Warning: This contains minor spoilers for The Mist Season 1 – and spoilers for Stephen King’s original novella and the 2007 film adaptation.
When news broke that the Weinstein Company was adapting Stephen King’s novella The Mist, many expressed the wisdom of such a move: it was, after all, brought to the screen in 2007 by Frank ‘Shawshank Redemption’ Darabont. That movie was a small but perfectly formed slice of horror that, with its grim ending, managed to be even bleaker than the source material.
While the TV version can’t touch Darabont’s movie, it’s not without its gory attractions and is perfect binge-viewing fodder: dumb but fun, with twists and cliffhangers that’ll keep many viewers hooked. The premise is the same – a mysterious mist rolls into a small town in Maine and, with it, something deadly – but showrunner Christian Torpe has made some significant changes in order to stretch the narrative out for TV.
Where the mist of the novella was populated by deadly Lovecraftian monsters from another dimension (a trope shamelessly mined by the all-conquering Stranger Things), Torpe’s version is even more mysterious – by the end of Season 1, we’re still not sure exactly what it is – and seems to have some sort of supernatural power. This results in each victim of the mist dying in a uniquely gory way, their deaths coming from some hidden part of their psyche. This gets tired pretty quickly, especially when our heroes come across the mutilated corpses of people we never knew, so can have no chance of guessing why they died in that specific way. Even when the cause is clear, it can come across as silly rather than scary – a man ripped apart by his butterfly tattoo is particularly hilarious.
Marginally more successful is the array of characters Torpe presents us with, sketching them in during the pilot and making us – just about – care whether they live or die. The action of the story and movie takes place entirely within a small supermarket, but the TV series expands this idea and shows us three main locations – the mall, the hospital and the church, where star of Six Feet Under and American Horror Story Frances Conroy plays an ageing hippy, who transforms into the murderous leader of a New Age cult. This reversion to superstition and Stone Age sensibilities is a key theme in the novella and it’s something the TV series gets right, although nowhere near as successfully as the movie.
The heart of the show is Eve Copeland (Australian model-turned-actor Alyssa Sutherland, best known as Princess Aslaug in Vikings), a teacher shunned by some of the town’s Bible-bashing inhabitants for teaching sex-ed. In what’s just the first of several troubling plot developments, the reactionaries appear to have a point, when Eve’s daughter, Alex (Gus Birney), blacks out drunk at a party and is raped. Later revelations regarding her gay, emo friend, Adrian (Russell Posner), and her suspected quarterback attacker, Jay (Luke Cosgrove), make this look more like a show designed to please your average Trump supporter. Apart from the fact that Christianity is shown to be a load of hooey and… well, wait until you see the outrageous final episode.
And you will wait. Because, if you make it through the dreary but intriguing pilot, you’ll likely stay with The Mist for the ride. It’s stupid as all hell and unintentionally funny, but, like the titular mist, there’s something grimly fascinating in there that won’t let you go.
The Mist is available on Netflix UK, as part of £7.49 monthly subscription.