The Fog

Movie Information

Genre: Tepid Horror
Director: Rupert Wainwright
Starring: Tom Welling, Maggie Grace, Selma Blair, DeRay Davis, Kenneth Welsh
Rated: PG-13

I saw The Fog, a singularly pointless remake of John Carpenter’s fairly enjoyable 1980 ghost story, with one friend who can best be described in this context as a “jumper.” That’s to say that he’s an easy mark for a shock effect. Even the slightest such attempt will normally have him nearly leaping from his theater seat. In fact, I’d say he jumped a good eight to 10 times when we saw Venom, which wasn’t an especially scary film. So when I note that he jumped exactly twice during The Fog — both times courtesy of a cheesy blast of sound and not real shock effects — you’ll perhaps get some idea of where this bland genre attempt lands on the lame-o-meter.

Of course, there are other approaches to horror than shock effects, but not in a movie like this, which has neither the artistry, nor the wit, to go for subtle nuances of creepiness. The Fog is — or tries to be — a standard spook show that exists simply to say, “Boo!” to its audience. In this case, its audience merely says a different kind of “boo” right back.

While the screenplay by Cooper Layne (who gave us the unintentionally laugh-packed The Core) more or less follows Carpenter’s original film, the apparent target audience isn’t diehard horror fans but addicts of teencentric TV, since the movie is built around the dimpled smile of Tom Welling (TV’s Smallville) and the haughty prettiness of Maggie Grace (TV’s Lost), neither of whom have the screen presence to carry a movie.

By comparison, Selma Blair (In Good Company) seems like a heavyweight and actually brings some vague sense of character to the film, though it’s hardly enough to counterbalance the TV posturing of the nominal leads or the nonexistent characterizations of the screenplay.

Anyway, she, too, is subjected to the film’s ridiculous PG-13 pandering to the hormones of its inherent audience. For proof, look no further than director Rupert Wainwright’s (he of the nearly unwatchable Stigmata) decision to feature as many scenes as possible of Blair and Grace wandering around in their panties, often in strikingly improbable situations. This all finally amounts to nothing but titillation for those who get their kicks thumbing through Victoria’s Secret catalogues.

And that’s about all you could expect from anything so shoddy that every single character in the movie is utterly disposable. Carpenter’s original may not have been big on characterization, but at least it afforded the illusion of reality, if only in the movie sense of the term. What’s particularly odd about Wainwright’s remakes is that its screenplay attempts to give the characters some kind of background, but rather than flesh these people out, it only succeeds in making them even less interesting.

Frankly, the film does much the same thing with its flashier — but somehow less convincing — CGI ghosts, insisting on adding way too much back story that only serves to make the ghosts less menacing, and eating up a lot of footage to no real point. There’s also a reincarnation subplot that further reduces the menace and doesn’t — so far as I can tell — make any sense.

What we’re left with is a pretty dull ghost story where the homicidal spirits can’t even settle on a method for murder, but appear to be practicing the creative-death school of filmmaking. That wouldn’t be so bad, if only any of this was actually creative. And while I admit to kind of liking the death by spontaneous leprosy, I was more amused than anything else by one character being flung through a window in a ball of fire. Most of the attempted scares are actually courtesy of loud noises.

At one point, something — maybe the ghosts — smashes the window in Nick Castle’s (Welling) truck. The next time we see the truck, the window’s back.

Not that any of this matters. What really stays with you is that this film is simply, irredeemably, insufferably boring — the one thing a horror picture just can’t survive. Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief sexuality.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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