The Mist

The Mist
September 16, 2013 Constant Readers

David Drayton has an a-okay life. His kid is precocious, his wife is hot, his house is on a bucolic lake across from a military installation that is, in all likelihood, about to rip a hole in the fabric of the world and unleash the hell of a parallel dimension on Maine, the Stephen King Will Kill Us All state. For now, his biggest problem is an already-settled property dispute with his neighbor, Brent Norton, and a series of storms that bashes the shit out of the lakefront. #whitepeople

Andrea: Oh, fuck me. My Kindle is all fucked up.
Andrea: No, but this is serious.
Andrea: It means that I am about to face a flight with nothing to read.
Andrea: The storm comes on fairly quickly, right?
Pat: It’s very sudden. And it comes in several waves, with lulls in between. David and the fam go upstairs and then back down a few times, I think.
Andrea: Yes. And he has that vision of the tree crashing through the window, and then it happens.
Andrea: omg
Pat: The storm kind of jump-starts me into giving a shit about the Draytons.
Andrea: Yeah. Before that they are boring. Steffi (OMG STUPID NAME) is all hand-wringy and annoying. But Norton? Man SK writes a good dick.
Pat: BRENT NORTON is a bozo name to end all bozo names.
Andrea: Yeah but it is a perfect dickhead name.
Pat: Billy: Super Precocious Kid, Sup?
Andrea: I don’t think Billy was that precocious. He was five, right?
Pat: I mean, he seems like a Good Little Man. Most of King’s kid characters are of the cherubic variety. Flawed, maybe, scared, usually, but they’re all Good Little Boys and Girls.
Meanwhile all the wives Want Some Dick, All The Time, Big Guy.
Andrea: That is so not true. You just wish it was.
Pat: Name me ONE FEMALE CHARACTER in a Stephen King story that is not all about gobbling up wieners in their various orifices.
Andrea: Steffi.
Kathy Bates in Misery.
Pat: Ugh, I knew you were going to bring up Misery, Dolores Claiborne, or the crazy chick in Rose Madder.
Andrea: Yeah, cause, those are examples that disprove your theory.
Andrea: Why do you think King threw in that subplot about the dad being an artist? It seemed relatively pointless.
Although yielded a decent line: “Why should the silencing of that childish, demanding voice seem so much like dying?”
Pat: It probably has something to do with—if it has anything to do with anything—the fact that the horrors inside the mist are unknowable. You don’t SEE anything, really. You see tentacles, you see the outlines of arachnoidal monsters, but man, it is mostly just a blank canvas you can bedaub with your own personal terror.

A mist has settled on the far side of the lake, bright white and with a boundary like a razor blade. There’s a tree punching through the Drayton’s picture window, and everyone needs a goddamn beer.

Pat: Billy learns about the dangers of downed power lines. Norton learns about FUCK YOUR FANCY SPORTS CAR, HOSS, I’M A TREEEEE
Andrea: SK did a good job of humanizing Norton with the dead wife bit.
Pat: He just seems like the sort of bozo neighbor you don’t hate but you certainly don’t like.

Because this is a Stephen King story, there’s a twist: everyone heads to the supermarket after the big storm, not before it. SPINE-TINGLING.
Everyone is kind of weirded out.

Pat: There are, what, zero black people in this story?
Andrea: None. Not a one. But I think there might be some in the movie?

We learn about Mrs. Carmody, who tells stories of Black Springs and doles out folk remedies and other homespun such-and-such. And there’s Bill Giosti, who says it all has to do with the Arrowhead Project across the lake, which may not even be what the thing is called. It may or may not involve “atomic things.”

Andrea: OH GOD the scariest part of this, hands down, is when the dad has that dream and there is a monotone voice in the background going “THE ARROWHEAD PROJECT. THE ARROWHEAD PROJECT.”
Pat: Why do I like the name “Arrowhead Project” so much?
Andrea: No one really knows what it is about. But it sure doesn’t sound good.
Pat: It’s like nobody in the 80s understood science.
“Hi, I’m from Maine, and by the way: atoms?”
“Hi, I’m a precocious five year old who knows all things are made of atoms, so wtf are you talking about?”
“Hi, I’m still from Maine, and, uh: …DIFFERENT atoms?”
Andrea: What do you think the significance of the name is?
Pat: I could probably invent significance, but I don’t think there is any to the name. Arrowheads are things you find littered around the entire country. Relics of mostly vanished civilizations, other worlds, that you can dig up damn near anywhere. Maybe the Arrowhead Project is digging up the scientific equivalent of arrowheads. Something that’s everywhere, just a little bit under the surface, from a world that doesn’t exist above the ground.
Andrea: You don’t have an English lit degree! Do you?
Pat: Obviously not. I have a job.

