The Mist's Pitch-Dark Ending Has A Silver Lining, According To Sam Witwer [Exclusive]

This article contains major spoilers for the ending of "The Mist."

While there are plenty of filmmakers who have successfully pulled off adaptations of the author's work to the screen, few tap into the spirit of Stephen King like Frank Darabont. The few he has directed ("The Shawshank Redemption" and "The Green Mile") harness the earnestness of King's text while giving way to an incredibly made film. When it came to "The Mist," which celebrates its 15th anniversary this week, there was an instance where Darabont managed to one-up King's original conclusion for this harrowing story of survival.

Even if you've never seen "The Mist," you've likely heard that its ending packs a fittingly mean-spirited punch. After all of these years, it's no less stomach-churning. In King's original novella, David Drayton (Thomas Jaye) loads up the car, minus Dan (Jeffrey DeMunn), and drives out into the mist, leaving it ambiguous as to whether they reach safety. It's a haunting mental image for sure, but it's clear that, where King wanted to go for the mind, Darabont wanted to go for the heart.

As is, "The Mist" ends with David using the four remaining bullets to kill everyone in the car before they're devoured by the destructive monsters of Project Arrowhead. But as David waits for his own demise, he's greeted by the sight of tanks and civilization, which renders his merciful sacrifice as meaningless. You ultimately leave the film with a mournful, yet effective, taste in your mouth that just makes you want to bawl your eyes out.

Although it's often recognized as one of the saddest movie endings, one of the film's stars happens to see it through another light.

From a different perspective...

While David breaks down in the street after losing everyone that ever meant something to him, he catches a glimpse of Melissa McBride's character on a military transport. Early in the film, she's one of the first people to walk out into the mist, as she's frightened of leaving her youngest children alone at home to fend for themselves. In a shocking turn of events by the end, she's seen safe and sound with her two kids in tow.

In an exclusive interview from /Film's Eric Vespe, which itself came from our writer's spectacularly detailed oral history on Darabont's film, "The Mist" star Sam Witwer talks about how he sees the survival of McBride's character as a light at the end of the tunnel:

"I weirdly find the ending to be uplifting because there's another movie that took place and that was her movie. We just didn't see her movie. Her movie was a movie of extraordinary bravery and we got to see the bright side of the hope coin in her movie, but we didn't see her movie."

Although Witwer's Private Jessup doesn't live to see a happy ending, as Marcia Gay Harden's terrifying Mrs. Carmody convinces enough people to make the soldier a sacrifice to the outside beasts, I understand how he could see it this way. You would think that the sight of McBride's unnamed character with her family intact would alleviate some of the pain, but David's breakdown is no less harrowing. If anything, it only makes you feel worse. It would be one thing if he was left to wail on his own, yet seeing McBride coming out on the other side okay feels like salt in the family wound.

'The horror of the film is the loss of hope'

Witwer sees the fate of McBride and her children as uplifting because she faced her internalized fear, and came out on the other side unscathed. "The horror of the film is the loss of hope," says Witwer. The mist is not simply portrayed as a den of monsters shrouded in the darkness, but of the fear that prevents us from making the decisions that will ultimately affect our lives. On that transport, she sees David, one of the film's voices of reason, as a broken man who succumbed to his fears and paid the ultimate price (via /Film):

"The mist is your fear. The mist is you thinking you can't do it. That's what the mist is. And if you press on through the mist, you find out you actually can do it, that you can accomplish just about anything, but if you give up before you venture out into the mist, then you can't accomplish anything, then nothing goes your way."

Given that McBride's character isn't even given a name, she embodies this ideal of facing an impossible situation head-on, especially when none of the other shoppers choose to accompany her. She isn't even made aware of the monsters yet, which makes her decision to traverse an uncharted landscape even bolder. She makes the choice for herself before someone like Mrs. Carmody gets to make it for her. 

The creatures are largely a device to push the already terrified shoppers to further lengths of disparaging one another. By the end, "The Mist" shows how this world picks and chooses at its leisure. Some folks may survive, although there are truly no happy endings.

"The Mist" is currently streaming on Netflix.