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The Puny Human Doors of Perception: Revisiting The Mist‘s Horrific Twist Ending, And The Clashing Philosophies Between Source and Adaptation



Major spoilers ahead for The Mist. It’s a masterpiece, so if you haven’t seen it, watch it, then come back.

If you were to ask horror fans to call on a twist ending more harrowing than the ending of Frank Darabont’s The Mist, I would bet hand over fist that they would be hard-pressed to find one.

Watching it alone at night, I remember it clear as day. The car running on empty finally peters out. It’s just the slate grey fog of death outside, and all too clearly on the inside our survivors. As the horrors whisper outside, the car’s occupants all carefully exchange looks, practically looking back at you as you watch, forcing you to become part of this horrible exit strategy. David shows the revolver, then counts out the bullets. Four. It’s not a scene of many words, but the ones Amanda says are louder than any screams could be.

“But there’s five of us.”

The last shot we get is of Billy looking up at his father. Eyes wide, before—


A low-to-the-ground exterior shot of the car. Staggered muzzle flares and muffled gunshot noises. And the silence after is only broken by staggered wails of pain from the surviving David. Back inside, he tries to finish himself off, spinning the empty chamber with the quiet clicks of the gun aimed at his own. When I first saw this scene, I almost got nauseous seeing that shot. Which is why it only gets worse; with no other way to die, he exits the car and calls for the mist’s denizens to take him…only to be greeted by the military, driving caravans of heavily armed soldiers and rescued civilians.

After the second wave of jaw-dropping shock washed over me, I felt David’s collapse to his knees in my legs, and as the credits rolled, I was left mulling over the experience in abject horror for the next few days. And so began a long-running entanglement with the story. The Mist is my favorite Stephen King adaptation of all time, and it’s in no small part for how its final scene is so brilliantly orchestrated by both the cast, Rohn Schmidt, and director Frank Darabont. And the way my love of The Mist originally spurred me to learn more about Stephen King’s expanded universe and got me into The Dark Tower series, a rewatch of the film spurred me into finally reading the novella.

So, I came to discover that the ending of The Mist is drastically different from its source material.

Those who have read the novella know it ends in a way that outright rejects the film’s conclusion. As David writes his final journal entries in a motel with his son, and the other survivors who escaped, things look just as bleak. Navigation in the mist means gambling on infrastructure still being intact, with a close call on a possibly collapsing bridge having already been evaded. The supplies are running low, and with their car out of gas, it means venturing out to refuel. He notes:

“But you mustn’t expect some neat conclusion. There is no And they escaped from the mist into the good sunshine of a new day; or When we awoke the National Guard had finally arrived; […] It is, I suppose, what my father always frowningly called “an Alfred Hitchcock ending,” by which he meant a conclusion in ambiguity that allowed the reader or viewer to make up his own mind about how things ended.”


Technically both things happen in the film’s finale, to a much bleaker extent in the wake of what David has done to spare his son and friends. But book David ends up sitting by a crackling radio awaiting some sign of life as he’s all out of options. The only things he hears are two words, which he whispers into the ears of his dreaming son: ‘Hartford’, and ‘hope.’

Truly, for a film that is so accurate up until that point, with so many scenes lifted whole cloth and recreated perfectly from the text (the spider-silk scene still makes me shiver in both film and on the page), it begs the question: Why change the ending?

Well, there’s the obvious answer of it simply being the best choice on a technical level. Darabont has mentioned in previous interviews that the movies many alternate endings didn’t resonate on an emotional level (even King thinks it hits harder than his penning). And the fact that one of them involved a cut to black and a gunshot after Billy says “Daddy?”  makes me thankful the iron hand of studio interference didn’t force them to choose one. The Mist is one of those movies of a perfect length, no dragging, no rushing, and the delicate balancing act of editing the rest of the film sets you up on makes for the greatest gut punch when it all comes tumbling down in that final scene.

The movie is the most memorable version because its ending shows the primary horror of the mist is what happens when the fog is lifted, and you’re forced to confront the reality of the things. The question then is what happens once you get what you’re craving? Can you go back to life as usual having seen what you’ve seen? Can those “puny doors of human perception,” as David puts it, tolerate it having seen what they’ve seen?