Brent needs some help removing the huge downed tree from his fancy pants summer-folk sports car, and after much staring at David’s wife’s tits, he, Drayton, and his son head off for the store as the mist is moving straight-edged across the lake. David tells us that this is the last he saw of his wife.

Pat: And her tits.
Andrea: I have to ask Tim if he ever notices dudes scoping my tits. I don’t think he cares that much. The dude at Jamba Juice gave me a medium instead of a small and then winked at me. I automatically attribute this to my massive cleave
Pat: That is a great story about The Mist you just told.

The store is packed, and in the midst of all of this typical suburban-storm-freakout, a man stumbles in saying that there’s something in the mist! Cue screaming and panic. Mrs. Carmody begins what will be a novella-long sermon that vascilate between “DON’T GO OUT THERE!” AND “IT’S BABY-SACRIFICIN’ TIME!” The parking lot is swallowed by the mist. There’s also the matter of a mild earthquake. Things immediately get tense.

Andrea: Do you buy that Mrs. Carmody was able to pull together a group of followers that quickly?
Pat: The world was, by all rights, ending. Or at least becoming a hellscape. So yeah, I imagine people would freak out and join whatever salvation-spewer they could.
Why is it so hard to discuss the good stuff?
Andrea: LIKE WHAT?
Pat: Like The Mist. Which we are discussing.
Andrea: Oh, I thought you meant I was getting off track and not talking about the parts you want to discuss.
Pat: Why is it so hard to discuss anything without you getting confused?
Andrea: Cause I am 12.

The generator decides to make like the people in the store and freak right the fuck out. David and store employees Ollie Weeks and Bud Brown decide to Check It On Out in the back of the store. They hear some good ol’ fashioned slithering against the rear loading bay door. The bag boy has the genius idea of slipping outside to clear the exhaust vent. ENTER SUPER-OCTOPUS FROM THE DARK DIMENSION, STAGE LEFT.
Pat: Suckers that just melt flesh off. Good thinking, Stevie.
Andrea: OH man. My skin was sizzling just thinking about it. Not only are there tentacles grabbing you with the force of a wild buffalo, but they are filled with acid
Pat: This whole store is so clear in my mind. It’s the same as I imagined it the first time I read the story. Nothing has changed. Weirdly, the movie had EXACTLY the same store.
Andrea: I will never forget you calling me at Rob’s mom’s house on Thanksgiving night to talk about the ending. Or rather, to tell us to go see the movie so we could talk about the ending.
Pat: Fuck that ending. We’ll get to it soon enough.
I bet he came up with this story after standing in an unending line at the supermarket and thinking, “God, I hope a hell-squid eats them all.”
Andrea: That is how Tobe Hooper got the idea for Texas Chainsaw. Except it was in a hardware store.
Why isn’t there a job called “Endless fount of horror movie knowledge lady”?
Pat: There is, but it’s shortened to “blogger.”

Norm is gobbled up by the HELL SQUID, and it isn’t at all sexy like Japanese animation would have you believe. David punches people. Norton doesn’t damn-well believe the story of what happened, and he won’t damn-well go to the back to find out, either, because he’s a Summer Folk and they’re all playing a Local Joke on him. He decides he’s going to start a group of people who Don’t Fucking Believe This Shit. Mrs. Carmody starts the First Church Of The Holy Good God She Wants To Sacrifice Someone What Is This, A Stephen King Story?

Andrea: Yeah, I thought David was pretty self-righteous when he got all punchy. He was pretty self-righteous in general. Or maybe I just think that dude who played him in the movie is self-righteous?
Pat: The people who refuse to believe what’s happening are the most hateable people.
Pat: At least Richard was a kid and not a blow-hard adult.

