On Humanity And Stephen King

In my “Read all the books on my shelf” resolution (I totally bought more books, so my number, which was decreasing, just increased again), I finally decided to pick up Skeleton Crew by Stephen King. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the book was filled with short stories (I like his short stories the best). The first one, if you haven’t read the book, is The Mist.

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Warning: This post will contain spoilers, so if you haven’t read/watched The Mist and Maximum Overdrive, I wouldn’t recommend continuing to read.

I’m not going to lie, this movie freaked me out, and the book did as well. Being an avid fan of 90% of Stephen King’s writing and movies, I noticed an interesting occurrence in the short stories turned movies, and I’m not really sure as to why.

In The Mist, the short story ends with ambiguity. You don’t know specifics about what is The Mist or where it came from. You know the military was involved, but that’s the extent of your knowledge. You don’t know if the Mist ever goes away. The movie ends with the characters on the run, traveling from place to place, hoping to escape. That’s how it ends.

That’s not how the movie ends. While I understand the need to explain why the situation happened, I don’t understand why the need to change the ending entirely. I’ll admit, the movie ending is hauntingly good. You don’t see it coming. The lead character kills everyone in the car, including his son, because there doesn’t seem to be any hope of escape. Then he runs out of bullets and runs into the Mist to be eaten. Instead, army trucks roll through and clear away the Mist.

I have this theory, but I’m not going to divulge it yet. Instead, I’m going to bring in another example first.

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The movie was called Maximum Overdrive, but the short story was named Trucks (found in Night Shift).

The movie changed a lot from its original form. The premise is generally the same. Trucks come alive, but for the movie, all electronics come alive. I understand storytelling and know that this change made for good tv. That’s not what I have the problem with.

Trucks ends with the humans in slavery to the trucks, filling up their gas tanks for the end of time. Maximum Overdrive ended with the humans riding away on a boat until the technology stops attacking people (cause you know boats aren’t technology and comets give electronics a mind of their own). Are you noticing a trend here?

Why are the endings “human friendly”? The message you take away from these movies is that humanity always comes out in the long run, that they will survive. That is a major shift from the “Will they? Won’t they?” ending originally written. Why is that?

Unfortunately, this post isn’t going to answer that question solidly. All I can do is speculate. Why are the original Stephen King endings not good enough for directors?  If Joss Whedon can kill off characters and end things however he wants (WHAT DID THE END TO DR. HORRIBLE MEAN), why can’t Stephen King do the same?

Does every end of humanity movie really need that “humanity is always triumphant” ending? What do you readers think? Which endings would you enjoy the most? There’s something to be said in the endings you can’t predict, the endings where you walk away from the movie going, “But do they ever escape? Do things get better?” It’s okay not to have the answers sometimes.

On a side note, if you’re ever looking for a good adaptations of some of his short stories, there was a series on TNT called “Nightmares And Dreamscapes” (Not all the stories are from the book Nightmares and Dreamscapes). They sell the dvd set on Amazon, or you can just, you know, illegally download it online somewhere.

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