch of them all.
We can only hope that all of the upcoming Stephen King adaptations, from Mike Flanagan’s The Life of Chuck film to Max’s Welcome to Derry series, all figure out the best way to wrap things up without any murder-suicide pacts coming into play. While waiting for more upcoming horror movies, The Mist can be streamed now with a Philo subscription.