THE FOG (2005)
CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE FOG (2005)
by Michael Arruda & L.L. Soares
(Note: this poster for THE FOG is actually much cooler than the actual movie. ~ LLS)
.(In a deep, menacing fog, a whistle blows—.)
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Tea’s on! (Picks up kettle and waves away foggy steam.)
L.L. SOARES: You would drink tea!
MA (Pouring water into mug): Hey, Christopher Lee drinks tea. Nuff said! Welcome everyone to Cinema Knife Fight. Join us while I drink some tea and L.L drinks— blood, probably.
LS: Hey, Christopher Lee drinks blood!
MA: Touche! Today we’re reviewing THE FOG, the remake of the John Carpenter film from 1980. There are two words to keep in mind today, pacing and style. THE FOG (2005 edition) has neither.
There’s no pacing whatsoever to this movie. It’s as slow and as boring as— well, fog. The story, in a nutshell, for those of you who have never seen the original, is a ghost tale. A ship carrying members of a leper colony sinks under mysterious circumstances. One hundred years later, the ship and crew return in an eerie fog to haunt the descendants of the small coastal community, Antonio Bay, which caused the wreck in the first place. Not a bad premise, really.
Now, I was psyched to see this film because although I do like the John Carpenter original, I admit the 1980 film has many flaws. John Carpenter is one of the few filmmakers who has made great movies with lousy scripts. THE FOG (1980) has more holes in its plot than SpongeBob Squarepants, the dialogue is hokey, and the ghostly villains are never quite fleshed out enough to make them truly scary, but what the 1980 film does have, and it’s all thanks to Carpenter, is style.
The fog in the 1980 version, with its otherworldly green glow, is immediately memorable, compared to the fog in the 2005 remake, which, while being more realistic looking, is also nothing we haven’t seen before. It’s like watching THE PERFECT STORM again. And the scene on the fishing boat in the 1980 version is one of the creepiest horror scenes of all time. The same scene in the 2005 version is just ordinary.
John Carpenter also wrote amazing music for his films (anyone NOT know the HALLOWEEN theme?). He wrote a similar haunting and effective score for THE FOG (1980). The remake’s score is ordinary. The 1980 version had a great cast which included Jamie Lee Curtis, Adrienne Barbeau, and even Janet Leigh. The remake’s cast—you got it!— ordinary.
(There is a loud pounding on the door)
I went into this movie wanting to like it. I was hoping the film would be an improvement over the 1980 version. It’s not.
LS: Y’know, my take on remakes is basically that the only reason to do them is if you can make them better. A great example that comes to mind is John Carpenter’s remake of THE THING (1982). He took an above-average 1951 sci-fi movie about a violent alien discovered in the Arctic, and amped up the frights and effects, and even improved on the story. It’s one of the rare examples of someone remaking a film and doing it even better. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough THINGs to justify remakes as a whole.
MA: Hammer Films made a living off remakes, don’t forget.
LS: I was never much of a fan of Carpenter’s original version of THE FOG; I felt it was one of his weaker efforts- all build-up and not enough payoff. It could actually be improved upon if it was remade by a director with real ability.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case with the new version. Director Rupert Wainwright this time around completely drops the ball and actually makes a movie that is much worse than the flawed original. At least Carpenter has a sense of style, even in his weaker efforts. The remake is as bland as they come. Like the original, this version takes forever to get to the good parts. And the characters this time around are mostly one-dimensional and forgettable. Tom Welling, TV’s Clark Kent from SMALLVILLE, isn’t horrible here, but he really isn’t given much of a chance to flesh out his character either. The same goes for Maggie Grace (from LOST), as Welling’s long lost love, come back to town to visit her estranged family.
MA: It’s interesting that in the original, the Jamie Lee Curtis character is picked up while hitchhiking, and she immediately enters into a sexual relationship with the man who picks her up, Nick Castle (Tom Atkins), the male lead and good guy in the movie. In the remake, in a variation of the same scene, the hitchhiker turns out to be Castle’s girlfriend, completely erasing the “casual sex” angle. What a difference 25 years makes! Ever get the feeling sometimes we’re going backwards?
LS: You bet! Then again, casual sex might hurt Superman’s clean-cut image.
(Loud pounding continues)
(MA opens the door to find some kids dressed as Michael Myers, Snake Pliskin and The Thing): Trick or —!
(They see MA & LS and scream and run away).
LS (shouts): Wimps!
(MA closes door): We have such good candy, too. (Glances at bowl full of squirming things).
LS: Selma Blair as Stevie Wayne, the disc jockey who talks and spins records through most of the first half of the movie (what – CD’s haven’t reached Antonio Bay yet in the new version?), was probably my favorite character (although she’s no Adrienne Barbeau).
MA (bruised and bloody with a Sylvester Stallone chest): Adrienne! Adrienne!
LS: But even she was one step beyond a cardboard cutout.
The good bits include a few chilling scenes like a leprous hand that shoots out of a sink drain and infects Stevie’s mother, and shards of broken glass dancing in the air around a priest before skewering him. But there aren’t enough of these moments to make the new movie worthwhile, which is sad, because this story could have been done better the second time around.
MA: I agree. It really is too bad, because the premise has so much potential. Ghost ships in the fog are creepy. It’s a great starting point for a story. It amazes me that neither film took full advantage of what they had.
LS: Maybe, similar to the lepers who haunt Antonio Bay every hundred years, they’ll keep remaking THE FOG every 25 years until someone finally gets it right.
(Originally published in the HELLNOTES newsletter on October 20, 2005)
© Copyright 2005 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares