Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Fog (2005)

Way back in the aughts (You remember those. No? They ended three years ago! Fewer drugs, dude.) there was a mini-wave of remaking horror films from the 70s/80s. Halloween, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street and Arthur all got remakes, with enough success to encourage studios to keep doing it.

John Carpenter’s 1980 film The Fog was a fairly obvious choice to be remade. Successful at the time, it isn’t held in quite the same reverence as some of his better-known films, and Carpenter himself has said is feels dated. So, cast some good looking young TV stars, use modern special effects and it couldn’t go wrong. Right? Oy…

Nick Castle (Tom Welling, Smallville) owns a charter fishing boat harbored in Antonio Bay, Oregon. Despite the name, Antonio Bay is a small island off the coast of Oregon. He takes fisherman out for brief excursions with his completely incompetent mate Spooner. We only get to know Spooner briefly, but in that short time he manages to almost capsize the boat with the anchor winch and ignores the small matter of engine trouble at sea. Gilligan was better. One day, Nick and Spooner are floating along when they snag their anchor, disturbing a small bag. This is significant because…I guess because that’s how the movie starts.

Back on shore, we learn there is tension in the town between young entrepreneurs like Nick, who want the town to spend to upgrade the marina, and the older generation who spent the funds on a statue of the four founding fathers of the town. This is supposed to be a heated controversy, but neither Nick nor the town elders seem to be able to work up much enthusiasm for the fight. The timing is crucial, since this is the 100th anniversary of the town’s founding in 1871. Wait, when is this movie set? 2005? But…Try not to think about it.

Nick has an old girlfriend Elizabeth (Maggie Grace, Taken) who has been gone to New York for a while, and a new girlfriend Stevie Wayne (Selma Blair, Hellboy) who is the owner and sole operator of the town’s radio station. Nick is surprised when he picks up a female hitchhiker late at night (in a creepy don’t-get-in-the-truck way) and finds it is Elizabeth, who has apparently walked back to Oregon from New York. This would seem to trigger a heated lovers’ triangle, but none of the three can work up much interest. Stevie has a son, whose purpose is to be put in danger.

Meanwhile, disturbing that bag (or possibly the 100th/134th anniversary thing, or sunspots or something) has triggered a strange fog that darts in and out, hence the name of the movie. The fog is filled with ghosts, who murder people indiscriminately and really hate streetlamps. It seems that in 1871, there was another mythical Oregon island with a prosperous trading colony. Through trade with China, they all caught leprosy. That isn’t how leprosy works, but whatever. Cast out from their island (by who?) they search for a new home. The good founding fathers of Antonio Bay promise them half the island, but rob them, lock them on their boat and burn them alive instead, and use the stolen wealth to build the town. This does seem like the way to get a monument to yourself, judging by history. Rather than take their revenge on those who actually wronged them, the ghostly lepers wait a century or more to punish the relatively innocent descendants and unconnected people living in modern Antonio Bay.
Oh. no! Limited visibility!

There is also a drunken priest who wanders around misquoting the Bible, various impalements, and a lot of broken streetlamps. I don’t reveal the ending of movies so as not to spoil them for those who haven’t seen the film, but in this case I don’t understand it anyway. Something happens, but who knows why.

The actors are good looking but uninspired. Even Ms. Blair, who is normally an interesting actress, looks like she wishes she were somewhere else. The direction is flat. The modern special effects don’t really look as good as the 1980 version. There really isn’t anything about which to recommend this movie.

My favorite anecdote related to this movie is the director insisted that Selma Blair, a petite woman, wear formidable falsies in her role. Why? The role of Stevie in the original version was played by carpenter’s then-wife Adrienne Barbeau, who was fairly busty. Again, why? This is apparently yet another mystery of The Fog.

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