Sony // 2005 // 103 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // January 24th, 2006
"What kind of fog goes against the wind?" -- One of The Fog's many thought provoking questions.
The Fog starts exactly one hundred years after a ship of lepers looking for refuge were betrayed and left for dead by the town of Antonio Bay's mean-spirited founding fathers. Fisherman Nick Castle (Tom Welling of TV's Smallville) and prodigal daughter Elizabeth Williams (Maggie Grace of TV's Lost) find themselves in the fight of their lives when a strange, ominous fog rolls into town carrying the town's dirty secrets with it. As townsfolk are killed off one by one, Nick and Elizabeth -- as well as local radio DJ Stevie Wayne (Selma Blair, The Sweetest Thing) -- must stay alive long enough to find out what The Fog wants, before it swallows them whole!
There is such a thing as too many remakes, and horror fans are learning that right quick. The horror film genre goes in circles: it can start with true terror, head into slasher mode, move on to PG-13 diluted scares, then self-referential half comedies, back to gritty '70s realism, then onto remakes after the well has been drained dry. It's endlessly cyclical; once a certain film has success you can be sure that a dozen imitators will follow (e.g., Halloween, which begat Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, etc.). The last few years have seen the trend of remaking horror movies from the 1970s and '80s. In the past two years we've seen the release of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Dawn of the Dead (both better than they should have been), as well as the upcoming The Hills Have Eyes, and When a Stranger Calls. Though it's illegal everywhere else (except small jungle tribes), Hollywood loves to cannibalize itself in the gain of the all-mighty dollar.
Speaking of the all-mighty dollar, the worst of all these remakes is 2005's The Fog, based on the same titled film by horror master John Carpenter (whose Assault on Precinct 13 was also remade this past year, to better effect). The film's problems are numerous, but mostly sit with its kid-friendly PG-13 rating. Here is a film about ghouls and ghosts and a town filled with evil secrets and it's watered down for people who are still five years away from the legal drinking age. Does anyone else see a problem with this?
The story moves at a snail's pace, and even that's being a bit too generous. Although this DVD claims to be unrated, it still doesn't include any extra gore or grizzle -- aside from some only decent effects at the end of the film, the whole thing is plagued by poorly rendered CGI fog that moves through the town with all the realism of an Ed Wood movie. The actors -- including an incredibly wooden Tom Welling as a fisherman (!) and an attractive but underused Maggie Grace -- are given little to do but slam doors and run for cover. Even the usually likable Selma Blair -- so good in the far, far better horror/action flick Hellboy -- blows her chances of any saving grace as she feebly attempts to fill the shoes of original scream queen Adrienne Barbeau.
Shockingly (and disappointingly), original Fog director John Carpenter produced this mess, though interviews before the film's release proved that even he was disappointed with the end result. First time director Rupert Wainwright (who previously helmed music videos, natch) and screenwriter Cooper Layne (whose only previous script was for the abysmal action cheapie The Core) haven't a clue how to pull off a cohesive story -- things happen in The Fog that make the viewer scratch his head in complete confusion. The virtual fog races ahead at breakneck speed during one scene, then slows down to a crawl in the next. Characters appear and disappear for no reason except to pop out of the shadows and frighten each other. This is a scare show that lacks the scares, and most of the show.
If you really want to check out what The Fog is all about, head out and pick up Carpenter's original film. While I hardly consider that movie a classic, it's far better than this hacked up, hokey looking remake that should have been tossed out to sea. Considering what it could have been, what it should have been, and what it ended up being, this completely unnecessary remake of The Fog is one of the worst films of the year.
The Fog is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, the same as Carpenter's original (it's interesting to note that this particular aspect ratio is a personal favorite of the director). Whatever you may think of the movie -- cruddy, stupid, vapid -- the same cannot be said for this transfer. Sony has done a great job of making sure that the transfer is pristine and nearly flawless. The muted colors and black levels are all just right; aside of a few moments of edge enhancement, this is a great looking image.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English and French. Much like the video portions, this audio mix is excellent. There are many instances of directional effects and surround sounds throughout the mix -- composer Graeme Revell's surprisingly competent music score blares through all five speakers. All aspects of the mix are free and clear of any hiss or distortion. Also included on this disc are English and French subtitles.
This widescreen, unrated version of the film includes a few extra features, though considering how bad the movie is they're not really worth the plastic disc they are printed on. A commentary by director Rupert Wainwright is worth listening too only if you're a sadomasochist, because that would mean you'd have to sit through this film twice. Three featurettes -- "Whiteout Conditions: Remaking The Fog," "Feeling the Effects of The Fog," and "Seeing Through The Fog" -- all focus on what it took to bring this remake to the big screen. Interviews with the stars, the director, the screenwriter and producer John Carpenter (whom I assumed would have gotten himself as far away from this as possible) only reiterate that fact that all of these people are clinically insane since not one of them notes how bad the film is. Finally there are a few deleted scenes with some optional commentary by the director, as well as previews for other Sony DVDs and films.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 103 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Commentary by Director Rupert Wainwright
* "Whiteout Conditions: Remaking The Fog" Featurette
* "Feeling the Effects of The Fog" Featurette
* "Seeing Through The Fog" Featurette
* Deleted Scenes With Optional Commentary
* Bonus Previews
* Official Site