Welcome to one of my favourite horror stories from Stephen King. Set in a very tight space (a supermarket in a small town), with a larger-than-life event going on outside (a mist spreading out and killing whoever dares to go outside), the story analyses human behaviour in crisis situations.
The story acts like a magnifying glass focusing in on the existential dread, the fear of dying, the mob mentality gone wild, the group selection of sacrificial lambs and the rise of leader positions. It’s not so much a story about monsters on the outside than what an external deadly threat can bring out in people.
Fear – the greatest motivator of all – is analysed in great detail.
When rationality begins to break down, the circuits of the human brain can overload. Axons grow bright and feverish. Hallucinations turn real: the quicksilver puddle at the point where perspective makes parallel lines seem to intersect is really there; the dead walk and talk; a rose begins to sing.”
The outside is a no-go zone so the confinement and the claustrophobia are increasing with every minute that ticks. As the tensions rise, people split under opposing groups and what really struck me was how quickly people turned to religion as a fix-all.
“I had a dream that I saw God walking across Harrison on the far side of the lake, a God so gigantic that above the waist He was lost in a clear blue sky. In the dream I could hear the rending crack and splinter of breaking trees as God stamped the woods into the shape of His footsteps. He was circling the lake, coming toward the Bridgton side, toward us, and all the houses and cottages and summer places were bursting into purple-white flame like lightning, and soon the smoke covered everything. The smoke covered everything like a mist.”
The way King builds up the atmosphere for this is brilliant. The book wastes no time setting itself up and diving into the story, and also doesn’t spend too much time exploring the whys and the whats, it just gets into it all, which is fantastic.
While The Mist is terrifying with its creatures seeking human flesh in the grayness, its real fear comes from the gray of human nature. It revolves around how people react to the terror and each other. That’s the real horror here.
My only complain would be that there isn’t much explanation about why the mist has suddenly appeared. Also there is a totally unnecessary sex scene in the book. A lot of people don’t like the ending, but I quite like it.
Overall, The Mist is a pretty damn good short, quick read if you are interested, and has monster horror to keep you going. It knows what it is and it goes for it, no mincing about. It is well written and barrels along, definitely worth the read.
Don’t be afraid to go into the mist, be excited because you don’t know where you will end up.