Confession time. We were super psyched for the TV series version of The Mist. The original novel by horror-maestro Stephen King was a slice of small-town literary creepola and the 2007 movie version scripted and lensed by the one and only Frank Darabont is both wonderfully atmospheric and appropriately bleak. So how could they screw up a TV remake which would give the story space not only to sketch out its characters but the time to let the slow burn thrills breathe and mutate?
Because somehow, and it makes us sad just to say it, but somehow the makers have managed it.
They botched almost the whole thing end to end.
And honestly, the word gutted doesn’t quite cover it.
There were clues this might happen of course.
The directing duties were split from the off between eight different people, no one single person taking on the bulk of the visual work; never letting this beast have a single coherent vision.
The writing element was also unfortunately fractured in a similar way- albeit with Stephen King himself involved in each of the episodes, though not enough it would seem to give the show a solid sense of internal logic.
The cracks were there from the very beginning if only we’d paid attention.
And then the lights went down and they quickly turned into chasms; offering viewers mis-step after mis-step.
You want examples? Sure.
How about these beauts…
Well, first off, the main plot point for the introduction (and the series as a whole), the single event that sets up most of the conflict for the season is way too delicate of a subject to handle without care. We’re talking about the non-consensual/rape storyline, of course. Now, done delicately this could have been an important indictment of modern America, tackling an issue that is red-hot and incredibly prescient right now- the intricacies of consent. But the cliched ways the narrative (and townsfolk) immediately cast aspersions on the female target of the alleged assault goes straight to promoting the act of victim-blaming in a way that shows no nuance or social intelligence.
To pose the question, ‘was she raped at all’ as a central tenet of the series and to allow the surrounding characters to do awful things to Alex because there’s a chance she may be lying about the assault just leaves a nasty taste in the mouth, speaking as a viewer. It’s a point of view that is way too prevalent in the media/right wing press at this current time and to openly back that idea with a television narrative just seems massively inappropriate.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the main family of the show are quite possibly some of the most uninteresting, bland characters you will come across in either film or television. Legit; they are the human embodiment of the word meh- their struggles (a ‘bad girl’ past that won’t go away, the nice guy who feels like he isn’t ‘man’ enough for his wife, their blonde pouting teenager who doesn’t get on with her too strict Mom) vanilla to the point of causing brain freeze.
And to add insult to injury, the characters who do manage to capture the interest (Mia, Mrs Raven, the Sheriff) are then booted off screen to make time for the Blahest of family drama which is simply infuriating. Inner darkness is key to this story. And the Copeland family have a severe shortage.
Ok, taking a breath.
Breathing in white light… breathing out dark smoke.
To be completely impartial, we can’t deny there are moments that shine briefly. Mrs Raven’s exhibitionist stroll outside with the Priest for example. The fate of Moth-Boy as we like to call him. Mia’s tete-a-tete with her dead Mother. Hell, the twist on the religious aspect of the book, even skirts fascinating once or twice.
But the problem is that everything else about the show drags it back down into the land of the crass. Adrian’s character might have been worthwhile until a few episodes in when his true self is revealed. The scene which leads him into a bathroom with a homophobic jock who’s hiding his own gay urges has just been done to death. Y’all need to stop saying that homophobia is the result of latent homosexual feelings. Seriously, it’s reductionist and stupid. And it gets worse. Somehow the writers thought it would be a great idea to have Adrian respond to a vicious beating by kissing his attacker and forcing him to confront those ‘supposed gay feelings.’ Not only does this promote the idea that gay men are predatory, hypersexual and totally ok with dubious consent issues, it blatantly exacerbates the public’s imaginary fear that bathrooms are not a safe space for cis-het people. That they can’t go in there for fear of being pinned up against a wall by a gay guy who understands your secret desires.
The whole scene was just plain wrong.
And then there’s the internal logic of the show.
Obviously, you could argue that the series doesn’t have to have everything worked out after one season, doesn’t have to show its cards so early on and there would be some truth to that. However, purely in terms of the intrinsic physics of the mysterious mist, there seem to be some huge unavoidable gaps in logic. The physiological impact we get- that it interacts with the mind and body of person it’s touching and creates monsters from their own psyche/personal fears. That is a sound premise, and actually kind of captivating. And as a force of nature, using worthless ‘bad’ people as incubators for making new species of insects and creatures makes some kind of sense too. Taking something destructive and turning them into a force of creation. Cool. That works for us.
But then the writers decide to throw in a mishmash of other aspects, allowing the mist’s attacks to break these set rules. Sometimes it coalesces to become a kind of Harry Potter-esque Dementor sucking the life from children and teenagers at will. Other times, the insects are already present and swarm over people, creating nothing only taking life. And then on other occasions it creates dark copies of people, allowing them passage through the fog but tormenting them just for kicks when it feels like it. There’s just no consistency. Nothing to hold fast to.
Anything seems possible and when anything is possible, nothing feels real.
We could go on and on but you get the point.
The explanations for the Big Bad’s behaviour (at least at this point) just don’t hold water.
So, you see why we were so hugely disappointed with the show given our initial expectations.
It had a great concept, a built-in audience even, courtesy of the book and movie and proceeded to throw cheap drama at the narrative, miring it in broken logic and cliched conflict.
We’d like to say that if a second series is made we’ll give it a second chance to fix some of these problems but right now, honestly, we’re not feeling that generous.
Guess we’ll see about that when the Gods of Renewing TV make their decision.
Until then, we’ll be silently weeping in a corner somewhere and distracting ourselves with large bags of rainbow drops.
Or a typical Saturday night around these parts.