Monday, September 15, 2014

Review: The Fog (2005)

Every single time I come across a remake I let out a very long sigh. Do you know why? It's not because all of them are bad, it's mostly because at the end of the day they feel unnecessary. Remakes exist because a studio or production company sees a classic property and seem to think that they can make a new version of it and reap the rewards of basically dick-riding the classic property. Don't get me wrong, sometimes it turns out well, but no one can seriously tell me that they set out to remake The Hills Have Eyes with no knowledge that people would go to see it regardless of whether it was good or not. Why? Because of the reputation. In entertainment, reputation is everything. Something can be famous or infamous, but as long as people know what it is, the executives see money to be made. You know the formula: take a relatively somewhat well-known actor who doesn't charge too much (bonus points if they're young and from TV), get a script that generally feels like a bland version of the original, use cookie-cutter special effects, and then spit out into theaters.

YAY CAPITALISM!

Yes, as I said before, there are exceptions, but it's always based on a foundation of pure greed. It can be based on a nostalgic cartoon, a classic television series, or, as it more commonly is done, a classic film. But this is not about all of that (that's a different article altogether). No, this is to talk about one truly terrible example of that mediocrity. This is The Fog remake. Now, I have to admit, I am a huge fan of the original John Carpenter film. It had a stellar cast, a great concept, and some genuinely creepy moments that heightened the overall mood of the film. And if you're a horror fan, you know why I'm right. Tom Atkins, Jamie Lee Curtis, Adrienne Barbeau, Hal Holbrook, and Janet Leigh were the stars in the original film. You want to talk about great horror actors, there's a good place to start. But what do we get in the remake? Tom Welling, Maggie Grace, and Selma Blair. Now, to be fair, Selma Blair is a good actress...but she's so underused here. She really feels like she's barely awake during the film and just looking forward to when she finally gets famous enough where she can be in more good films. Other than her though, you've got the ho-hum star of Smallville and an actress who is so forgettable that she could star in a Transformers film. Honestly, I had no idea she was even the daughter in the Taken films, likely because in there she really didn't do much besides being a generic kidnapping victim. That bothers me, because women should be known as more than the damsel in distress.

It's ok, Liam, I still love the Taken movies.
Ugh. See that? Two paragraphs and I haven't even gotten to the plot of the film. That's very telling, isn't it? So, here we go. The basic story is still the same. Over an hundred years ago, William Blake sets out to purchase half of Antonio Island so he and all the lepers he takes care of will have a place to call their own. Understandable, as lepers generally don't get the greatest treatment from people. But it turns out that some residents of the town don't really want any lepers there and decide to instead cause the ship of innocent leprous people to die horribly as they steal all the money and leave them all to burn. Yay. Not shockingly, the victims are now vengeful spirits out to kill the descendants of....whoever gets in their way. Yeah, there's not a lot of rhyme or reason. Our hero, Soap Opera Clark Kent, and his friend, generic racist black stereotype, bother a hairbrush and pocket watch laying on the sea floor. Sounds like a good enough excuse for viciously murdering many people, yes?

We thought so.
And, because everything has to be connected nonsensically, our "hero" happens to run into a hitchhiker who just happens to be his ex-girlfriend. Now, let's talk about a big problem I have with this. First of all, in the original film this the part where Nick, the hero, is introduced. He's not explained, he's just a guy out at night who picks up a young hitchhiker, followed by having a charming conversation with her that ends with her becoming comfortable with him. It was a great scene that ended with a great scare. This scene isn't that. And I think the reason is because, rather than them being perfect strangers to both the audience and to one another, they're former lovers. It feels kinda cheap, like they needed to make some sort of excuse for why there is sexual tension. Why? Is it so taboo that a young woman might want to sleep with person they met and found rather charming and nice? I don't know, to me it just feels like this movie is trying to slut-shame Jamie Lee's character in the original and that's not cool. I don't like that sort of bollocks in general.

