Worth A Look: 3.41%
Pretty Bad: 30.68%
Total Crap: 56.82%
7 reviews, 46 user ratings
|Fog, The (2005)
by Doug Bentin
Finally, I think I’m getting a grip on this horror movie remake thing, and why the second version of the material is usually so stinky. Sorry to be such a pest about it but I’ve never outgrown the genre and I think about stuff like this when I’m supposed to be working on other things. You know how it is.So what I’m thinking now is that, in many cases, it’s all a matter of experience. The guys who made the first version of the picture had it and the guys working on the remake don’t. Director Rupert Wainwright made a limp picture called “Stigmata,” and his leads in “The Fog” have had success on TV—Tom Welling on “Smallville” and Maggie Grace on “Lost”—but none of them are recognizable horroristas.
"The fog creeps in on little cat feet . . . and then stumbles."
Carpenter’s version featured Jamie Lee Curtis, Charles Cyphers, and Nancy Loomis, fresh from “Halloween,” Janet Leigh of “Psycho” fame, and was held in place by Hal Holbrook, who could do anything. Of course, Carpenter himself and producing/writing partner Debra Hill were known for “Halloween,” too.
My point is that audiences in 1980 had expectations due to their familiarity with these names and faces, and so part of the work of scaring them had already been done. Of course modern Hollywood knows that audiences bring expectations to the theater with them. That’s why trailers today are essentially two-minute condensations of the films they are designed to promote. The Marketing Brains in El Lay are convinced that the butts in theater seats don’t want to be surprised by anything in a new picture. The brains sitting atop those butts don’t seem to matter.
A few years ago I took part in a round table interview with Dan Aykroyd re the opening of “Pearl Harbor.” He seemed a little tense due, I thought, to a perception that we film writers didn’t care much for the movie so I tried to loosen him up by asking him if he had enjoyed with working with Ivan Reitman again. “Evolution” was opening soon and Aykroyd had been featured in the trailer.
He told me that he hadn’t worked with Reitman in a while, I said “But you’re in ‘Evolution,’ and he said “I’m not in that movie,” and I said “You’re in the trailer,” and he got angry.
“I hate that goddamn trailer!” he snarled. “Ivan and I asked them not to use it.”
It seems that the marketing crew insisted that Aykroyd’s face be seen in the trailer in hopes that he would sell a few tickets. Aykroyd and Reitman wanted his last act entry into the story to come as a surprise. Marketing didn’t want any surprises.
This may seem pretty far removed from the remake of “The Fog,” but it’s all part of my point that film promoters want you to know exactly what you’re getting when you plunk your butt into the seat, and one of the ways to formulate expectations for a horror movie is to cast it with actors who are familiar faces from previous fright films. Good titles help, too. If you think people didn’t have specific expectations for a movie called “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” think again.
Even “The Fog,” as a title, has a little of that foreboding attached to it. Like “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th,” it makes us think of something traditionally associated with unease.
Anyway, audiences for the new version may know its leads as TV actors, but they don’t know them as frighteners so their attitude may be one of “show me.” And “The Fog” doesn’t have much to show.
Set on Antonio Island off the coast of Oregon, the film wants to be a traditional campfire ghost story, but someone needs to throw more kindling on the flames. Carpenter began his film with a literal campfire and an old man telling this tale to a group of spellbound kids. Note, too the inside horror fan joke of naming the elderly storyteller Mr. Machen, a reference to Arthur Machen, the late Victorian author of “The White People” and other creepy tales.
Also, the original picture ends with a short, sharp shock, the kind of GOTCHA adults love to throw at kids at the end of a spooky story. In other words, it’s all just a ghostly yarn for a dark night. Pass the marshmallows.
Wainwright and screenwriter Cooper Layne have chosen to jettison this framework and present the film as if it were telling a story that really happened.
Nick Castle—a name taken from the original script, Nick Castle being the actor who played Michael Meyers in “Halloween,” an inside joke that has no meaning now—runs a fishing boat charter. His anchor dredges up a chest from the bottom of the ocean and then eerie ghosts from the area’s past inhabit and travel around in a thick fog. And I mean really thick. So thick, in fact, it can hurl bodies through windows. The ghosts seek to take revenge on the people of the island for wrongs done to them in 1871. Why they do this, in part, by emerging from a kitchen sink drain is beyond me.
It isn’t giving away a shock moment to tell you about the ghost arm shooting up from the drain to grab the sucker at the sink. The action is set up so poorly through give-away camera angles, Wainwright might as well have inserted a flashing warning on the screen reading “Scare Coming Up. Please Close Your Eyes and Scream.”
My other favorite moment of jaw-dropping stupidity comes when Grace’s character is left alone in a makeshift morgue room with the corpse of a victim on a table, covered by a sheet. She is in the foreground, the body and the table behind her by several yards of distance.
Yes, it’s that patented John Carpenter gag in which the corpse sits up behind her, rises from the table, and begins shambling towards us. She hears nothing. Dead bodies don’t make any noise when they stumble around, but then, if it suits the moment, no one makes any noise when they move in a horror movie.
So the re-animated corpse whispers something to Grace and then collapses at her feet as she lets out a scream or two. The Welling protagonist rushes, along with the town’s mayor and a cop, and one or two other guys.
At this point in the story, the men in authority have no reason to believe that anything supernatural is going on, so from their point of view the girl must have wrapped her arms around the corpse, dragged it off the table and lugged it across the room, then dropped it and started yelling. Do any of them ask her why she did such a morbid, not to say stupid, thing? Is she questioned? Is she held for questioning? No, we immediately see her and Nick leaving the area together.
Of course it’s customary for characters doing what would appear to any sane person to be inexplicable things to remain unchallenged in cheesy horror movies, but such situations always elicit an inner groan of incredulity from me, accompanied by a hasty return of any disbelief I’d been able to willingly suspend up to that point.
Despite perambulating corpses, the film isn’t at all gory, even when to leave out the blood makes what you see on the screen just plain silly. Shards of glass penetrate a man’s torso, ripping his clothes but causing no bleeding.
“The Fog” isn’t the worst, but it barely makes it up to the mediocre level. And if you’re wondering why John Carpenter would produce such a lousy remake of one of his own films, my bet would be that receiving a producer credit was part of the deal he made with this new production company, and that he didn’t have much, if anything, to do with the actual manufacturing of the movie.
He should have settled for the money.If you’re frightened by loud noises, “The Fog” will scare you silly. If it takes realistic characterization, careful plotting, well-controlled atmosphere, and an aura of mystery, forget about it.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=13169&reviewer=405
originally posted: 10/27/05 03:05:41
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