It’s interesting to note the difference in narrative approach of John Carpenter’s original “The Fog” and this 2005 remake. While Carpenter’s 1980 version elects to tell the tale by keeping the viewer in the dark, choosing instead to unravel the horror of the events themselves, the 2005 version is determined to solve the mystery even before the mystery is proven to be worthy. As a result, Rupert Wainwright’s “The Fog” goes out of its way to have its Fair Hair Lead played by Maggie Grace (Jamie Lee Curtis in the original) visiting libraries and museums in the hopes of uncovering answers before anything of real consequence as yet to occur. And true to the genre conventions of today, Grace’s Elizabeth Williams is, of course, having psychic visions of past events, a familiar gimmick for lazy screenwriters to impart exposition onto the audience.
“The Fog” is set in the prosperous seaside town of Antonio Bay , which is about to celebrate its visionary (or so they believe) four original founding fathers. As the celebration grows near, a strange, supernatural fog begins to roll in from the sea, carrying with it a ghost ship. At the same time, absent college student Elizabeth Williams (Maggie Grace) has returned home, where she renews acquaintances with hunky boyfriend Nick Castle (“Smallville’s” Tom Welling) and her estranged mother. Meanwhile, Nick’s boatmate Spooner (DeRay Davis) gets accused of murder, although we know it was the fog that did it. Damn that fog.
It probably comes as no surprise that 2005’s “The Fog” is as superfluous as Hollywood remakes get. The film is written by Cooper Layne, whose only previous credit was “The Core”, a big-budget movie devoid of any desire for originality. To prove just how pointless his remake is, Cooper has elected to keep whole scenes from Carpenter’s original, including the names of the main characters, except here everyone is a decade or two younger. The storyline, on the other hand, has been needlessly altered, as if Layne felt the need to change up the original just enough to qualify for WGA credit.
The film is directed by Rupert Wainwright, who is apparently too busy orchestrating elaborate CGI camera movements instead of engineering effective boo scares. Besides having no real impetus to “re-imagine” Carpenter’s original, “The Fog” is saddled with the conventions of the horror genre as defined today. To wit: the Fair Hair Lead who is tasked with discovering the truth by investigating old reports and asking questions of adults that they refuse to answer; the Loyal Boyfriend who doesn’t really do a whole lot except be loyal to his Fair Hair Lead girlfriend; the stereotypical Sassy Black Guy who sticks out like a sore thumb with his inherent Sassiness; and of course, Stupid Adults that can’t be counted on to provide any help four our battling young TV stars turned movie stars.
The film’s original rating was a PG-13, but the Powers That Be, as they are wont to do, are pushing an “Unrated” version of the movie, which is the version being reviewed here. The “Unrated” version clocks in at an hour and 42 minutes, and although I’ve not seen the original PG-13 cut, I can’t say as if this version has anymore gore than what you’d get from a PG-13 horror film to begin with. There is a mild love scene between Grace and Welling in a shower, but no bodyparts are shown or even hinted at, so addition nudity would seem to not be the reason either. At this point it’s anybody’s guess if this “Unrated” version truly is a new cut of the film at all.
To be fair, it’s not as if there was never a possibility that Wainwright’s version could have surpassed Carpenter’s original, which was itself nothing of real merit. If anything, Carpenter’s original is often derided for being unintentionally goofy. With plenty of money, studio backing, and major advances in the field of filmmaking, Wainwright has produced such a poor effort that it can’t help but encourage people to look at Carpenter’s 1980 original with even more fondness. After all, tasked with making a movie about a supernatural fog and of all things, pirate ghosts (or is that ghost pirates?), Carpenter and writing partner Debra Hill still managed to make a somewhat entertaining picture. Wainwright and scribe Cooper Layne can’t even be bothered with that whole “entertaining” part.
“The Fog’s” failure doesn’t come as any real surprise. Hollywood has dipped into this same vat for teen consumption over and over, and they’ll continue to do so as long as clueless teens keep paying full price to see them. Unfortunately, considering the dipping IQ of current American teens, Hollywood isn’t going to stop making movies like “The Fog” anytime soon. With a budget of $18 million, the film eventually took in twice as much at the box office. Combine that with DVD sales and rentals, don’t be surprise when “The Fog 2: Smog Attack” starring the latest batch of WB teen heartthrobs roll into your local Blockbuster sometime next year.
Rupert Wainwright (director) / Cooper Layne (screenplay), John Carpenter, Debra Hill (1980 screenplay)
CAST: Tom Welling …. Nick Castle
Maggie Grace …. Elizabeth Williams
Selma Blair …. Stevie Wayne
DeRay Davis …. Spooner
Kenneth Welsh …. Tom Malone
Adrian Hough …. Father Malone