Nick Castle (Tom Welling) makes his living with the boat his father left to him, taking tourists out to fish off of Antonio Island. He spends his spare time with local Indie radio station owner Stevie Wayne (Selma Blair) on occasion, but his former flame Elizabeth Williams (Maggie Grace) has mysteriously returned to town and recaptures Tom’s eye on the way in. In a yet completely unrelated story, on the eve of a celebration dedicating a statue to the four founding fathers of the local town, a mysterious fog seems to rise up nightly and cause aimless mayhem for the small town.
There are few excuses that Stigmata director Rupert Wainwright could use for the hack job that this remake of John Carpenter’s The Fog became. Did the studio have final cut? Did someone order a PG-13 version after the R-rated was shot? Does anyone have a clue why the original film lingered in the minds of moviegoers long enough to warrant a remake at all? If this version were an original idea with no previous connection to any previous work, the least that could be said is that the script is aimless, the film’s intent is fuzzy, and the finished product is ineffective. As a remake, there’s just no excuse for this.
We’ll start with the cast: bad choices. Everything is skewed younger, turning the sleepy town of Antonio Bay into the edge of Indie and hip-hop that the studio hopes to make their intended target; the politically-correct inclusion of a clich?© African-American into a WASP Mecca with nothing more to do than spew poor one-liners (while channeling Ice Cube) is sadly playing to the viewer of lowest common denominator. Welling and Grace have all the on screen chemistry of two wet rubber balls being squashed together, while the rest of the cast have too much backstory for one-dimensional cut-out characters. While most of the dialogue was blatant and repetitious, Selma Blair at least echoes what the audience is thinking, even if unintentionally (“Beam me out of here, Scotty”).
Next is the story: more bad choices. Gone are the campfire elements of fable to haunt the imagination throughout the running time, replaced instead with detailed, boorish, and obvious flashbacks. Moreover, the ghosts wander without purpose, establishing then breaking the rules concerning their supernatural killing abilities. Finally there’s the last gasp of the “twist ending” that can only serve as a warning to other directors that audiences aren’t buying into these anymore, especially when unwarranted and unfounded. The audience isn’t even trusted enough to draw their own conclusions before conspiracy clues are spoon-fed to them.
Lastly are special effects: they’re inconsistent and often terrible. The digital fog looks so poor in comparison to anything resembling actual fog that it’s laughable (example: the point-of-view fog that sweeps across Antonio Bay, senselessly racing forward like a swarm of killer clouds intent on making victims switch on their car window defrosters). Still other effects seem only to be self-serving, outsourced effects sequences strung together because they look cool yet make no story sense. By the end, the characters (who we feel nothing for) have become so obviously overwhelmed by the our-will-be-done supernatural entities that there’s really nothing for them (or the audience) to do and wait for it to happen; no recourse, no hope, and not enjoyable.
Again, direct comparisons to Carpenter’s original (if sometimes spotty) ghost fable aren’t fair. It’s easier to suggest that everything working in the original film was discarded and everything that didn’t was brought forward and stretched to the breaking point of predictable boredom. While The Fog‘s former creative alumni Debra Hill and John Carpenter gave their blessings as producers of the remake without involving themselves in any actual aspect of the production, it’s safe to say that the two of them truly gave the filmmakers all the rope they needed to hang themselves with. Here’s hoping at least a few of those responsible use it as intended and with our blessing.
(a no skull recommendation out of four)