Adapting a novel to the big screen is never going to be easy, time constraints alone limit you a lot, but when doing it as a television show you can put as much or as little from the book as you’d like, case in point the 2017 adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist for Spike TV with its ten episode first season. Most know The Mist for having previously been adapted by Frank Darabont back in 2007 which though quite similar to the source material it radically deviated at the end to piss off hard-core fans, so with the ability of an ongoing series what would series developer Christian Torpe do with his take on the story? Would it be more or less faithful to the source material?
In both Stephen King’s novella and this television adaptation of said story there is a strange mist that rolls in over a small town…and that’s about where the similarities end. This series takes no characters from the novella, and the monsters that inhabited this strange mist are missing completely in this small screen version, instead the mist itself is the threat as people coming in contact with it are driven mad by visions that it somehow is able to rip from their minds.
This is a pretty big departure and tad dangerous as the variety of strange monsters besieging the supermarket in the original is what many viewers would be tuning in to see, and though the film does deliver a fair amount of gore the threat is mostly psychological with most of the threats coming from the people trapped in the mist and not the creepy crawlies that come out of it. Sure both the novella and this series have a religious zealot wanting to sacrifice people to creatures in the mist but for this show the threat from zealots, paranoiacs, and random assholes is the primary focus as the “mist” seems just fuel to the fire of these people’s ingrained stupidity, and boy are the people in this town stupid.
This show is chock full of characters, which I guess gives the writers more people to kill off in horrible ways, but none of them really come off as more than two dimensional stereotypes; we have Keven Copeland (Morgan Spector) the dad who will do anything to protect his family, Eve Copeland (Aylssa Sutherland) the overprotective mom, Alex Copeland (Gus Birney) the daughter who just wants to have fun, Adrian (Russell Posner) her gay best friend, Jay Hiesel (Luke Cosgrove) the town star quarterback who Alex is crushing on until she is date raped and Jay is the accused of the crime. Then we have asshole Sheriff Heisel (Darren Pettie) father of the accused rapist and someone who has definite history with Eve, and that is just the tip of the iceberg of characters you will learn not to care about. The first episode had me wondering if somehow I’d accidentally turned on a soap opera instead of a horror series, sure it’s important to build characters so that we can either root for them or wish them dead but much of this seemed vastly unnecessary, we even later find out the homophobic bully is actually gay as if that cliché hasn’t been used enough. Do all homophobes have to be secretly gay? Can’t they just be assholes?
Aside from the lack of monsters and radically different characters the big difference this show has over the novella is that the originally mostly took place in the confines of a supermarket with our protagonist trying to survive a siege of terrifying creatures, as well as a religious nut, but in this series we have the mom and daughter trapped with a group of people in the local mall, along with Alex’s accused rapist which is all kinds of awkward, while her dad and Adriane start out at the police station but end up running all across town in attempt to make it to the mall to save Eve and Alex. Along for the rescue are two prisoners liberated from the jail; Mia Lambert (Danica Curcic) a junkie with a mysterious criminal past and Bryan Hunt (Okezie Morro) a soldier with amnesia who got tossed in jail for ranting about something in the mist that killed his dog. The mystery behind Bryan’s amnesia is going to be the key thread that will carry on to the next season (if the show had been picked up that is) as we learn he was stationed at the Arrowhead military installation and that it is most likely the cause of the mist. In the novella there was something called The Arrowhead Project, and it was floated that it could responsible for the mist and two soldiers do kill themselves in both the book and this show, but it’s clear for this to continue as a series the military/government was going to be the real big bad.
This show is populated with some fantastic actors; Frances Conroy, as the zealot who believes that the mist is an act of Mother Nature, is especially good and her moments facing off against the local parish priest played by Dan Butler are quite good, but the characters of Eve and Kevin are so monumentally annoying at times it tends to undercut the tension and horror the show is trying to build. Eve is supposed to be this overprotective mother but she constantly lets her daughter wander around the mall alone, despite the fact they are trapped by a killer mist and sharing accommodations with her possible rapist, and good ole Kevin bumbles from one moment of incompetence to another.
All that said the show isn’t really that bad, sure there is way too much padding to fill up the ten episode season but I will give the creators credit for taking the germ of an idea from Stephen King’s novella and then practically running in the opposite direction with it. Gone is the claustrophobic nature of the novella’s supermarket, gone are the Lovecraftian monsters and instead of just one group of people led by a religious zealot we get two with the survivors in the mall blaming Alex for the mist, and quick to nominate him for a lynching, while over at the local church Frances Conroy is preaching her “Circle of Life” philosophy to another gullible group.
Some of this really works while some of it decidedly doesn’t, the asshat Sherriff drinks the Kool aide way to quickly to be believable, but overall once the terror starts and anarchy begins to explode the show kind of works despite its flaws. The changes from the source material are so radical that one can’t honestly say if it’s better or worse than the novella, it’s just too different. There was enough interesting stuff going on in this show that despite the problems I had with it I would most likely have visited it for the next season but as the series was not picked up by Spike TV it has become one less show for me to worry about.