Of course, that doesn't stop them from putting in a sex scene that wasn't in the classic.
Bullshit of that scene aside, the plot continues on somewhat the same as the original. The fishing boat gets attacked (a lot later than it was supposed to) and generic hotgirl encounters the haunted pocket watch on the beach, along with the unimportant person who found it. I'm sure that won't lead to any stupid convoluted plot twist later in the movie. We get shown Father Malone, the drunk priest who is ranting about murder and we meet Selma Blair playing a much blander version of Adrienne Barbeau's character. It's a shame too, as Selma is truly attractive. I mean, wow, she just exudes screen presence...which is wasted as she barely gets any screen time. Unnngggghhhhh. I really want to bail out now. Can I hit the eject button? I don't even need a parachute, just let me hit the ground. But yeaaah, the story continues as they discover the missing fishing boat and find it out on the water as we get one of the most surprising things ever in a horror movie this cliche. Yes, the generic racist black stereotype actually didn't get murdered by the ghosts. I sure didn't see that coming.

Then again, they do blame the murders on him. Yay, thinly veiled racism.
Tom Welling doesn't believe it though, so he doesn't do much of anything and his ex get's attacked by the corpse of one of the victims in the morgue. As most traumatized young women do, she decides to go do some research at the library because of the symbol on the pocket watch keeps interesting her for contrived plot reasons. She learns about the lepers, who were also apparently a trading company. Fine, whatever, moving on. She goes to the docks and finds the old journal of the drunk priest's ancestor. Her and the kid from Smallville learn the tragic story of the lepers being murdered horribly, which led to the founding of the lovely town they all live in now. It turns out this information was exactly public knowledge and isn't in the tourist brochures. I wonder why? Nothing makes me want to visit a town more than homicidal vengeance fueled ghost lepers.

But hey, we also have a really nice lighthouse with a Selma Blair in it.
The ghosts start butchering people willy-nilly, we get some more terrible acting, and we get the stupidest plot twist ever as it is revealed that the ex-girlfriend is actually the reincarnation of Blake's wife. Yep, totally makes sense, right? Sure, you can claim I am nit-picking here as it's all just a story and not really based in reality, but no. That doesn't excuse a plot twist that feels so dumb it may as well be an M. Night Shampoo film. She gets turned into a ghost and the ghosts are magically ready to leave. No, really, that's what happens. That's our big payoff. The ghosts turn a living woman into a dead 134 year old woman's ghost and they just saunter off into the limbo of stupid ideas.

DEUS EX GO FUCK YOURSELF.
We get a little send off from Selma Blair, but yeah, that's it. I'm done with this. I could say a lot of things about this movie. I could talk about the bad acting, the leftover CGI from a much better movie, the idiotic way the characters are handled, but no. I will instead talk about the biggest problem with this movie. The focus on the character of Elizabeth (the ex-girlfriend/reincarnated ghost lady). That's the central problem with this entire film. She went from being a character who found herself in a terrible situation in the original film to being an annoyingly generic character who somehow is the solution to everything.

Meanwhile, Selma Blair gets to try and forget she was ever in this piece of shit.

She's not a strong character either, which just makes it all the more jarring to see her being treated like she's the second coming of Jesus in the finale as she sacrifices herself by becoming a ghost to go make ghost babies. If anything, she's honestly more of an object than a character. In the classic film she's smarmy, mysterious, and interesting. She's this girl traveling on her own who can obviously take care of herself and is comfortable with her choices. In this movie? She's just there so Tom Welling and the lead ghost both have something that they both want. She's not a character, she's a trophy. She looks good and they both want her, because clearly she has so much personality underneath her generic exterior.

If it feels a bit hot in here it's just because I set myself on fire.
This movie was terrible. Some would call it somewhat harmless, but they couldn't be more wrong. Having this piece of crap out there means that some kid might see this movie and think of this when someone brings up the classic film. The idea that this movie would spring to mind rather than John Carpenter's film is a true crime. And that's my biggest gripe of all, as I feel like this movie's existence drags the original down. Thankfully, it will never be able to drown the classic as it sinks to the bottom of the marl pit of cinematic disasters, because the original is just so strong that it still holds up today. The actors in it were all well-cast and the characters were all memorable. Even the small characters left an impact. With the new movie, you just leave it being sad that the ghosts didn't slaughter everyone. So, until Tom Welling manages to make something good (at all), I'll be here not answering that knock on the door when there's fog out because you can't be too careful. Later days.

Now please, do yourself a favour and go buy the original film.

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