The store battens down with fertilizer and dog food bags in the big ol’ display windows. Norton and his Flat Earth Society decide it’s about time they get eaten by some creatures from the SHADOW REALM, but they agree to take one end of a rope with them so the people back in the store can tell just how far they get before Hell Itself eats them all.

Andrea: Except Norton refuses, so the other guy has to do it. And then he gets fucking chomped.
Pat: What a twat. Why wouldn’t he just do it? And then he gets mad that other guy will!
Andrea: Cause he is a dick. It seems like SK has known some dickwads in his day.
Pat: End of the rope comes back all bloody and shredded. Yikes.

As night falls, huge Uber Maggots start sticking to the windows. Oh, Christ. Then a big ol’ pterodactyl thing snatches one off. Then another. Then one of the pasty-white flying horrors gets through the damn broken window. They burn that motherfucker, believe you me. David develops half a chub for Amanda Dumfries, the Cute Girl Whose Husband Gave Her The Only Gun In The Entire Store. More people join Mrs. Carmody’s cause.

Pat: I like that the creatures were mostly albino, because in whatever world they come from, they’d barely need skin pigment in all that mist.
Andrea: I kind of thought that the window things were more like cockroach/leech hybrids than maggots. Please advise.
Pat: They actually are referred to by someone as maggot-ish.
I’m always on board with pterodactyl-like creatures. Although, and I had to reread it a few times, there’s no point where King mentions the window actually breaking. But then the bird thing is coming through broken glass.
Andrea: Well obviously he poked it until it broke with its very sharp beak.
Someone mentions that battening down the hatches is useless, but that it gives the masses something to do besides preach damnation.
Pat: Which is good for the soul.

The two young soldiers who had been in the store hang themselves, lending credence to the Arrowhead Project Started All This Shit theory.

Andrea: There are a lot of shadows in this book. Like from when they find the army guys hanging: “Their shadows thrown long on the wall behind them. Their protruding tongues.”
Pat: Worst erotica ever.

David puts his man-thing in Amanda’s girl-valley. A guy named Dan Miller suggests they light the fuck on out of this popsicle stand, and David is like, “Hey, let’s try dying on our way to the drugstore next door first.” Dan’s like, “Sure, lol.” Before they can leave, Mrs. Carmody flips out. Amanda throws a can of beans or something at her boob, and Carmody SHINES to find out that Amanda done did the dirty thing with someone last night.

Andrea: Okay, so:
1. Mrs. Carmody. I like the part where she gets hit in the boob with a can of peas
2. Amanda oh she of the banging. Fun fact: in the movie Amanda was played by that beotch Andrea from The Walking Dead.
How did Carmody even know about David and her banging? I like to think that there was a secret boner cam.
Pat: She’s got the SIGHT, remember?
She’s basically the preacher woman in Gunslinger. But with a pea-can bruise on her boob.
Andrea: I don’t believe she really has the sight. I think she’s just an old kook who has a knack for stirring up trouble.
Pat: Well, she had enough sight to see Amanda and David slink off to the Breakroom/Office/Fuckbox.

The drugstore is filled with Evil Spiders, as if spiders needed to be any more damned evil. Thwip thwip thwip, nearly everyone in the expedition dies. Whoops!

Pat: This whole sequence was tense. And a little confusing, to be honest.
Andrea: This sequence was awesome. Especially when they go into the drugstore, it’s full of carnage, and they are trying to figure out what the candy cane stuff is, and then they figure out that it’s FUCKING SPIDERS. And they’re like, Martian spiders with multijointed legs.
Pat: I couldn’t tell if there were spiders INSIDE the drugstore or not. They seemed to all be outside?
Andrea: I think they were inside but had left.
Pat: Again, cool refit of spiderwebs: they burn and tear off flesh!
Andrea: Or just shot their webs inside?
sd;alkjdl;kajl;ksd. Could anything possibly be more horrifying?
Pat: I suppose that’s how the one body lost its head: spiderweb guillotine.
I think flying things would be worse. Just swooping out of the fucking sky.
LOL at them using actual bug spray.
Andrea: I know, wtf? Use your heads, supermarket denizens.
Pat: I think flying things would be worse, though. Just swooping out of the fucking sky. LOL at them using actual bug spray.
Andrea: So I am somewhat ashamed to say that I’d probably be among the sleeping pill suicide contingent. Especially if I saw those spiders.
Pat: You are not made of stern stuff.
It was a little heartbreaking that Dan Miller doesn’t get to even survive the drugstore expedition.
Andrea: Wait, which one was Dan Miller again?
Pat: He was the one who came up with the idea of leaving, initially.
But he beefs it outside the drugstore.
Andrea: snort
“Beefs it.”

