Review: “The Fog (2005)”

Much like “The Game” was to David Fincher, the original 1980 “The Fog” was one of the lesser known early efforts of filmmaker John Carpenter. A smaller scale but effective in its own right little ghost story, it became one of those films that even fans of the master forget about as more attention gets paid to more popular titles like “Halloween” and “The Thing” which bookended it. Whilst it didn’t entirely work in its own right, it came with an effective atmosphere, solid cast and an interesting visual style.

Not so this modern update, a boorishly bland supernatural action thriller that seems like a throwback to the rash of lacklustre PG-13 spook house flicks which dominated the box-office in the early weeks of this year – a time when another Carpenter early work, “Assault on Precinct 13”, got a far more entertaining redux.

Wainwright’s “The Fog” does succeed at least in remaining faithful to the original film’s premise, and tries adding a little bit more substance to the back story of the ghosts terrorising the town of Antonio Bay. Yet the beauty of Carpenter’s original phantasmic tale was its simplicity, the new version unnecessarily complicating events that happened whilst adding in a range of silly new elements revolving around our lead heroinne.

Add to that a bunch of ineffectual jump scares ranging from the obvious (the autopsy room corpse) to the just plain ridiculous (the underwater netting) and the core audience will find it all a bit tedious. In fact they may find the film’s title star, the often far too CG-ish fog, to be irritating thanks to the endlessly repeated use of the same ‘creepy breath effect’ audio cue throughout the picture (the ghosts themselves seem ripped right out of the last “Lord of the Rings” film).

Little can be said of the human stars of this venture either – Welling and Grace aren’t the greatest actors in the world but prove more effective actors on their regular TV series than they are here. The former, armed with two-day stubble, has little to do but show off his truly beautiful body whilst the later just runs around screaming like your standard useless horror movie heroinne.

Selma Blair, a usually reliable actress, delivers one of her weakest performances yet as a lighthouse radio DJ. Armed with really bad taste in music and a voice not made for radio, she has little to do but fill in time and worry about her son. Sigh, where’s Adrienne Barbeau and her near orgasmic breathy tones when you need her.

This “Fog” is a great example of displaying the one thing that many modern filmmakers forget to add to their creepy movies – atmosphere. One of the great scenes in the original film was an almost five minute sequence which simply showed how lighthouse radio DJ Stevie Wayne arrived at work, the only sound being different radio promos played over and over on her portable tape deck.

Modern filmmakers wouldn’t dare include such a sequence because they claim it would wreck the film’s pacing, and yet its these quiet lulls in the original that helped make the dread more palatable during the scary sequences in that film. The script makes the odd attempt to explore small town politics, revisionist history and such but its surface treatment only.

Same can be said for Wainwright’s direction which has the odd nice shot or setup, but overall drops the ball with its determination to try and be a faster and flashy thrill ride when subtlety and substance are far more suited to the material. Not scary, not haunting and not fun – it just chalks up another mark in the category of unnecessary remakes.