A film for Atheists

The Mist, based on a Stephen King novella, is advertised as your usual plot-less monster movie, however, it proves to be far more than that. It is a psychological thriller with an obvious Religious social commentary, and as much about the monsters within as those outside ourselves.

Stephen King:
But the story of “The Mist,” in the background, there’s this idea that the military has been fooling around with something that’s too big for them, and has torn an actual hole in the fabric of reality, and these awful creatures from another dimension have come through.

In another part of the story, there’s a religious zealot, Mrs. Carmody, who’s in the market, and to begin with she’s sort of a figure of fun. Because everybody’s pretty well solemnly grounded, and nobody’s worried about anything. But once the disaster strikes, Mrs. Carmody gets a weird power. And certainly we’ve seen this time and time again in our own lives, that as the situation worsens, in various parts of the world, the religious fanatics have a tendency to become more and more powerful.

What we see is a very clear devolution in many of the characters and the worse it gets, the stronger the foothold of the religious fundamentalist Mrs. Carmody. Eventually, she presents herself as being in direct communication with God.

Only about 10 people remain who do not turn to Religion for comfort in their times of need. It is implied that the majority of these 10 are secular. At some point, one of them named Ollie says, “As a species we’re fundamentally insane. Put more than two of us in a room, we pick sides and start dreaming up ways to kill one another. Why do you think we invented politics and religion?”

Ollie: [Mrs. Carmody is preaching to her ‘cult’ and they’re repeating expiation] Welcome to Sesame Street, kids. Today’s word is ‘expiation’.

Perhaps because the absurd appeals to my sense of humour, I found most of this film comedic. Frankly, I am surprised Hollywood has produced a film of this nature. The religious criticism is very thick. Many reviews depict the movie as bleak, depressing, nihilistic and so forth and condemn the ending as unnecessarily ‘unfair’ and especially sadistic.’ The film is controversial in part, because of the number of suicides.

The ending is rather graphic but not gratuitous. The blood is there for the purpose of letting you know what has transpired. It is emotional, without needing to zero in on the dead bodies. As Stephen King stated in an interview, it was the necessary and logical ending to the film. It is realistic. It is what people do when they do not have the luxury of seeing into the future, and can only infer based on the evidence available. Difficult decisions must be made.

In extreme end-of-the-world scenarios, very rarely are there happy endings. I commend the film for not taking the easy way out, and creating a standard everyone-lives-happily-ever-after ending.

This film is definitely a must see.

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6 responses to “A film for Atheists

  1. It’s at the top of my Netflix queue, but it has a “very long wait.” I’m thinking I’ll see if I can get it from Redbox or Blockbuster today. Sounds like a good Sunday flick. 😉

  2. Ohh I want to read this book. I told myself not to dig in other Stephen King books until I finish The Dark Tower 7. But this one is on the waiting list. I wonder how close to the novel this movie was, because I tend to get a lot more from books that I do from movies, and if there are both versions, I’ll always go for the book.

  3. Kay, did you end up watching it this past Sunday? If so, what did you think? If not, post your thoughts here when you do.

    Nessa, I have seen several Stephen King movies but the only book I have read by him was Pet Cemetery and that was when I was 12.

    What are the differences between The Mist the film and The Mist the book? From what I gathered in a Stephen King interview, the movie tells you where the monsters originate and by extension provides you with an explanation for the mist. The book on the other hand, leaves it open ended. Also, Mrs. Carmody is a crazy old woman in the book, whilst in the film, she is a young woman in her 30s.

  4. I did watch it on Sunday. I have lots of thoughts and impressions, but I’ll just post a couple. 🙂

    It was a bit bleak, but it needed to be that way. It told a different story altogether by ending the way it did instead of having a “happy” ending.

    The character development was good. It explored skepticism and blind faith and herd mentality and … The ‘conversion’ of the character (I can’t think of his name … one of the ones that got the kid killed at the beginning) interesting. He went from being one of the ones trying to get the others to believe that there really were monsters to being one of Mrs Carmody’s most fervent disciples.

    Anyway, I liked it. I’d recommend it for the questions it dredges up if nothing else.

    At the end of the movie I couldn’t quit saying “A few more minutes … If only he had waited a few more minutes …”

  5. Kay,

    I agree with your assessment. The ending was necessary. To have altered it in order to increase audience satisfaction would have been an injustice to the story.

    The character you speak of is mechanic Jim Grondin. One of the funniest lines concerning him is when the manager of the supermarket notes that he has not been ‘right in the head’ since his return from the pharmacy. When next we see him, he is chanting expiation with the rest of the herd.

    I was impressed by the acting in the final moments. The main character’s wailing was quite believable and well complemented by the soundtrack. The actor’s name is Thomas Jane, whom I immediately recognized as the lead for the 2004 film The Punisher–another film that seems generic at first glance but surprises you with a decent plot.

    I am glad you enjoyed The Mist. Atheist networking done well, no?

  6. Nice review – I thought The Mist was a great film and brilliantly nihilistic for a Hollywood production.

    A film for atheists? Maybe. (My wife is Christian – I’m not – and she loved it) Although it does portray certain aspects of religion in a bad light I thought it was never one sided in it’s approach to the issue as it highlighted the Biker’s view of God and it spoke generally of the bunker mentality – which I think was also evident in the final actions of the main character.

    …anyway, a great piece of subversive cinema that I would recommend to anyone.

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