Darke Reviews | The Fog (2005)

Oh Hollywood, how do you love to go back to the well. Either through contracts that give up rights (Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street), desperation from their owners, or perhaps some vain hope that it will be better than it was twenty or thirty years ago; you find ways to get the rights to do a remake. Heck, sometimes you rely on the public domain element of films and characters (Dracula). Yet, inexplicably, you are almost nigh incapable of doing these remakes well most notably in the horror genre. With few exceptions, these remakes and reimaginings are almost universally flops, critical failures, and fan failures. Only a handful, in my humble opinion, come close or exceed the original work.

So where does the 2005 remake of The Fog come in?

Lets take the writer, Cooper Layne. He has naught but the Core as his *only* other writing credit. Now while I enjoyed the Core and all its beautiful silliness, it failed. This film, also failed with a whopping 4% on Rotten Tomatoes in comparison to the 68% of the original. Where the first was nuanced and subtle, this one lacks well – any of it. The imply don’t show rules? Out the window. Plot? The first had a pretty concrete story that stood on its own, everything worked right and played right beginning to end.  The plot is mostly the same, but this one adds a ‘timeless’ romance to the narrative for…reasons.

Reasons

I am sure the director, writer, or producers said this exact phrase.

 

Seriously, it has no point. It serves nothing. I think the only reason its here is because Young Adult fiction and films targeted at the Millennial generation assume they are stupid and thats all they want or need in a film. There is rumor the film was greenlit with only 18 pages of script written. 18. That’s maybe 20% of a functional script. Way to go Revolution Studios!

I can’t blame the writer entirely, though I want to. The director also gets his cut as well, so this is me now targeting Rupert Wainwright.  To be perfectly fair, I don’t think Wainwright was prepared for this. He hadn’t figured out his style yet. He had Blank Check (a kids movie), Stigmata ..a rather intense religious supernatural drama, and now he was given a Teen Supernatural Horror? Honestly though, the shots weren’t all bad. Some scenes worked, but if you have a bad script there’s only so much you can do – like rewrite. I blame the director for making a decision to use horrific CG rather than practical.

Yes, all of the effects were god awful. The Fog itself was a total failure and CGI nightmare. I am *almost* certain I could have created better looking fog on my own computer with no training. I have seen SyFy movies of the week with better fog. The showing rather than implying caused such fail it was absolutely laughable. Things happened for no reason and just didn’t carry any weight when most of them did from an FX standpoint. You are spending too much time going “why” rather than “oh cool.” Even the Poster looks like a knock off from The Mummy six years earlier.

Sometimes acting can at least redeem a film, sadly this is not the case. Tom Welling gets the role of Nick Castle and is as wooden as piece of drift wood. I’d say it was a fluke, but I’ve seen enough elements of Smallville I know this is how he usually is. Maggie Grace (Taken, Lost) was just starting her career and does reasonably well, but doesn’t have the experience to deal with the garbage or bring out the best in those around her yet. She does well enough despite the silliness. Selma Blair (Hellboy, Legally Blonde) is no Adrienne Barbeau, of course she has as much garbage to deal with here and it doesn’t work and takes away from the tension. No one else is even worth mentioning. Even the usually fun to watch Rade Serbedzija is humorless and unimpressive – save one scene as he beats someone across the street.

TL;DR?

I actually own this. I was entertained by some aspects, but the reality is this is a bad film. It has a bad ending. It suffers from so many problems that its a shipwreck. The FX are probably the worst sin the movie has and make it near unredeemable. I put this in my collection of bad movies. It is *not* recommended unless you want to watch a bad film. It’s not even in the so bad its good category or so bad you can MST3K it and have fun. It’s just kinda…bad.

So in the realm of Hollywood remakes, this gives a lesson on what not to do in almost every situation it presents.

