The Mist by Stephen King was originally published in 1985 as a novella in the collection Skeleton Crew, which I haven’t read. It has been made into a horror movie, which I haven’t seen, and published in a separate volume as a novella, which I haven’t read. I chose to experience the terror of a catastrophic event in a small Maine town in this full-cast audio dramatization of The Mist, which runs just over an hour. The morning after a violent storm has knocked out power and destroyed property, Mist main character David Drayton ventures out for supplies along with his son and a neighbor and becomes trapped in the town supermarket with not just other locals but also summer residents. (The horror!) No one can leave the building without dying a horrible death from unknown causes.
Before the audio drama starts, there’s a track explaining that the recording was produced using Kunstkopf Binaural 3-D sound technology and a warning that for the optimal listening experience, you need to use high-quality headphones. The Mist definitely would have been better and probably more chilling that way. Listening to it on a car stereo, I had to stop and start it to catch sounds or dialogue that I couldn’t hear.
The audio production was good; the screams and many of the other sound effects were very effective at sending a chill down my spine. Sometimes leaving something to the imagination is scarier than seeing it done with actors and special effects in a movie. Overall, though, I wouldn’t recommend this production except for die-hard fans who want to experience the entire Stephen King oeuvre.
Listening to something that’s like old-fashioned radio drama, you expect some dialogue to sound a little unnatural, because the listener has to hear something other than screams, clunks, and dragging sounds to know what is going on and most people don’t normally describe what they’re seeing in detail to someone who is standing right there with them. But some of the actors delivered their lines so woodenly that it sounded even more unnatural. Also, it was unfortunate that so many lines were given to the son of the main character, because they didn’t come to life at all.
The audio dramatization also had so many distractingly prominent mentions of the particular product brands that the characters trapped for days in a small-town Maine market were eating that I didn’t know if it was supposed to be spoofing company-sponsored radio drama of the past (in which case, it was just about the only humor in the whole story) or if those references were in the original story and should have been edited out. (NOTE: I’ve now skimmed through the actual story and these conversations about brand-name snacks seem to have been inserted into the audio drama.)
I’ve mostly read Stephen King’s recent novels (starting with Cell in 2006), and only one of his earlier ones (The Stand), so I don’t really know how The Mist compares to the rest of his earlier work. But even for a straightforward horror story where readers don’t care about character development or a final explanation of events as long as they get scared, this audio production doesn’t satisfy. The story sets up a disaster scenario and then abruptly ends. To me, it seemed like the beginning of a novel that the author decided not to go on with. You don’t find out what actually happened to the wife of the main character, David Drayton; what caused the disaster; the scope of the disaster is; or even what the mist has to do with anything. (But we do learn what brands of snacks David Drayton’s son likes and doesn’t like.)
After writing the above, I’ve checked the original story, and it definitely develops the characters and makes the characters’ behavior seem more natural. In the story, time passes, societal norms break down, people start to go crazy, etc., but in the audio dramatization events are condensed and people change too suddenly. Maybe the story wasn’t well suited to radio-style drama because it takes place over several days instead of all in one day. Stick to reading this story yourself, or listen to it as a traditional audiobook instead.
This review is part of the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII event hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings, who says:
The purpose of R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII is to enjoy books and movies/television that could be classified (by you) as:
Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above.
Visit the RIP VII review site for hundreds more book reviews for Halloween reading and beyond.
Disclosure: I borrowed this audiobook through my public library network.