Letter From The Editor - Issue 59 - October 2017

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Writing Fantasy

  
At The Picture Show
October 2005

The Fog is up to no good

The Fog
Revolution Studios
Director: Rupert Wainright
Screenplay: Cooper Layne, based on a 1980 script by John Carpenter and Debra Hill
Starring: Tom Welling, Selma Blair, Maggie Grace, Adrian Hough, DeRay Davis and Rade Sherbedgia
Rated PG-13/1 hour, 40 minutes
Opened Oct. 14, 2005
(out of four)

If anyone knows what it feels like to be (unfairly) rendered obsolete, it's gotta be John Carpenter. Just this year alone, the writer/director/composer has seen two of his cult classics re-made -- Assault on Precinct 13 earlier this year, and now this week's The Fog, which is so horrid the studio wouldn't even let the critics see it before its release (see also Alien vs. Predator).

To add insult to injury, there are already reported plans in the works to re-make Carpenter's The Thing, Escape from New York and even his classic Halloween -- as if two decades' worth of bad sequels weren't bad enough already. I feel sorry for the guy.

But on to the business at hand. Twenty-five years after the original release of The Fog -- an old-fashioned ghost story about a mysterious fog that rolls through the small town of Antonio Bay and wreaks havoc on the town's 100th anniversary -- Hollywood decided it was already time for a modern-day update. And so Revolution Studios brought in Rupert Wainright, the revered artist behind such classics as Stigmata and Disney's Blank Check, to helm the new version.

The characters have been modified from the original, but the new script doesn't deviate too much. The basics are all the same -- the fog rolls in one night, and everything goes haywire. Electricity goes out, clocks stop, phone lines go down. People start disappearing, and eventually show up dead. "Stay away from the fog," cries Stevie Wayne (Selma Blair), the town's radio DJ with a bit too much moxie for her own good. "There's something in the fog!"

For those who haven't seen the original, I'll leave out the more specific and mysterious details of the plot -- but suffice it to say that the town, and the ancestors of its founding fathers, really have it coming.

But the problem with this new incarnation of The Fog isn't just that it's a completely unnecessary remake -- it's that it's simply not a very good one. While Carpenter's original wasn't anything to write home about (it certainly wasn't one of his best efforts), it was well-directed, and Carpenter generated some genuinely spooky imagery. Wainright doesn't have the same eye, and, like so many other directors these days, relies too much on digital effects. Carpenter's fog was a true villain; it looked like the physical manifestation of impending doom. Wainright's fog looks . . . well, it just looks like fog. How boring.

Even in the 1980 version, the story was more than a bit lacking, but screenwriter Cooper Layne somehow manages to lower the stakes and make the story even less interesting, even while making the plot more needlessly confusing than it has any right to be. And his excuse for snappy dialogue goes something like this. "Leave my forefathers out of this," says Spooner (DeRay Davis), otherwise known as the film's Token Black Guy. "I'm from Chicago. South side!"

Ha-ha.

The film's plot developments and explanations and (in particular) its final conclusion are so completely nonsensical and, well, stupid that it might cause us to scratch our heads in disbelief . . . if only we actually cared.

Well, we don't. There is not a single memorable character to be found, despite a potentially charismatic cast that includes Tom Welling (Smallville), Maggie Grace (Lost) and Rade Sherbedgia (everyone's favorite indestructible former KGB operative, Boris the Blade, from Snatch).

But the lack of an enticing character is the least of The Fog's problems. The film is simply a huge mistake from the very beginning. The bottom line is that it's just not scary, or suspenseful, or even mysterious. And that's three strikes right there.

Read more by Chris Bellamy


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