This isn’t the first time this sort of claim has been made about a Frank Darabont movie. The director himself once speculated that “The Shawshank Redemption” couldn’t have been made today either, albeit for slightly different reasons. His explanation for “Shawshank” centered around how slow and thoughtful the film was, whereas Jane’s concerns about “The Mist” is more to do with the movie’s downer ending.
The common wisdom, after all, is that audiences prefer happy endings. It’s why everyone’s still mad at “How I Met Your Mother” for going way darker than anyone expected with its finale, or maybe why the writers of “Scream 4” almost had the killer get away with it but were forced to rewrite the ending. It’s why you may often find yourself watching a movie that feels like it’s going in a dark, potentially traumatizing direction, only for it to finish off with an “everything’s fine” final scene that doesn’t feel earned.
The 2016 film “Passengers” is a famous example of this. As has been pointed out by many viewers, this could’ve easily been a horror story about Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) being woken up on an empty spaceship with no one else but a stranger named Jim (Chris Pratt) and slowly figuring out that he’s the one who doomed her in the first place. A “Twilight Zone”-style ending could’ve fit this story perfectly, but the movie chose a safe, generic happy ending instead. It makes sense, in a way: as a completely standalone original movie in a landscape of franchises and adaptations, “Passengers” was already a big risk. A bold, feel-bad ending could’ve been seen as pushing things too far.