[Reading time: 4 minutes]
American, 2005, Horror, directed by Rupert Wainwright, Columbia. Starring Tom Welling, Maggie Grace, and Selma Blair. Based on a 1980 film by John Carpenter.
Horror film remakes are more often than not a way to reintroduce beloved films and franchises to new audiences with amazing special effects and new actors, and more often than not, these reboots are even better than the original. PSYCH! Horror films have been plagued by the trend of remakes for as long as our collective cinema unconsciousness can remember, and for every film that improves on the original to the point of nearly reaching perfection (Hammer’s re-imaginings of the classic Universal horror films, starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee; David Cronenberg’s reboot of 1950s horror movie The Fly starring Jeff Goldblum), there is a dire, turgid mess of cinematic excrement that fails to displace the original. I couldn’t do a Cinematic Calamity column without reviewing at least one horror remake, so let’s get dangerous!
What we have here is a 2005 remake of a 1980 horror film by the iconic director John Carpenter. The tranquil and quiet Antonio Island falls victim to a mysterious bank of greenish fog which seems to have dangerous supernatural effects; Nick Castle, a cocky, womanizing and egocentric young fisherman (Tom Welling), is caught in the balance when his friends, including the radio host Stevie Wayne (Selma Blair – yes, Stevie is a girl!), Nick’s girlfriend Elizabeth Williams (Maggie Grace), and his best friend Spooner (DeRay Davis), are imperiled by the preposterous and paralyzing paranormal peasouper… The tension mounts as the sinister smokescreen makes its appearance, with the audience given no clue as to why the fog is so deadly. By literally shrouding itself in mystery, with an aura of danger and suspense that surrounds the story and clouds the nature of the threat like, well, a fog, the film builds up a lot of dramatic tension and ups the stakes constantly, hooking audiences like fish on a tackle…
The acting is decidedly mixed, with some actors pulling off convincing performances while others fail miserably to convey any sort of emotion: DeRay Davis and Maggie Grace are impressive, with Grace in particular using every single nerve of her face and wrinkling it up like a used tissue as she is involved in one unfortunate fogging incident after another, reminiscent of a “scream queen” like Janet Leigh, or her daughter Jamie Lee Curtis. The same can’t be said for Blair, however, whose performance is dull and monotonous. But the best actor in the movie is definitely Tom Welling, better known for starring in the decade-long waste of time and money that was Smallville (a reimagining of Superman as a trashy teenage soap opera-horror hybrid). In this film, he acts his own age, as a young adult in his 20s rather than the teenage “Superboy” he was stuck in on TV, and brings all his charm and swagger to the fore, plus his patented “Welling Yelling” voice technique which consists in abruptly switching from a soft-spoken aw-shucks Midwestern patter, to a booming roar fit for a soldier in 300. Just seeing Tom putting his gifts to good use outside the turgid world of “no tights, no flights, no redeeming qualities whatsoever” of Smallville was worth the price of admission for me!
So far, the film seems so-so, rather than outright bad. And indeed, for much of the film’s runtime, it’s a mediocre experience, one whose faults lie not so much within the execution of its core premise, but rather with the fact that it is of such an average and unremarkable standard, neither worse nor better than most horror movies of the time, that there is no real incentive to watch it, especially if you’ve seen the original film. It is, however, a very intriguing thriller for those who never saw the 1980 film, and the mysterious fog is a threat so abstract and mysterious that you will probably be captivated enough by the film to keep watching it right until the end credits roll.
Grade: 6 out of 10
Recommended for: supernatural horror aficionados; Smallville fans, if there even are any; people who hate Smallville, but hold Tom Welling in embarrassingly high esteem.
PSYYYYYCHHHH!!!! You really thought that was the end of my review, huh? Well, newsflash: it’s not! I didn’t criticize the third act yet… And boy, this is the worst third act since that super-hard Dr. Eggman boss battle act I can’t beat on Sonic the Hedgehog for Game Gear! SPOILER ALERT: YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!
After building up the fog as a mysterious presence, the film then proceeds to reveal to us that the fluorescent fart-cloud (OK, that’s it, I think I’ve run out of fog puns…) is actually a cover for an invading army of vicious murdering ghosts! What the fog? (Ha! I’ve got some puns left after all) These ghosts look like they came straight from a tie-in PlayStation game rather than the movie itself, gracelessly lumbering their skeletal bodies across the picture like competitors in the 2017 International Sumo Wrestling Figure Skating Championships. Maggie Grace is absolutely terrified of them, probably because it was all green screen and she didn’t know that the phantoms would look quite so ridiculous… And the kill scenes are ridiculous! One of them, in particular, features an old woman being burned into a charred skeleton amid a pile of ashes, in a scene so reminiscent of one early episode of Smallville, that I almost imagine Tom Welling freaking out over whether or not he’s having a déjà vu. Whatever redeeming qualities the film had in the first two-thirds of its runtime are slowly fading further away from view. In the end, much like Holiday in Handcuffs, The Fog turns out to be one of those movies that sells itself on an interesting premise, but finds ways to infuriatingly lose that premise partway in, and to turn into just another forgettable, humdrum movie that just so happens to star great actors such as Maggie Grace and Tom Welling. I sincerely hope they find more success in a better film than this one, because one of them is a fantastic underrated character actress, and the other is, well, SUPERMAN!
Grade (for real this time): 5 out of 10. Yes, it actually LOST one point!
Recommended for: all of the above, plus, people who like cheesy CGI effects.
Next week, the Master of Movie Disaster reviews TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, a Michael Bay picture featuring mechanical robots such as Optimus Prime, Megatron, Bumblebee, and Megan Fox, plus the amazingly-talented Frank Welker!