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The Mist: Ranking the Monsters of Frank Darabont's Creature-Filled Stephen King Adaptation
The Mist scratches that itch for all-out creature feature mayhem.
That'd be The Mist, King's 1980 novella about a group of scared-to-death Mainers trapped inside a local supermarket besieged by a strange and otherworldly fog concealing horrific, man-eating monsters. The story is told from the perspective of artist David Drayton, who attempts to put on a brave face for his young son, Billy, as the other characters begin to lose their minds and subscribe to the apocalyptic rantings of a religious fanatic by the name of Mrs. Carmody.
After several decades of development, the source material finally came to the big screen in 2007 by way of writer/director Frank Darabont, who garnered critical acclaim in the '90s for two other King adaptations: The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. While those two projects were more about the perseverance of the human spirit, The Mist offered Darabont a chance to really sink his filmmaking teeth into the horror genre with a loving send-up to the oversized monster-movie genre of the 1950s.
With the film now streaming on Peacock (and available in glorious 4K Ultra HD), we decided to rank all the insane inter-dimensional horrors brought to our world by the foolhardy researchers of the Arrowhead Project. Please note that since these creatures (save for the Tentacles) are not given specific names in either the novella or film adaptation, we will be using the monikers given to them by fans.
Ranking the creatures of The Mist
How they're described in the novella: "It was maybe two-feet long, segmented, the pinkish color of burned flesh that has healed over. Bulbous eyes peered in two different directions at once from the ends of short, limber stalks. It clung to the window on fat sucker-pads. From the opposite end there protruded something that was either a sexual organ or a stinger. And from its back there sprouted oversized, membranous wings, like the wings of a housefly."
It's not that the Scorpion-Flies aren't scary or cool, but in a list chock full of awesome beasties, one of them is going to have rank last. Sorry, Scorpion-Flies — no offense meant. And aside from their poisonous stingers, these bugs are pretty manageable in terms of the danger they pose to humans. They're just as mindless and easy to dispatch as the humdrum houseflies of this dimension.
How it's described in the novella: "Its red eyes glittered in its triangular head, which was slightly cocked to one side. A heavy, hooked beak opened and closed rapaciously. It looked a bit like the paintings of pterodactyls you may have seen in the dinosaur books, more like something out of a lunatic’s nightmare."
A little derpy-looking? Yes. Highly dangerous? Also yes. But like their main food source, the Scorpion-Flies, the Ptero-buzzards rank so low because there are much cooler creatures lurking in the mist. Nevertheless, we rank these heinous raptors above their insectoid sustenance for a mutated and sickly design that appropriately reflects their point of origin: an alien reality built not on evolutionary principles, but on sheer madness.
5. Mrs. Carmody
How she's described in the novella: "Her pantsuit was a yellow scream in the gloom. Her hair frizzed out wildly in all directions, reminding me momentarily of Elsa Lanchester in The Bride of Frankenstein."
Compared to giant, stinging bugs and dinosaur-adjacent abominations, a human antagonist doesn't rate very high on the terror scale. With that said, however, the entire point of The Mist (both the novella and film) is about how fear and the breakdown of a comfortable social order can make monsters out of your best friends and neighbors. That lesson is embodied by Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden), whose old school brand of religious fanaticism offers a paradoxical anchor to rational thinking to the panicked people within the market. Her Puritan-style zealotry offers a simple way out of this mess: if someone is sacrificed, the mist will simply go away. EXPIATION!!!
4. Tentacles from Planet X
How they're described in the novella: "It was slate gray on top, shading to a fleshy pink underneath. And there were rows of suckers on the underside. They were moving and writhing like hundreds of small, puckering mouths."
Explicit images often pale in comparison to the horrors conjured up by one's own imagination. The Tentacles From Planet X (dubbed so by a skeptical and ill-fated Brent Norton) are so scary because we have no idea what kind of creature they belong to. All we know for certain is that these slimy tendrils act as individual mouths, slurping and squeezing the life out of whatever they happen to come into contact with. As Ollie wonders in the novella: "David, what were they hooked to...?" Is it some kind of Cthulhu-esque octopus/dragon hybrid, or something else entirely? Let your creativity run wild on this one!
How it's described in the novella: "It appeared to be red, the angry color of a cooked lobster. It had claws. It was making a low grunting sound ... I caught a nightmare glimpse of huge black lusterless eyes, the size of giant handfuls of sea grapes, and then the thing lurched back into the mist with what remained of Ollie Weeks in its grip. A long, multi-segmented scorpion’s body dragged harshly on the paving."
There's something very unsettling about a giant arthropods, wouldn't you agree? It brings to mind those ravenous creepy-crawlies lurking in the drab canyons walls of Peter Jackson's 2005 remake of King Kong. But the concept hits a little closer to home — quite literally. That is to say most of us are guilty of shrieking ourselves hoarse upon seeing a cockroach or house centipede suddenly crawl out of the living room baseboard. Imagine turning on the light to find that common pest "blown up to horror-movie size," to quote King himself? Who'd be squishing whom in that scenario, we wonder?
2. Gray Widowers
How they're described in the novella: "It was the size of a big dog. It was black with yellow piping. Racing stripes, I thought crazily. Its eyes were reddish-purple, like pomegranates. It strutted busily toward us on what might have been as many as twelve or fourteen many-jointed legs — it was no ordinary earthly spider blown up to horror-movie size; it was something totally different, perhaps not really a spider at all."
No question about it: the Grey Widowers get the best gross-out moment in the entire movie. The sickening visual of that poor MP (Amin Joseph) pulsating — and then exploding — with baby spiders in the pharmacy is on par with anything Carpenter or Cronenberg could ever put onscreen. And if laying their eggs inside living hosts wasn't bad enough, these suckers also shoot corrosive webbing from their abdomens. Human-like faces perfectly top off these multi-legged monstrosities, whose design was a tip of the hat to the classic Outer Limits episode, "The Zanti Misfits."
How it's described in the novella: "It was six-legged, I know that; its skin was slaty gray that mottled to dark brown in places ... For the moment it was over the Scout, I had an impression of something so big that it might have made a blue whale look the size of a trout — in other words, something so big that it defied the imagination."
The final creature of the movie accomplishes what no other monster has done so far: it gives the viewer a sense of just how much the government f-cked up in trying to open a doorway to another dimension. Like King writes, it defies the imagination to think of something so large ever lumbering across the face of our planet. And while the novella makes clear that these monsters are not "Lovecraftian horrors with immortal life," the Behemoth still conjures up thoughts of Great Old Ones; of beings so powerful and indifferent, that the fragile race known as humanity is no more significant than the scurrying of ants is to us. That's scarier than any poisonous stinger or strand of acidic webbing could ever be.
The Mist is now streaming on Peacock.