On twitter we have been discussing downer endings. I mentioned to @unkscreenwriter, who started the conversation, that the initial idea for my thrillers never have what anyone would call a happy ending. So far I’ve been talked into the usual hero triumphs ending because I feel it would help the reader/watcher be more emotionally connected to the overall story. I don’t know if this will always be the case but so far it has been.
THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR MULTIPLE MOVIES, ESPECIALLY THE MIST
After discussing downer films such as Arlington Road, Far From Heaven, Se7en, The Road, A Clockwork Orange, and Gone Baby Gone. We came upon The Mist. Definitely a downer film, however, I don’t believe it earns my emotional breakdown like the rest of them do. My fellow tweeters disagreed, so here is my defense of why I don’t appreciate the end of The Mist.
I love Frank Darabont’s work, the writer/director of this film, so much that I have previously referred to him as screenwriting Jesus but in this case I believe he made a mistake. I have no problem with the ending being a downer but I do have a problem that the audience was so removed from the climax of the movie, that we didn’t experience it. By the climax I mean the main character shooting the other four people in the car, including his son, so they would not have to experience the horror of being eaten alive. (I warned you there were spoilers!) I felt that the characters took the easy way out. They run out of gas so they make a homicide pact. They didn’t wait until they felt the car was under attack, or they got hungry, or they had to go to the bathroom. I found it hard to believe that these people who had the courage to fight to escape and survive this long would take such an easy way out. I am aware that what he did was not easy, especially regarding his son, but the filming of it made it feel like it was. The camera pulls back to hover above the car so only gun flashes can be seen through the windows. I’m not naïve enough to think that anyone would have or should have let us see his son being shot in the head. But I would have liked the camera to be on the main character. His face as he fired. The pain, determination, and horror of it as blood speckles his face with each life of a loved one lost. Scrambling out of the car trying to run from what he’s done desperate to die the gruesome death he believes he now deserves. Then rumble, rumble. The military rescue. Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! Hee hee. That “no” was just for giggles but, to see him fall in on himself after what he just did after being through it would have been more powerful. He can’t call out for help. There’s nothing he can do to reverse it. Then he sees the woman and her daughters. The proof of what would have been if he had just had a little more faith, a bit more hope. We all, as an audience, would have been messed up for days. Instead, we used our logic to reflect on how horrible that was for him. To this day, I remember feeling more emotion for the woman standing with her daughters than the man who felt he had to murder his loved ones.
If a movie has to bring us down I want to experience it. The terror and pain in film that I hope to never feel in life. Film should always be an experience whether it’s the satisfaction of kicking a bad guy in the face, the triumph of a successful heist, or the joy of love reciprocated. Hell, if I can experience peeing standing up through film, (thanks Micheal Fassbender!) I can experience anything.