The Mist hit theaters Wednesday, and it's been widely circulated that director Frank Darabont's ending in the movie differed vastly from Stephen King's ending to the novella it's based on. But King loves the new ending so much that he opined:
It is the most shocking ending ever and there should be a law passed stating that anybody who reveals the last five minutes of this film should be hung from their neck until dead.
Well Mr. King, you'd better get your rope ready. Needless to say, spoilers ahead.
So, here's the skinny. In King's original novella, there are five survivors who make it out of the mist in David Drayton's car: David himself, his son Billy, Amanda, and Mrs. Reppler. They've pulled into a Howard Johnson's, and only have enough gas left to get about 90 miles. David finds a radio in the manager's office, and thinks he hears a single word in the static, although it's never revealed what that word is. Then he heads out to the lobby where his son is sleeping on a mattress, whispers "Hartford" and "Hope" in his ear, and the book ends. You don't know if they make it or not, and depending on what sort of person you are, you either imagine that they get rescued or think the bizarre mist creatures chomped them for dinner.
Frank Darabont wasn't satisfied with that ending and wrote his own. He didn't veer that far out of line, though, because King definitely suggests Darabont's ending as one possibility. In the film, there are five passengers in Drayton's Scout. Dan Miller, who gets eaten by one of the creatures in the book but survives in the film, has been added to the mix. David has Amanda's pistol, which has only four bullets left in it. The Scout sputters and dies as it runs out of gas, and David silently exchanges glances with everyone in the car, except his sleeping son. They nod wordlessly at him, and he pulls out the revolver. As his son wakes up and stares in shock at his father, the view cuts to outside the vehicle and four shots ring out.
At this point, David loses it a bit, and how could blame him? He's just killed three people and his son at point-blank range in the back of his car, while surrounded by an eerie mist that contains creatures unlike anything the world has ever seen. It's a wonder he hadn't snapped before this point. He begins screaming and points the gun into his own mouth, but of course it's out of ammunition. He stumbles from the car, shouting for the creatures to take him. An ominous sound grows closer and closer. Finally from out of the mist bursts... a U.S. Army tank, and behind it scores of half-tracks and soldiers, killing every creature in sight. If only he'd waited five more minutes. He sinks to the ground and wails in agony as the view cranes up into the sky and finally fades out.
It's an extremely tragic ending, but we love it. Why? Because it's realistic, and not a happy little package all tied up in a bow. We can imagine the studio suits meeting over a conference table and trying to convince Darabont to give it a happy ending, with the cavalry riding in at the last possible second, and little Billy yelling "Hooray!" while the tanks roll by. Instead we're given the stark portrait of what the sheer madness of the situation would do to you, and what extremes it would drive someone to. Nice job, Mr. Darabont. And Mr. King, if you still want to hang us, don't worry. We always save a shell for ourselves.