 

 

Darke Reviews | The Fog (1980)

I often talk about how atmosphere is one of the most important elements to a creative work, any creative work. Let me give a quite silly example: Picture the Mona Lisa in a circus tent. It no longer carries the weight as if it were in the Louvre. When I spoke of the movie Halloween recently, I talked about how the music was as important to the film as anything else. Give it a different soundtrack or even no soundtrack and much of the important mood setting atmosphere is gone. Also consider the atmosphere Halloween and fall give as a season.  Look at this image from Halloween 3: Season of the Witch. The image alone, with the shades of orange and deep shadows, the witch hat and dim street lights conjure and evoke emotion and images in your head. THIS is the very definition of atmosphere when it pertains to creative works. What does it make you feel when you see the set, the colours, or hear the sounds.

If you don't feel fall and October seeing this, you have no soul! (and I didn't steal it)

If you don’t feel fall and October seeing this, you have no soul! (and I didn’t steal it)

So in 1980 John Carpenter, and his partner, Debra Hill worked together again after the phenomenal success of Halloween to give us The Fog. Now, any of my coastal or moisture ridden geographical location readers know the meteorological event known as fog, is a driving nightmare.  Visibility goes to hell in a handbasket. Sound gets distorted. During the day it will burn off – usually – but in the morning and evenings it becomes interesting as light is distorted and shapes become soft and blurry. A night – well at night, fog becomes a living entity. It swallows things when they move just a little bit away from you. It becomes as if they didn’t exist at all in mere moments when you would expect to see it normally. Normally benign shapes become threatening and light passes through it in all sorts of ways. Look at this photo below, this was just as sunset was happening right before a Ghost Tour. The fog creates something here that wasn’t there…

Want to take a tour? (I did, was awesome, but the fog helped)

Even Stephen King has a story about a similar event in The Mist (one of the few stories to ever scare me). So back to the review, Fog itself invokes feelings and images alone. Add the context of a horror movie which spend so much time at night. Now add a Ghost Story to it. Interested? So were audiences, as this is what Cameron and Hill gave us. Take a small coastal California town and have it be invaded by spectral pirates within the fog (c’mon that sounds too cool), terrorizing its citizens. Shoot on a low budget of the time for $1 million, and spend as much time building atmosphere as you do building story and you have a successful film that lasts decades.

Of course, this also needs good actors as well. Carpenter cast his wife at the time Adrienne Barbeau, who mostly had done TV before, as the “voice” of the movie DJ Stevie Wayne who broadcasts from her lighthouse. Jamie Lee Curtis makes her second film appearance here as one of the film heroines Elizabeth. Carpenter even snagged her mother, the esteemed Janet Leigh, as a role in the film. Heavy Tom Atkins (Halloween 3, Serpico,  Creepshow) plays Nick Castle; the name of the actor who played The Shape in Halloween, our film hero.  Other greats include Hal Holbrook and John Houseman. While the film may have been quickly scripted, shot on a budget, and even been plagued by reshoots, every actor carries their scenes as if it were appropriately life and death.

From a purely technical perspective, the movie is remarkably strong. The use of fog (duh), silhouettes, and super bright white lights does a tremendous job. The fog itself is a living thing and something you become afraid of because you can’t see whats coming, but you know it will be bad. As they were working on a budget so many of the effects and scenes rely on the famous rule of implying without showing. You don’t have to see someone actually killed on screen. A single shape in the right place, a hook hand, and foot steps walking up behind an unsuspecting victim. You know what is about to happen, you find yourself going “No!” and hoping for the best, but know otherwise. This is where some of the best horror comes from – what you can’t see. When you can see something you can fight it. You might have a chance to win. While the effects do work and are strong, they are also dated. I almost want someone to go in and try to clean up or modernize some of the effects on the original film to bring them to more timelessness. I don’t mean to change them, but to clean them. Changing them …well I will talk about that tomorrow.

TL;DR?

The Fog is a beautifully crafted, atmospheric, horror film that is near timeless. It isn’t perfect, it isn’t even “great”. But if you find yourself in the need for a ghost story with real weight and even an outcome that most movies would be afraid of these days, please watch this. It’s a good film for a foggy night. Its a good film for a rainy night. It’s a good film for October.

I don’t know where The Fog would show on my Top 50 horror movies of all time, but it would be up there. It is absolutely worth a shot.