** (out of 5)
October 14, 2005
Tom Welling as NICK CASTLE
Maggie Grace as ELIZABETH WILLIAMS
Selma Blair as STEVIE WAYNE
DeRay Davis as SPOONER
Kenneth Welsh as TOM MALONE
Adrian Hough as FATHER MALONE
Sara Bosford as KATHY WILLIAMS
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Directed by: Rupert Wainwright
BY KEVIN CARR
I can just see the development meeting in my mind’s eye… A bunch of stuffed-shirt studio executives are sitting around a table, drinking Evian water and eating organically processed cheese. One says to the other, “Let’s remake ‘The Fog.’” But instead of making and retaining what made the original so good, they decided to do it the Hollywood way.
Of course, this meant they had to reject the idea of using seasoned actors and demanded the use of “young, hot actors” that will appeal to the ever-coveted PG-13 audience. This meant they had to turn to television – Wednesday nights, to be exact. Plucking Tom Welling from his role as Superboy from “Smallville” and Maggie Grace from her role as the rich bitch castaway from “Lost,” they thought they had great replacements for Jamie Lee Curtis and Tom Adkins from the original film.
And to play Stevie Wayne, the independent disc jockey atop the lighthouse broadcast station, they chose Selma Blair. This actually wasn’t a bad casting choice, considering that Blair has the same off-center allure that Adrienne Barbeau had twenty five years ago. Unfortunately for Blair, they never utilized well, as Barbeau had been in the 1980 version.
“The Fog” tells the grisly history of a small island town of Antonio Bay, off the Pacific coast. More than 100 years ago, the founding fathers made a small settlement into a thriving township. While they are being honored now, their past is, pardon the pun, a little foggy. Now, a ghost ship has returned with vengeful spirits. They emerge from an eerie fog and begin attacking the townsfolk.
I’ll admit that this new version of “The Fog” is relatively close to the original – at least for the first two thirds of the film. In fact, I made a point to watch the original after seeing this new one to form a comparison. However, while many of the scenes are basically reshoots, they’re all done with a lesser effect. What John Carpenter himself called “a little exploitation horror movie” managed to be better than a $20 million film with an entire studio behind it.
There are some changes from the original script – mostly for the worse. For example, in this version, it is Elizabeth who finds the diary of Patrick Malone instead of Father Malone. And the entire character of Father Malone is ruined. The brooding, conflicted man of God that Hal Holbrook played in the original is replaced with your basic drunk Irish priest. Nothing like bowing to stereotypes. Why don’t they just populate the town with Jewish bankers, Hispanic mechanics and black people robbing Korean-owned convenience stores?
Watching this version of “The Fog” is like watching a cut-rate Roger Corman rip-off of a big Hollywood film, only the tables are ironically turned. It was the original “The Fog” that had the micro-budget and was plagued with production mishaps. The big budget studio version seems pale in comparison. All the scenes and most of the story is there, but things just aren’t as good. There’s almost no suspense, and by the end, the special effects overrun what little plot there is.
Sure, the fog effects are great. Of course they’re going to be better in this age of digital technology. But the magic of Carpenter’s original film is missing. In fact, even the fog effects lack spirit. In the original, the fog was a character of its own. Indeed, it was the title character. Glowing fog banks rolled over the sleepy little town of Antonio Bay, but in this new version all I see is some guy behind a computer.
The cast of this film doesn’t hold a candle to the original. Making the cast younger is such a blatant grab at the teenage audience, which isn’t bad per se, but Welling and Grace just don’t carry the film. And as I’ve said before, Selma Blair was completely misused throughout the film. Welling at least has a good big-screen appeal, but Maggie Grace better hope that her character survives on her Wednesday night television island because she’s nothing special on the big screen.
You might think I’m being a little too harsh on this film because I’m comparing it too much to the original. But let’s take the original out of the picture for a minute. “The Fog” is still a clunky movie. Sometimes things don’t quite make sense. The motivations of the characters really aren’t that clear unless you know the history of the original film. And to make matters worst, the ending (which has been changed dramatically from the original) is a complete cop-out and inexplicable mess.