In the book however, we never see that Mist lift. There’s the very Lovecraftian possibility that the time of man came and went without much ceremony from the powers that destroyed it. It might never come back. So, what do you have when it doesn’t pass, and the monsters aren’t killed? The only thing that’s left when Pandora’s box has been emptied: hope. And how much is hope worth?


So beyond the practical difference, I would posit a philosophical difference in the endings, or at the very least an inversion of the theme. Both iterations of The Mist are fundamentally about hope, but in two very different regards: hope is given up in the film, and the cosmic irony almost immediately punishes David for only needing to stay hopeful for a few more moments. In the other, David’s hopefulness, though uncertain, still stands up to the insurmountable odds ahead, possibly leading to doom.

There’s certainly room for the ending to mean the death of David and his crew. Depending on how you interpret the novella, David is shaded as having already gone mad. He emits loud, uncontrollable laughter in moments of crisis, such as the death of the bagboy, sometimes seeming to have already succumbed to the mist and its unreality.

This makes him a stronger parallel to Miss Carmody. One of Stephen King’s quintessential villains, Carmody’s madness is uncontained and outwardly hysterical, harassing and assailing whomever she sees as being due for judgment by the wrath of God. But as composed as David is, there are cracks in his composure that suggest the mist could equally pollute his mind; after all, nobody is immune. By the end of the book, is David just as deluded as Miss Carmody? Were their chances ever any better on their own? Does his misplaced hope let him walk off into the mist to risk it all?

The book’s ending is scary in its own right, simply because of the common ground the two versions share. Both share themes of hope, more specifically, the danger of hope and either losing it, or losing yourself to it. Which fate is more painful is still up for debate.


Luis Pomales-Diaz is a freelance writer and lover of fantasy, sci-fi, and of course, horror. When he isn't working on a new article or short story, he can usually be found watching schlocky movies and forgotten television shows.

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Why the Willy Wonka Boat Scene is Still the Scariest Thing You’ve Ever Seen



“There’s no earthly way of knowing, which direction we are going…”

If those words don’t immediately strike fear into your very heart, then someone was very good to you as a child. You were somehow spared the experience of being set in front of 1971’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (adapted from Roald Dahl’s 1964 children’s novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), blissfully unaware of what you were about to get yourself into. And look, it’s not like the boat scene comes out of nowhere. There’s already a bit of murder and mayhem going on in the first act before the boat scene. Hell, mere minutes before we reach the boat scene, we have consigned Augustus Gloop to a fate of being slowly asphyxiated as his lungs fill with molten chocolate, like the world’s most delicious case of pneumonia.

But the boat scene. Nothing quite matches its raw power, even more than five decades later. Here it is, if you need a refresher:


Willy Wonka, Why Are You Like This?

There are a lot of different reasons that this scene exists. For one, Roald Dahl (who was also the film’s screenwriter, though he eventually disowned the film over some uncredited rewrites) was never afraid of including material that would rattle his audience a bit. Ever heard of The Chokey? 


Dahl was in tune with the fact that children’s stories, largely being parables of one kind or another, do typically feature some kind of unsettling or downright horrifying element to help teach their lessons. This is a tradition that dates back to fairy tales and early folklore. Listen to your elders, or you’ll turn into sea foam trying to get a human prince to notice you. Don’t wander by the river at night, or La Llorona will drown you. And here’s a personal favorite: Make sure to sweep the floor, otherwise the Sweepings Demon Ahalmez and the Stabbing Demon Ahaltocob will lurk in those unswept areas and stab you to death. 

That’s why the darker elements of Willy Wonka are present in the first place. However, the boat scene stands out among the rest because it is so brilliantly put together. The base layer of the footage playing out on the tunnel walls is creepy enough. There’s a sinister, unpredictable arbitrariness to what images are chosen and why. However, pair that with Gene Wilder’s outstanding performance as Willy Wonka and you’ve got pure magic. Wonka was never designed to be understood, and the way his eerie, partly sung monologue builds to a climax caught somewhere between abject terror and orgiastic delight is deliciously opaque and disturbing.

Not only is this downright terrifying to witness in the first place, it taps into the way that children’s fates lie in the hands of adults pretty much all of the time. This scene is an immaculate exaggeration of how, when you’re a child, the adults in your life are driven by motives that are murky to you at best, and trusting that they have your best interests at heart isn’t always an easy thing to do.

The Willy Wonka Boat Scene in a Broader Context

On top of all the stuff the Willy Wonka boat scene is doing on purpose, there’s something about the fact that this scene was put together in the early 1970s that helps lend it its undying potency. If you need proof of this, check out the same scene from Tim Burton’s 2005 re-adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It’s just not the same, sending Charlie and his pals down a CGI-laden log flume that’s so unmemorable I had to look up if the movie even had a boat scene.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory came to cinemas at a time that horror filmmaking was reaching a new creative peak, just three years after Night of the Living Dead and Rosemary’s Baby showed what horror masterpieces could look like on opposite ends of the spectrum, offering up infinite possibilities in between. Things were really cooking at this time, as grindhouse cinemas churned out grotty horror outings (like Herschell Gordon Lewis’ 1970 gross-out flick The Wizard of Gore) en route to a true explosion of exploitation cinema.


Willy Wonka’s boat scene is born from the same primordial ooze that gave us 1972’s The Last House on the Left, 1974’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and 1978’s I Spit On Your Grave. It’s gross to look at, deeply disturbing, and feels genuinely unsafe.

Even though the way the images are projected behind the passengers doesn’t necessarily look real, it nevertheless looks tactile, grungy, and gross. This is thanks to the quality of film stock used to make these kinds of movies at the time. It has a tactility to it that digital cinema doesn’t possess, leaving you feeling like if you were to reach out and touch it, it would either abrade your hand or leave behind a trail of slime, something that enhances the viscerally repulsive sight of images that were already designed to poke at your lizard-brain fears.

Because all of this is found within the context of what is ostensibly a children’s movie, the juxtaposition of genres makes it even more powerful to witness. The Willy Wonka boat scene is well-made, well-timed, and well-suited to making your skin crawl, no matter what age you are when you encounter it, or how many times you may have seen it before.

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My Final Girls Support Group: How Horror Helps Me Grieve



This article discusses topics that may be distressing or triggering to some readers. If you find such content uncomfortable, you may choose to proceed with caution or refrain from reading. Your well-being is important, if you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, there is help.

Sidney: I’ve seen this movie before.

 Ghostface: Not this movie, Sidney.

 Sidney: You really need some new material.

 Ghostface: I got you here, didn’t I?


 Sidney: You might actually be the most derivative one of all. I mean, Christ, the same house?

 Ghostface: Maybe so. But you forgot the first rule of surviving a Stab movie. Never answer the—

 Sidney (hanging up): I’m bored.

Seeing a Final Girl Come Full Circle

Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott hanging up on Ghostface is maybe one of my favorite moments from the entirety of the Scream franchise. She’s come so far since the first movie, and after 25+ years, she deserves to be able to hang up on her trauma. 

On July 6th, 2023, I sat in my mom’s dark hospital room alongside my aunt, dad, and brother as we watched my mom take her last breath. On July 6th, 2015, I walked into my roommate’s room, who was also one of my best friends, to find him dead in his bed. 


So, unfortunately, Sidney’s whole conversation with Ghostface in Scream (2022) right before hanging up on him has become quite relatable to me. It was a scene I could never shut up about, even before it became so painfully relevant. It’s a scene I’ve rewatched a lot since my mom’s passing. It’s a moment I want to be able to recreate someday—me, more annoyed than anything else when my trauma starts resurfacing.

The week after finding my friend dead, I found myself watching both parts of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 2 finale, “Becoming“—found myself crying every time I watched Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Buffy Summers slow motion run to help her friends, knowing she’d already failed and when she caught the blade of the sword her evil ex hurled at her, hitting him with the hilt before kicking every inch of his ass. After my mom’s passing, I found myself revisiting the end of Buffy’s season 5, where she’s grieving the loss of her mom but still having to deal with the current apocalypse—even saying, “I just wish my mom was here,” before going into battle in the finale.

