Starring Tom Welling, Maggie Grace, DeRay Davis, Selma Blair, Adrian Hough
Directed by Rupert Wainwright
Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Much has already been said about this wholly unnecessary remake of John Carpenter’s The Fog. The original, while hardly a perfect film, was still an effective enough combination ghost story and slasher flick to be remembered fondly by many a horror fan to this day. I missed out on seeing The Fog remake in theaters but knew I had to see it for myself eventually just to see if it was really as bad as many have said. Usually I’m the one seeing the bad movies and warning others to stay away, but this time the tables were turned. Now that I’ve seen the remake for myself I’ve got three words it: FUCK THIS MOVIE!
For those unfamiliar with the original, The Fog is set in the sleepy Pacific Northwest town of Antonio Bay that’s about to celebrate its centennial, but the town has a dark secret involving the town’s founders screwing over and murdering a ship full of lepers wanting to settle there and start a new life for themselves. Now on the eve of Antonio Bay’s 100th birthday, the revenge-minded ghosts come back to settle the score with the descendants of the town founders, which they do while enshrouded inside a massive fog bank that engulfs the town.
The original as directed by John Carpenter was a mood piece where the atmosphere was every bit as important to the telling of the tale as the characters and the ghosts. It starred Tom Atkins, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Adrienne Barbeau. This remake was directed by Rupert “Stigmata” Wainwright as a half-assed horror film rewritten by a committee of dunces and designed to appeal to people that hadn’t even been born when the original version first came out. This one stars Tom “Smallville” Welling, Maggie “Lost” Grace, and Selma “Hellboy” Blair. What Wainwright and company have produced is the movie equivalent of a shoddy high school theater production of a classic stage play.
Welcome to Antonio Bay, Oregon, which judging by the exceptionally photogenic nature of most of its under-25 townspeople is now a wholly owned subsidiary of the WB Network, soon to be the CW Network. Hardly anyone in this town under the age of 30 matters, which explains why the leads are walking mannequins. Tom Welling plays a hunky rent-a-boat fisherman or something along those lines, and Maggie is his ex-girlfriend that left town for reasons I don’t care to recall. She has just now returned and immediately jumps right back into the arms of Superboy. These two are absolute zeros on the charisma scale. Christopher Lee recently made disparaging comments about the young stars of today that studios keep casting as the leads in their movies. I’d be willing to speculate that he made those comments immediately after watching this film.
Maggie Grace wins the award for the single most uncomfortably bad performance I’ve seen since Tea Leoni’s deer in the headlights anchorwoman in Deep Impact. The girl just looks incredibly uncomfortable on the screen to the point that you have to wonder if she was exceptionally nervous throughout the entire production and, given the scowl she often makes, possibly suffering from a nasty case of indigestion. The highlight of her role is a wonderfully pointless sequence in which she falls into the water and has to go three rounds with a big bundle of seaweed in order to save her worthless life.
Selma Blair, on the other hand, is a good actress, just not here. Here she’s saddled with the Adrienne Barbeau role despite seeming too young to have a child as old as the one she does. More importantly, the movie totally botches her character from the original. A radio disc jockey operating from the town lighthouse, it was her duty to warn people about the fog, get a taste of the ghostly happenings to come, beg someone over the radio to save her son, and then fight for her own life against one of the spectral beings within the lighthouse itself. She does the first three, but the fourth and most important aspect has been discarded. This is particularly bad because that aspect was one of the best and most suspenseful parts of the original, and having her leave the lighthouse all but renders her character null and void from the proceedings. But she does get to be involved in an overblown car accident that would have instantly killed any person in real life; yet, she doesn’t even suffer a mild case of whiplash.
And what modern sucky-ass genre flick would be complete without the obligatory wisecracking black guy? Even if the movie is set in lily white Antonio Bay, Oregon. Suffice it to say, this character was not in the original movie. Although to the film’s credit, he never realizes the level of Stepin Fetchit annoyance as the token wisecracking black guy in Anacondas: The Hunt For The Blood Orchid did. He’s the Tom Welling character’s boating partner who likes to occasionally take the vessel out and turn it into the BET Uncut party boat. He ends up being the only survivor of the first encounter with the ghostly denizens of the fog, during which all the instruments onboard go berserk and explode except for the video camera that managed to film the whole fog ghost attack. So clearly the supernatural can affect traditional electronics but has no effect on modern digital technology.
The character of the frightened, guilt-ridden priest that knows the truth about the town’s founding and why the wraiths have returned originally played with controlled intensity by Hal Holbrook has been reduced to being your stereotypical rambling town lunatic without an ounce of subtlety. Not that it matters anyway since the finale of the original that was very much built around his character has been radically altered to the point that he’s just a bit player in the proceedings now.
