Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Fog (2005)

The recent remake of John Carpenter's classic Assault on Precinct 13 was surprisingly good. It kept the general premise of the movie while it changed around the character dynamics and how things played out.

The remake of John Carpenter's The Fog is another story. It can't decide if it wants to be a straight remake or something else. The plot borrows elements from the original then tries (emphasis on tries) to put a new spin on things, but always manages to fail miserably.

The small fishing town of Antonio Island is about to celebrate its 100th Anniversary by erecting a statue in the center of town to honor its 4 founding fathers. At the same time a sinister fog, which is a mode of transportation for vengeful ghosts, rises from the ocean and begins wreaking havoc on the townsfolk. Only local fisherman Nick Castle (Tom Welling) and his on/off girlfriend Elizabeth Williams (Maggie Grace) seem to have a clue as to what's going on and attempt to unravel the mystery, while Elizabeth seems to have a connection to the supernatural events. Local radio personality Stevie Wayne (Selma Blair) gets tossed into the mix when her son is attacked by the fog.
Well, in the original we had a vast cast of characters, kind of like a disaster movie. The movie never focused on one character too long in order to develop each one equally so that when the shit hits the fan we cared for them and cheered them on. In this remake the focus seems to be on the untalented Tom Welling and the hot, but vapid Maggie Grace. All others get a few moments of screen time so that we can get the hint that they are eventual fodder for the fog. The Stevie Wayne character (played in the original by Adrienne Barbeau and by Selma Blair in the remake) is almost a side note. She played a major part in the original and gets nothing to do here except be the voice on the radio and prance around in a thong in front of her young son. There's also a sub-plot hinted at regarding an affair she had with Nick while Elizabeth was out of town, but it's dropped pretty early on and is never brought up again.

In the original film the character of Father Malone (played with class by Hal Holbrook) finds a journal written by one of the founding fathers of his small little coastal town Antonio Bay, and inside he finds out all the sordid details of how this sleepy village came to be and comes to realize that the townsfolk kind of deserve to die because of the travesties of the past. He feels sympathetic toward the ghosts that come out of the fog to kill for revenge. In the new version the character of Father Malone (played haplessly by Adrian Hough) is given the journal by Elizabeth, he takes one look at it and pretty much says "Fuck this, I'm outta here!", then heads straight out of town.
There are a lot of useless characters like Nick's first mate Spooner, played by DeRay Davis, who is attacked by the fog while at sea, survives and is traumatized by the event, then can't wait to go back out on the ocean to get away. HELLO!? You were assaulted by the ghosts on the ocean, the fog is moving inland and you want to go back out to sea? Are you retarded? There are plenty of moments like that, like a scene with Elizabeth in the morgue where dead bodies are on display for any passerby to examine. After a car wreck Elizabeth magically transports from inside of her beau's pick-up truck to about 30 feet away from the accident. And what was up with that dinner table set-up on the beach?

Most of the kills are cheap and very PG-13 (the old lady at the sink comes to mind). Only the assault on the town hall features some cool kills that are mildly creative (gotta love swirling glass).

The only pluses are some decent shots, not scenes, that are suspenseful (the kid running toward the camera while the fog chases after him on the beach), there are some decent FX shots (the screaming face in the fog and the way the fog melts the busts of the founding fathers).
I partly blame director Rupert Wainwright whose last film, Stigmata, featured the same schizophrenic style where it couldn't tell what kind of movie it wanted to be. He needs to focus more on character and plot than the thrills. I also blame Dennis Virkler, the editor. He hacked out all the meat of the story, all the character development and left in every single FX shot thinking it would make the movie flashier. Well, it's not. It's boring. Thanks dude. I'm sure that Columbia/Revolution had some hand in the cuts as well, saying that it moved too slow and that us sheep are only interested in violence and cool CGI instead of a slow, steady buildup and some characters we could actually give two shits about.

It's an inferior version of a classic (IMO). While to original was a classy and simple ghost story that has a nice slow burn with some likeable characters and suspenseful situations, this one is all about the FX and fast pace. The ending of the original was a slap in the face to see if you were still paying attention and left you gasping in horror. This one leaves you scratching your head saying "Where the hell did that final twist come from, and what the hell did it have to do with anything?" Lame.

Dumb characters, poor acting, half-witted direction and a putrid script, this updated version of The Fog should have been left out to sea.

1 out of 5

*written 10/14/05

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