A few years ago, after my first child was born, I realized that watching movies had changed. If the plot of a movie dealt with parenting on even the most basic emotional level, I would likely be reduced to tears. Crying during a movie used to be a rare occurrence for me. It’s not that I’m some hulking man’s man badass who has no time to cry just as Blain from Predator doesn’t have time to bleed. No, it’s because my life is not movie-like, therefore I don’t identify with many movie characters, and typically, I need to identify with a situation for the tears to come. Now that I’m a parent, there are tons of movies with characters I can identify with because one of the most used plot devices in storytelling history is a parent trying to protect their child.
Crying more during movies doesn’t bother me (though I do avoid watching Coco at all costs these days because it turns me into Thomas Jane at the end of this movie), and my viewing habits have stayed basically the same.
But this Stephen King series that With Gourley and Rust covered made me realize another parental aspect that I can identify with, but never want to experience again: taking care of a frightened child.
It started with a rewatch of Cujo. I fucking hated it. Not because it was bad, but because it made me feel like shit. That’s the goal of the movie, by the way, so my hatred of the film is actually evidence that it’s pretty good. But watching a parent have to console a terrified child for an extended amount of time was unbearable to me, and I will never watch that movie ever again. After watching Cujo, I dreaded when the podcast would get to The Mist.
The Mist is a movie I never wanted to watch again even when I saw it years ago before becoming a husband and parent. The gut punch ending along with the constant displays of the worst of humanity were just too much. Despite this, I bought the DVD. I think I watched it once just for the black and white version included on the DVD that director Frank Darabont prefers. After that initial rewatch, it has sat on my shelf unwatched for years.
Rewatchability is important to me, but I can still appreciate a movie being great despite the fact that I never want to watch it again. That’s how I feel about The Mist. The way this film succinctly breaks down the basic, shitty nature of humanity is almost too effective. Beyond the theme of the movie (which tells us in devastating fashion that you should always maintain hope), this is a beautiful film. I also prefer the black and white version of the film because it accents the old creature-feature style of 1950s films. And the cast is perfect, with Marcia Hay Harden standing out as one of the most infuriating characters in film history (you almost want to cheer when that fucker takes a can of peas to the head, and you do cheer when Toby fucking Jones of all people blows her head off). It’s just a fantastic movie, and I will never watch it again.
The downer ending made it likely that I would never watch this one again already, but this time it was something else that made me vow to myself to never sit through The Mist again. Thomas Jane has his young son with him throughout the film, and his son is close to the age of my oldest child. I could not stop imagining what it would be like for me to have my daughter away from her mother in a terrifying situation. The inability to console her would destroy me. In the film, Thomas Jane feels the need to be a hero and constantly has to leave his son with someone else while he does dangerous shit. No way could I do that. I could not leave my daughter behind sobbing while I headed out into a mist filled with interdimensional spiders and whatnot. That’s not to say I would just cower in the corner until the cult took over the store, either. This movie seems to forget Thomas Jane’s wife for the bulk of the movie (the kid mentions his mother a few times, but that’s it). Thomas Jane doesn’t even consider trying to get back to his wife. I would be the opposite. I would be just as worried about my wife as I was about my daughter. Not to mention my daughter would be losing her mind worrying about mommy. So rather than insert myself into every dangerous scenario possible to be the hero, I would be planning on the best way to leave everyone in that store behind and reunite my family.
Perhaps that makes me a coward that would use his child to stay out of danger. Subconsciously, that might be the case. But consciously, I would be thinking of my daughter, and making her more scared than she already is and leaving her in the care of a stranger is something I could not do. For fuck’s sake, I have a hard time leaving to go to work night shift when she cries and asks if I can just take a day off to stay home. You add an interdimensional spider into that scenario, and it’s a no-brainer that I’m staying home (let’s hope that is never the case).
The fact that this movie makes me think about this shit is a testament to its effectiveness. I don’t like thinking about my children being terrified, especially because I cannot console my hypothetical child in these scenarios I imagine. If something scares my child in real life, like a bad dream or scary movie, at least I can hold them and tell them it’s all right. Watching The Mist creates a nightmare in my mind that cannot be solved. That’s both a good tagline for the movie and the reason why I will never watch it again.