Ever since its release in 2007, Frank Darabont’s “The Mist” has divided audiences with its bleak, shocking ending. Without going into spoilers, the final moments of the creature feature diverge from those of Stephen King’s 1980 novella in its feature-length adaptation, carrying the townsfolk of Bridgton, Maine into intensely grim territory. It’s an ending that Darabont defends years later, but the “Shawshank Redemption” director reveals to /Film that there was an axed opening scene that could have been just as memorable.
In honor of the film’s 15th anniversary, /Film’s Eric Vespe spoke with the cast and crew to compile a sprawling oral history for your reading pleasure. Therein, director Darabont, cinematographer Rohn Schmidt, and Andre Braugher (who plays attorney Brent Norton in the film) look back on the opening sequence and why it was ultimately scrapped from the shooting schedule.
From the caged, infected primates of “28 Days Later” to the failed Norwegian dog hunt in John Carpenter’s The Thing,” horror movies love to begin with the monster getting loose. Such was Darabont’s original plan for “The Mist,” immersing the audience at the epicenter of the secret government project that unleashes hell upon Maine. Darabont told /Film:
“It was basically a scene where they’re trying to open a portal into another dimension and suddenly the chamber, that I pictured as an old diving bell with portholes and stuff, suddenly the glass blows out and this mist comes pouring out and this chaos and screaming and then boom, we cut to the opening title and then the rest of the story goes on as you see it in the movie.”
Budget restrictions prevented the scene from being shot, but a voice of reason in the cast also gets credit for the nixed opening.
Too Much, Too Early
As the townsfolk of Bridgton sit trapped at the local supermarket, they spend a good portion of their time speculating on exactly what lies in the mist that besieges them, including where it came from. It’s revealed by Private Wayne Jessup (Sam Witwer, seen above) that the nearby Arrowhead base’s shady experiments opened an inter-dimensional portal, and in true cosmic horror fashion, rolled out the red carpet for unfathomable abominations to enter.
Darabont’s opening would have pre-empted that moment, and all of the speculation that precedes it, with a firsthand look at the first emergence of the mist and its occupants. Several people involved with the film gave Darabont feedback; Rohn Schmidt tells Eric Vespe that he looked forward to shooting the scene as “this absolutely absurd ’50s place. Vespe himself was asked about this topic when visiting the set back in 2007, and he pointed out that King didn’t explain much in his novella. But the ultimate voice of reason came from Andre Braugher, whose character doesn’t even make it out of the first act. He tells /Film:
“I said, ‘It would be best not to film it.’ He was intrigued. He said, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘Well, if you know that the army did it, then that means that everyone in the storefront who’s speculating about its cause, we already know that they’re wrong. So we’re ahead of them, as the audience.’ So I said, ‘You can actually gain a day, and I think make a better movie, by not filming that rather than filming.’
‘I Just Really Wanted To Shoot That Sequence’
The director added that the opening he originally conceived may have looked like another sci-fi property that plenty are familiar with these days:
“I loved that opening, and I loved the sort of low-tech, high-tech production design that I had in mind. In this last season of ‘Stranger Things,’ when we’re in the underground facility and there’s these crazy machines that all look like they’re pounded together out of cast iron and rivets and stuff, it’s exactly the kind of production design I had in mind for the opening of ‘The Mist.'”I just really wanted to shoot that sequence and wanted to do that low-tech ’80s sci-fi vibe that The Duffers have now perfected, clearly. But the truth is, I didn’t have the money to do it. I didn’t have the three days to shoot. I had $18 million to shoot and about, gosh, what was it? 34 days to shoot. ‘Shawshank’ was a 71-day shoot. ‘Green Mile’ was 105-day shoot. This was a 30-something-day shoot.”
“You have to pick your battles,” Darabont adds. The old horror maxim rings true, that it’s scarier when you don’t know the monster’s exact origins; if Darabont considers the canned opening scene a battle lost, then hopefully he considers the final product to be a won war.
Read this next: The 95 Best Horror Movies Ever
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Author: Anya Stanley
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November 22, 2022