An Outlet Via Horror

It’s moments like these that draw me to horror, especially when I’m grieving. I am more drawn to slasher-type movies when grieving than horror movies dealing with grief. I love Hereditary and The Babadoook, but those movies don’t make me feel the way I do watching Sidney hang up on her trauma, aka Ghostface, or watching Buffy beat the shit out of her evil ex-boyfriend. I want to be Courteney Cox’s Gale Weathers telling Ghostface, “fuck you” even when she thinks she’s about to die in Scream VI. I want to be strong, I want to be able to survive—and also be witty about it. Watching final girls not only survive but be able to move on with their lives is something I find incredibly empowering—and inspirational.

I went to horror author Grady Hendrix’s book tour for his novel Final Girls Support Group. He did a full-on presentation before the actual signing and gave a history of horror that ended with him saying something like, “We don’t watch horror to watch people die but to watch them survive.” That notion has stuck with me ever since I saw it because it’s why I watch horror. The younger guy I was on a date with found it corny—I found it beautiful. I want to watch people survive odds that feel insurmountable—and not in a Hallmark movie way.

We’ve all seen the supercut of Jamie Lee Curtis saying, “It’s about trauma” at every single stop on her press tour for David Gordon Green’s Halloween trilogy. It became a meme-able moment, but also it’s true—I’m always interested in what the final girl or group of survivors from a horror movie do after they’ve survived. They would all clearly carry their trauma with them, not unlike me, but they’re still surviving. It’s why I hate any horror franchise bringing back a final girl just to kill her (I’m looking at you, Friday the 13th Part 2 and Final Destination 2). I’d rather never see her again than have her come back to die because that feels just too cruel and unfair—which, sure, life is unfair, but fictional stories don’t have to be.


In Halloween: H20, JLC’s Laurie Strode is shown to have had trouble moving on after the events of the second movie. But by the movie’s end, she’s saved her son (heartthrob Josh Hartnett) and his pals and goes to find Michael Myers for a final showdown—screaming his name while yielding an axe, no less! After defeating him, she makes sure he’s dead by chopping his head off (no, we won’t acknowledge Halloween: Resurrection). It’s why that movie stays my favorite in the Halloween franchise. It’s something I didn’t love about the newer trilogy, where they retconned all but the first movie and showed Laurie a total mess, prepping for an apocalypse with a zillion guns and living in the woods. But even that gave us a gratifying ending with Laurie, in front of the entire town of Haddonfield, throwing Michael into a trash compactor. I would love to crush my trauma into tiny little pieces that I leave in the bottom of a dumpster.

I often try to imagine what my gratifying horror moment would be. My trauma comes from real life—I have no monster to chop the head off of. No one is calling to scare me and telling me they’ll gut me like a fish. My horror movie is way more slow-moving with zero chase scenes. My horror movie is a boring one. But still, I find these women all empowering because, ya know, metaphors.

Finding Hope Through Horror

In Ready or Not, our final girl fights for her life against a family trying to kill her—only for her to survive long enough to watch them all explode due to a deal with the devil. In You’re Next, our final girl wields an axe and takes out the folks trying to take her out. In A Nightmare on Elm Street, our final girl tells her boyfriend, “I’m into survival” when he finds her reading a book on booby traps. These characters aren’t going down without a fight. In my life, I have yet to make it to the end of my horror movie—but when I do, I hope I can still be a badass final girl about it.

Having two of the biggest losses in my life happen on the same day really feels like a joke. The writers of my horror movie really do need to get new material. But seeing these final girls on their 89th movie and still not getting got—it gives me hope. 

I want to not only outlast but go on in the ways folks like Sidney Prescott, Laurie Strode, Gale Weathers, and Buffy Summers do. 


Sam: Are you going to be all right?

Sidney: I’ll survive. I always do.

For more on how horror can help us cope with tragedy, read here.

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