The Fog (2005)
So, this is either a really good thing or a really bad thing for this "Bad Movie Review", but I have to confess that I've never actually seen the original John Carpenter/Deborah Hill collaboration. In some ways, that sucks, as I have nothing to compare it to. I don't know how close this represents it either - what they got right, what they screwed up, etc. In some ways though, it's good, because I can say with certainty that this movie does a good job of being bad on its own, without the need for any sort of comparison.
This was one I caught in theaters when it was released, and I can remember coming out of it thinking it was a pile of junk then, too. Although, I will say that I started this whole concept of bad movie reviews fairly loosely with this set of three bad horror movies. This will be made up for as these reviews keep going because I think I went with "forgettable bad" over "classically bad". But I digress. All of this considered, this is still a stinker, and even though I admit to not having seen the original from 1980, I can still safely recommend that version over this one, if only because it's considered a bit of a Carpenter classic.
On the fictional island of Antonio, off the coast of Oregon, the small community is preparing to unveil a statue which commemorates its founding fathers. Meanwhile, Nick Castle (Tom Welling) and his friend Spooner (DeRay Davis) disturb a couple of underwater artifacts that seemingly set things into motion - namely a pocket watch and a hairbrush. These artifacts once belonged to a ship known as the Elizabeth Dane, which we only really know burns in the beginning. The rest of the history of the ship's fate unveils itself as the film unfolds, as it's all part of the grand mystery.
Sticking to the main part of the story and trying not to spoil any details of this story (if anyone even cares), Nick soon meets up with his former girlfriend, Elizabeth Williams (Maggie Grace), who has come back after being away for six months for some reason. They hit it off immediately again, despite the fact that Nick tries picking her up on the side of the road, thinking she's just some sexy hitchhiker. Eventually, the aforementioned pocket watch is given to Elizabeth by the film's harbinger of doom, Machen (R. Nelson Brown), and the hairbrush is found by young Andy Wayne - son of the local radio host, Stevie Wayne (Selma Blair).
It's not long before things start going weird. A thick fog seems to be the source of it all, but the film is full of unexplainable phenomena that get a lot of funny and/or weird reactions. For example, in a scene involving Elizabeth sitting in a chair with water droplets falling on her from the ceiling, it seems clear that ghostly footprints are appearing above her head. A creepy situation, sure, but her reaction is far more that of a clueless person who can't seem to wrap her head around the concept of moving. Furthermore, no part of her seems scared, and the scene just comes across as incredibly bland when it's meant to be scary.
There is just a lot of bad going on here, and so much of it comes from all three major culprits of acting, writing and direction. At the end of the day, these are the things that are probably most important to telling a good on-screen story. All of it is pretty weak here, and the whole thing comes off as much more of a late-night made-for-TV thriller than the apparent classic the 1980 version was. You've also got actors here that simply don't compare to the original portrayals of these characters. I mean, scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis vs Maggie Grace? Cult horror legend, Tom Atkins vs Tom Welling? Slasher film birth-giver Janet freaking Leigh vs Sara Botsford? There's no contest here.
Even having said all of that, I have still read numerous times, something along the lines of this being a bad remake of a film that's really "just okay". I have a feeling I could join the originals' cult following rather easily the more I read about it, but if the general consensus is that the original is a bit of a middle-ground horror, that should speak volumes as to how rough this flick really is. It seemed to get a mild pass upon its release, but I can't say I'm surprised at not being able to find it to stream anywhere (I found it to rent on YouTube). As mentioned earlier, it's just plain forgettable. I feel like if the original didn't exist, this would have had an even shorter lifespan.
Now, I will defend the film in just a couple of aspects. For one, the score is half-decent. It does a good job of adding some creepiness to the atmosphere of things. It's well done in its subtlety, using ominous tones to set the mood. But even having said that, and again without having seen the original, there's no comparison to the awesomeness that is the original score. Carpenter definitely had a knack for delivering a good creepy soundtrack. So once again, when it comes to old vs new, I think the old takes it. Another aspect of the film I have to give it credit for is the visual effects... even if sometimes the fog machine they're using is far too obvious.
The ghouls look pretty cool here, and the film's use of silhouettes is nice and creepy. We also get visuals of an old, haunted clipper ship that are pretty effective. I wouldn't say it's "visually stunning", but you can kind of tell where the budget for this thing went. However, visuals and music are just not enough to save it. In truth, all re-watching this made me think of was why I wasn't finally giving the original a proper chance. That'll happen eventually, but first I'll need to wash the bad taste this one left, out of my mouth. It's definitely one of the lamest horror movies of the 21st century... which says a lot.
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