It’s time to make a run for it, but Mrs. Carmody, she of the top 10 Billboard hit, “BLOOD ALONE BRINGS EXPIATION,” ain’t having it. She yells to her congregation to grab David’s boy and, why the hell not? the slut, too. So Ollie Weeks shoots her right in the goddamn stomach, can you say hallelujah?

Pat: Ah, that feels good.
Andrea: I’m not gonna lie, I had to look up expiation.
Andrea: I can’t believe that bitch thinks sex is sinning but child sacrifice is A-OK.
Pat: Well, the problem is that sex isn’t a sacrifice to the Hungry And Powerful Lord God. It’s just sex. If David had sex with Mrs. Carmody to appease God, THAT would be a sacrifice, and thus, acceptable.

They make a run for David’s car, and a good number of their party gets a little dead. They attempt to reach the Drayton residence, but at long last, the road is impassable. Sorry, Steff, your name was too dumb to live. On the road they go! As they make their way south through the interminable fog, all sorts of nightmarish things lumber around their car, some with foot-stalks twice as big as a far! And, horror of horrors, David is writing this all down at a HOWARD JOHNSON. OH DARK LORD HOJO, WILL THERE BE NO NEPENTHE?

Andrea: I loved the part where the thing is too tall for them to even see where it ends. And that old lady that went with him was a tough old bird.
Pat: I like that when they’re leaving, they’re not even sure there’s a world beyond the parking lot. Could just drop straight off into hell. Because that means it’s not just the shitty mist and its rogues’ gallery of creepy crawlers—the mist is somehow changing the earth itself. Or something that came out of the Arrowhead Project was doing to the ground what it was doing to the air.
Andrea: Or they switched over to another dimension somehow. I think that idea was bandied about.
Pat: The idea of them constantly scanning through radio static matches up with driving through near total fog pretty well.
Now you’re going to say that this is one of the few times King really sticks the ending.
Pat: You were, weren’t you.
Andrea: It is a really, really great ending, and I know you agree with me.
Pat: It’s not just a great ending, it’s the best ending Stephen King has ever written.
Pat: And makes me teary every time I read it.
Andrea: But it has to be compared to the movie ending which was shocking, but, I think, ultimately too nihilistic.
Pat: Or just fucking cynical.
For the readers at home it ends with David saying that he’s going to put Billy to bed and whisper two words to him. The first he heard on the radio—he thinks—but he can’t be sure. It was there and gone in an instant. So King leaves us with:
“One of them is Hartford.
The other is hope.”
In the movie, they run out of gas in the car, and David kills everyone in the car rather than let them get gobbled up by hellspawn. He doesn’t have a bullet left for himself, so he walks outside the car.
Andrea: I refuse to believe that it is that easy for anyone to mercy-kill his five-year-old son.
Pat: No, that was a bozo fucking ending. And he kills the three of them literally a minute before the mist clears and the army arrives?
“Oh shit, all three of them are dead, including my son, and here I am waiting to be killed, standing out in the mist, and there’s the fucking cavalry.”
Andrea: Yeah. Dumb, stu. And we are to believe that the army is going to fix it after they caused it? Yeah fucking right.
Pat: It is a little suspicious that the mist seems to be receding as the military advances.
Andrea: I like that the book ending sets it up that even if Steffi is dead, Billy will have a motherly figure in Amanda.
Or at least I like to think so.
Pat: Hell, Steff might even make it out alive. Although probably not. That tree through the window would’ve been certain death.

Pat: Please to tell me where The Mist ranks.
Since we are treating it SEPARATELY BECAUSE IT RULES.
Andrea: It’s at The Shining level.
Pat: I’m putting it under Long Walk. Which makes my top three all novellas.