So let’s talk about those ghosts. In the original Carpenter left them mostly to our imagination. We saw these shadowy figures but never in any detail — just glowing red eyes, seemingly tattered attire, and the scythes they used to dispatch the victims they lured out to their deaths by rapping on the door until someone made the mistake of opening it. Sure, some people might see them today and think those ghosts look like something out of an Eighties heavy metal video, but it was a simple design that worked precisely because it kept the mysterious beings a mystery. There is no mystery this time around. We get detailed looks at the ghosts, and they look like generic skeletal ghosts from about a half dozen other films I can think of. The script foolishly even has one of them talk during the finale, which is positively asinine on so many levels.
Remember, this is a PG-13 movie, and despite the DVD box proclaiming it to be an “Unrated Edition,” I didn’t see anything particularly gruesome enough to warrant being cut out save for one guy shown burning to death for a few extra seconds. Gone are the curved blades the ghosts used to hack and slash their way through the townspeople. Instead these ghosts have returned to seek vengeance by throwing people through windows. They really love any chance they can get to shatter some glass especially if it involves throwing someone through it. A couple of victims also get burned to death, but the true low-light of the film is the monumentally retarded scene where a ghostly hand come out of the sink, applies the mandible claw, and causes the person to instantaneously rot to death. You’d think with an ability like that they’d use it more than just once throughout the film. Perhaps continuous use of spontaneous supernatural leprosy just wasn’t in the budget?
Two thirds of The Fog feels like a dumbed down reproduction written using the Cliff Notes of the original; that is, until the third act where things go from worse to flat out atrocious, culminating in a monumentally retarded plot twist involving Maggie Grace’s character that’s truly worthy of being booed off the screen.
About the only nice thing I can say about Rupert Wainwright’s remake of John Carpenter’s The Fog is that it’s a well lit film. There you go, folks. The only redeeming quality is that it has good lighting. There is no real atmosphere of dread like the original. There is no dread whatsoever. There is nothing here but a bunch of good-looking people being spooked by a bunch of run-of-the-mill computer generated ghosts.
There’s a bunch of extras on the DVD including an audio commentary track by director Wainwright himself, but after enduring the movie, I simply could not bring myself to take in any of the extras.
Uncle Creepy interjects:
Well, since Foy is in a state of disgust the likes of which we rarely see, I’ll talk about the DVD extras. After all the abysmal shit he has sat through, I figure I owe him that. First off, let’s tackle the now prerequisite marketing tool: the words Unrated Version. Well, the good news is that it amounts to more than just a 3-second added clip. The additional scenes explore the storyline a bit further and actually do somewhat flesh out the film’s ideas. Why some of them were cut in the first place is anyone’s guess. Maybe just to mercifully spare us from a longer running time? If so, thank the gods. Other than the extra exposition, we get a good long look at some burning bodies. Yay burning bodies! There’s also a dry, albeit semi-informative commentary track that plays optionally throughout the film and its deleted scenes along with three making-of featurettes spanning everything from casting to special F/X. Watching the featurettes is sort of pitiful. It becomes painfully apparent that just about everyone behind this cinematic travesty knew they were making a cliché-ridden mess aimed at an extremely young audience. “Hopefully they’ll like it!” exclaims producer David Foster. Newsflash, David: The youth of today are not stupid. How about concentrating on making a good film that can reach all audiences instead of just one? Seems pretty simple, no? Anyway, that’s it. I now return you to regularly scheduled ranter, The Sultan of Schlock — The Foywonder!
*Leaves quietly before anyone gets hurt*
As I was renting the DVD, the clerk at Blockbuster told me he thought this version was better than the original. Had he said that to me after I had seen the movie, I may have very well considered jumping the counter and beating the idiot within an inch of his life. Between that comment, the day I witnessed a young Blockbuster clerk talk a couple out of renting the film Sexy Beast because it was “too British” in favor of Rob Schneider’s The Animal, and the time I encountered a Blockbuster clerk that insisted that The Scorpion King was a really good movie because he worked at Blockbuster and in order to do so “you have to know movies,” I’ve come to the conclusion that most of the people working at Blockbuster are actually dumber than the people that can’t get your order straight at most fast-food restaurants.
I’ll say it one more time: Fuck this movie. Fuck this movie and everyone involved with it. And the next time John Carpenter finds himself anywhere on a foggy night, I hope the ghost of Debra Hill returns to give him a tremendous smack to the back of his head for allowing this atrocity to happen.
Feature commentary with director Rupert Wainwright
Whiteout Conditions: Remaking a Horror Classic featurette
Seeing Through The Fog: The Making of The Fog featurette
Feeling the Effects of The Fog: Special Effects featurette
Deleted scenes with optional commentary
The DVD Extras
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