THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!
The Fog (2005)
Directed by Rupert Wainwright
Ok, ok. First thing first. The remake of John Carpenter's classic The Fog isn't as good as the original. There I said it. Anyone surprised by this astute revelation? Doubtful. Carpenter's flick is a simple yet classic ghost story that remains surprisingly effective with great, entertaining performances from everybody involved...even the ghostly sailors that we barely even see. And for the record, his flick is one of my favorites. Just so you know (if you give a damn) to avoid discussions of me never me seeing the original.
Now with 2005's The Fog, I don't think anybody is dropping the word classic anywhere near it. It’s probably illegal in a few states and Northern provinces. And I'm not either. With that said just because something is a remake of a classic doesn't mean the thing is absent of all entertainment. This The Fog has some decent stuff in here, most of which people often say f*ck that because of the blind devotion for Carpenter (nothing wrong with that). And I'm no different.
With that said, let's not play the compare contrast game and let director Rupert Wainwright's career ending (basically, its his last feature to date) project speak to itself.
So what's good about The Fog remake? Let’s jump straight into the characters. I actually like the fact that Nick Castle (Tom Welling) and Elizabeth (Maggie Grace) aren't complete strangers. I always thought that was a flaw of the original that Nick picked up a random hitchhiker and they basically fall in love quickly. At least these two have a vague history together that gives them a reason to stay together. Selma Blair is probably the best here as she subs in for luscious Adrienne Barbeau as sexy DJ Stevie Wayne. Blair isn't as believable as Barbeau, but her DJ character remains the strongest by far. I actually wish that they would have changed her character up more to give her more to do. Hell, since this is a remake, most of the action really should have been shifted to her character, not split between her and Nick.
Welling mostly works as Nick Castle, though he's far too young for the role of a fishing boat captain who must sport a giant turtleneck sweater. The writers could have easily given him a more tragic background or some shit to explain why he has a fishing company. Maybe they did explain and I glazed over it. Hell, I don't remember. If they did it wasn't tragic enough. Like usual, Grace doesn't offer much more beyond looking pretty. She really is quite worthless in whatever project she appears in. She can't touch Jamie Lee Curtis here, who also seemed much more emotionally broken.
I dig that the producers, for better or worse, attempted to do their own thing. We get a hell of a lot more background with ghost ship and all those ghost sailors, enough to make their story more concrete versus camp fire rumors and stories of wronged desperate people and how their lovely town murdered them all. We end up with almost a little understanding of them. Carpenter's approach clearly works better because he kept everything vague and mysterious. This one attempts to fill in some of that vagueness with clearer connections between the ghost of Blake, his ship the Elizabeth Dane, the murdered lepers, and the townspeople. Blake's thirst for revenge makes a little more sense, but personally I think they should have been ballsier with the alterations. Oh, and I also did the fog effects. They look big, epic and intimidating (I almost forgot).
For the bad, obviously I could say a lot here and allowed negative to overwhelm us so I'll keep it short and sweet. The worst offense is that Wainwright missed the best aspect of Carpenter: the little things that scare people. The small, simple frights like lights flickering or objects moving. Yes, the new CGI fog looks great, but he should have not allowed the digital effects team to create the tension. I also will never understand why Hollywood always thinks that all hired actors must be 20 as if young, movie-going folk can't relate to a story with someone who has been driving for more than five years. Worst of all, The Fog plays quite dumb and it really lacks the pacing or the momentum of Carpenter's work. See? Short and sweet. Positive energy defeated the real enemy of this film: negative bitching.