The next time you watch The Shawshank Redemption, ignore the unnecessary final shot and just close your eyes as Morgan Freeman gives his final monologue on the bus. "I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.” Just fade to black right there. You don’t need to see if Red and Andy get to give each other a big hug on the beach because it’s the hope they express which is the heart of Shawshank and the true note on which the film should end. I bring this up because in order to really appreciate The Mist, you have to see it as a bookend to Darabont’s earlier film. While Shawshank is a meditation on the necessity of hope, The Mist is an exploration of what happens when people abandon it.
Now, despite that heady introduction, The Mist is still a bona fide B-movie at heart, complete with bug-eyed monsters hell bent on brunching on a beleaguered humanity. And while those humans are all paper thin stereotypes, especially Marcia Gay Harden’s poorly written religious fanatic, it doesn’t matter too much once the tentacles start tearing through the doors. You want people armed with flaming mops fighting mammoth mutant mosquitos? Well, this is your movie.
Unfortunately, the ending sours a lot of people on The Mist. And I’ll admit, on the surface, it’s cruel. Heck, being told you’ve lost your job, your house burnt down, and your dog has cancer all on the same day is less cruel than the ending of this movie. But if you watch The Mist in the context of it being a kind of anti-Shawshank Redemption, then the ending is exactly what it should be, a perfect allegory on the consequences of giving up hope and succumbing to despair.
Here at the start of Advent, it’s good to remember that hope is not just a feel good motivational word. As one of the theological virtues, the practice of hope actually does something to us. According to the Catechism, hope actually adapts man's faculties for participation in the divine nature. “The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men's activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity.” And if we can get a movie like The Mist, which illustrates the repercussions of turning our backs on hope while simultaneously offering up scenes of shoppers assaulted by hideous flesh chomping spiders… all the better I say.