Director: Rupert Wainwright
Cast: Tom Welling, Maggie Grace, Rade Serbedzija, Selma Blair
Screenplay: Cooper Layne
100 mins. Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief sexuality.
For those of you that have read my opinions and discussions for some time, especially in the realm of horror, you’ll know that John Carpenter is one of my all-time favorite filmmakers. I’m talking Mount Rushmore of filmmakers, and that’s all-time, not just in horror. One of Carpenter’s best films is The Fog. That film was remade in 2005, and has since been called one of the worst films of all time. It’s been quite awhile since I’ve seen the 2005 film (I believe I came across a copy when Blockbuster shut down, haphazardly putting it in my hands without stopping to realize that it was not the 1980 John Carpenter film. I’m not sure the last time I actually saw it, but I figured now, with 15 years on it, I should give it another go and see for myself if it’s really that bad. Come along and join me.
Antonio Island is about to celebrate a major town anniversary, and the families of the founders are set to unveil a new statue to celebrate the town’s heritage. What the townspeople do not know, though, is that a fog is about to roll in, and with it, the town’s dreaded past, for there is something vengeful in the fog, and no one on Antonio Island is safe.
The one memory I have of ingrained from previous viewings of The Fog 2005 is the confusion I feel every time I watch it. There’s a number of nonsensical plot points deep within the film’s narrative that I’ve never been able to get past. What anniversary are they celebrating, and why is it so important? It doesn’t seem to be an important date. What does the ending mean (I won’t go into spoilers, but the twist or reveal has never quite made any sense whatsoever)? Why, oh why, are we following such unlikable characters?
To go off that, we spend quite a bit of time with Nick Castle (Tom Welling, The Choice, TV’s Smallville) and his will-they-or-won’t-they girlfriend Elizabeth Williams (Maggie Grace, Taken, TV’s Fear the Walking Dead), but I don’t like Nick very much. Did he cheat on Elizabeth with local radio DJ Stevie Wayne (Selma Blair, Cruel Intentions, After) or were they not steady at the time? I just can’t place any of the character relationships together in this film. There seems to be so much “I Don’t Know” going on in this movie, and the characters suffer, as did any of my caring for their safety, with the possible exception of Stevie Wayne.
I really liked Selma Blair’s portrayal of the character, one played to perfection by Adrienne Barbeau in the original film. Blair would not have been the obvious choice in my mind, but she does the best she can with a somewhat poorly written character who makes a few really dumb choices in the narrative. Blair handles it well, but there are moments when the screenplay by Cooper Layne (The Core) push Stevie into making the emotional choices that diminish the strength that she has had before. It’s a narrative risk that makes the character less likable, saved only by a pretty strong performance.
There’s a fundamental lesson in film that is only now being learned by more and more filmmakers and studios, but The Fog is a great case study for it. The argument that CG is better than practical is a foolish one. Looking back at classic films like Jurassic Park, which still looks great, we can see that CG is only really successful when it helps aid the practical effects and is used only when required. The ghosts and creature effects for The Fog 2005 look cheap and fail to create and suspense or fear. Now, look back on The Fog 1980, where the ghosts were created using a strong costume design and makeup aided by…green lights for the eyes. Comparing the two, I would take the green-lit foggy ghost creatures of the 1980 film any time over the really disappointing effects of the 2005 film. I admire the idea of making the fog more of a character, and I think it could’ve worked, but here, this fog and these creatures are wholly forgettable.
The Fog fails in just about every sense as an updating of the mythos and a reimagining of the horrors of Carpenter’s original. Is it one of the worst films ever made? No, it’s just bad. It’s a bad movie. There isn’t anything scary about it, the plot features a lot of things just happening with no real momentum or sense, and the attempt to try new things with the story resulted in a story that has nothing to say. It isn’t one of the worst films of all time, but I see no reason why anyone should choose this film over the original. I know I certainly won’t.
-Kyle A. Goethe