Looking to veg out on the weekend, I randomly selected two movies from the library, guided only by my wife’s wish for “something scary.”
The Mist (2007) was adapted from a Stephen King novella. Says I to myself, “Didn’t I read that, many years ago? And wasn’t it excruciatingly bad?” Well, yeah–but the film got good reviews, and anyhow, screenplay writers very rarely follow the original story.
Unfortunately, this time, they did! Stephen King is a sophomoric dolt, and this movie is faithful to him. So we get all the tired old Stephen King cliches that were tired and old even back in the 1980s, when he wrote this dud: the artist guy turns out to be much more of a man than the blue-collar louts who resent his college education (I think this motif dates back to Predynastic Egypt); the monsters are inevitably the fault of a super-secret military experiment conducted by straight white men; and all the Christians in the movie are bloodthirsty fanatics, ignorant, crude, stupid, and not at all sophisticated and wonderful like Stephen King.
Just to make you feel bad, everybody dies. Yup–the hero has to shoot the wise old schoolmarm with the heart of gold, the decent middle-aged guy who’s done everything he can to help, the lovely lady he might be falling in love with, and even his adorable little 5-year-old son. He has to shoot them so the monsters can’t get them (a fate worse than being shot). And then, oops, he runs out of bullets and can’t shoot himself. Blah, blah, blah.
Knowing (2009), starring Nicolas Cage, was a lot better–but everybody still dies, on account of it being the end of the world: all except some children who get taken to safety on another planet. This film has a strong but somewhat muddled religious subtext. At least the few Christians in it are generous, loving people who really do trust God–I don’t think I’ve seen that in any other film made since 1975. I’m surprised Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins didn’t stage a protest.
But the point is: two movies, both fairly recent, selected at random (I’d never heard of either of them)… and in both of them, everybody dies. Well, practically everybody. I’m used to movies opting for somewhat happier endings than that. After all, that was what was so shocking about Night of the Living Dead–all the main characters got killed.
What does it mean, culturally, for everybody in the movie to die? Anybody got a clue?