5.23.2008

The Fog (1980 & 2005)

DIRECTED BY
John Carpenter

STARRINGAdrienne Barbeau - Stevie Wayne
Jamie Lee Curtis - Elizabeth Solley
Janet Leigh - Kathy Williams
John Houseman - Mr. Machen
Tom Atkins - Nick Castle
Charles Cyphers - Dan O'Bannon
Hal Holbrook - Father Malone
Nancy Loomis - Sandy Fadel
Year - 1980

Score - 3 Howls Outta 4


DIRECTED BY
Rupert Wainwright

STARRINGTom Welling - Nick Castle
Maggie Grace - Elizabeth Williams
Selma Blair - Stevie Wayne
DeRay Davis - Brett Spooner
Adrian Hough - Father Malone
Rade Serbedzija - Captain Blake
Year - 2005
Score - BOMB

I think it's pretty well-acknowledged that current Hollywood has lost all its originality. What makes me say that? Because every other week, we get a remake of some sort. Especially in the horror genre. Yes, we get pointless, unnecessary remakes of classic horror staples that are done for money rather than homage or love for the material that it's based on. I, personally, dislike remakes. I think they are a waste of money and time. If a film was good to begin with, why remake it later on and ruin what made it so good to begin with?

Okay, not all remakes are bad. Zack Synder's 2004 DAWN OF THE DEAD was awesome and should be seen by any horror fan. Rob Zombie's 2007 HALLOWEEN and Alexandre Aja's 2006 THE HILLS HAVE EYES were also good interpretations of the originals. And of course, we have John Carpenter's classic 1982 THE THING, which in my opinion is the best horror remake ever filmed. And while there are a few others that I would recommend, we have other remakes that just destroy what the original brought to the table.

One of these remakes was 2005's THE FOG, which did horribly at the box office, showing me that there are some people who still have taste in the world. The John Carpenter 1980 original was a good ghost story that relied on atmosphere and mood to get its point across. The remake does the opposite, not getting anything across other than boredom and anger.

PLOT
100 years ago, a small community called Antonio Bay is revealed to have been founded on evil treachery of a few of its supposed upstanding citizens. The treachery had something to do with the murder of sailors/pirates aboard the Elizabeth Dane for riches and land. Antonio Bay's citizens plan on celebrating the murderers [not knowing the truth about the town's history] for the town's centennial. Unfortunately for the citizens of this community, the ghosts of the past are returning through a glowing, mysterious fog, making sure that the town repays the deed that started 100 years ago.

REVIEW (1980 Original)
THE FOG, in my opinion, is one of John Carpenter's most underrated films that he directed during his peak [ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (1976) to THEY LIVE (1988)]. Whenever Carpenter's name is mentioned, it's either HALLOWEEN, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, THE THING, or THEY LIVE. Rarely is THE FOG mentioned on the same breath for reasons I'm not really sure. Is it a masterpiece like HALLOWEEN and THE THING? Absolutely not. Is it as memorable as ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and THEY LIVE? No way. But THE FOG is a good ghost story that uses a simple plot involving a cast of interesting characters to get its message across pretty clear. It has also aged very well, and seems to get better and better after every watch.

John Carpenter directs a fine film here. Carpenter is a master of setting up atmosphere and mood, especially in his earlier films where what creeps us out is what isn't being shown on the screen. The film moves slow, but it never gets boring. I think it's a testament to a director who enjoys taking his time setting up the story - building tension, building suspense, creating this thick creep factor that's embodied by the fog that's about to overwhelm Antonio Bay. There's really no sign of hope in this film, as Carpenter continues to add dread to the entire town from beginning to end. I think scenes, like one of the dead fisherman coming back to life in the coroner's office to scare Jamie Lee Curtis and the transformation of the wood from the Elizabeth Dane, keep the audience on their toes, adding an element of unpredictability. And the picture done by long-time Carpenter cinematographer Dean Cundey is hauntingly beautiful. Crisp, clear, and absolutely breathtaking - Antonio Bay is a place I wouldn't want to live but would have no problem driving through while taking in the scenery. The film cost about $1 million and looks much more expensive. And Carpenter also did the score for the film. Not as memorable as HALLOWEEN, but it sets the mood nicely.

I also like this film because of the characters. They're not stereotypes that you would usually see in a horror film. They're smart, brave, and behave like normal human beings. Shows how intelligent the screenplay is. The women are tough and the men are decent, if not flawed by their lust for their beautiful co-stars. Carpenter and Debra Hill create real people who live real lives in a realistic town that only becomes surreal once supernatural incidents make themselves known. I don't know about you, but it shows me that Carpenter and Hill have respect for the material they've written for the film and for the actors playing these characters. And what's also weird in a horror film is that while the ghosts that haunt the town do evil things, they're justified. We can relate to people wanting revenge on those who betrayed them. It's human nature. We're never sure who are the heroes and who are the villains? Are there any villains to begin with? It's an interesting thought.

The characters wouldn't be so great if there weren't great actors portraying them. We have the usual Carpenter faves that are in most of his earlier films. Tom Atkins [who was in ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and Carpenter's produced HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH] isn't the stereotypical lead who gets the hot girl at the end. He looks like someone's dad or uncle, which may be the reason why Carpenter made him the hero to begin with. He's smart, brave, and is always a step ahead. Someone we can all relate to. Plus he got to bang Jamie Lee Curtis, who plays the total opposite of Laurie Strode in this film. She plays a hitchhiker who sleeps with the 13th man who's given her a ride [well the non-sexual ride anyway]. And she lives! Who said virgins are the only ones who survive horror films? Curtis' character is promiscuous and proud of it! Curtis is not really given a beefy role but she does well with what she's given.

Janet Leigh [from PSYCHO - duh], Jamie Lee Curtis' mom, adds class to the film as the head of the town council. She's another tough, and somewhat cynical cookie, who engages you from beginning to end. I believe this was the first time Leigh and Curtis did a film together, as if Leigh was passing the "Scream Queen" title to her daughter. Charles Cyphers is pretty cool as the horny weatherman, Dan [named after THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD director, Dan O'Bannon]. Hal Holbrook brings subtlety to his role as Father Malone, revealing a man of God who has much darkness harvesting inside of his soul.

The best acting performance, in my opinion, is the beautiful Adrienne Barbeau as DJ Stevie Wayne. To me, she's the narrator of the film, being the voice of Antonio Bay and all. I know many people mention ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, CREEPSHOW, and SWAMP THING when it comes to Barbeau. But I think THE FOG is her finest performance. She gets to do alot to advance the story while not doing much at all, which makes Barbeau an interesting actress to watch. Natural charisma and a sultry voice can take a person a long way.
I do have issues with this film though. I still don't understand why these ghosts knocked on people's doors. They could have just gone right in and killed these people. Maybe it's more terrifying that way, I dunno. It's just a weird itch I have.

Also, there's a lot of exposition in the film, especially concerning the motives of the ghosts. I know it's interesting to hear Hal Halbrook read from a journal about what really happened, but it would have been more effective if we actually saw it happen [the only decent thing the remake did].
I was also never sure if the people murdered had ancestors that were part of the previous murders, or the ghosts just wanted to kill a random six to break the curse. Was confused about that.

And then there's Nancy Loomis [who played Annie in the original HALLOWEEN] as Janet Leigh's assistant. Her acting really does nothing for me in this film. Actually, I don't think acting does much for her either. It was as if she didn't give a damn! Just a lazy and boring performance. Someone give the woman vitamins! Geez...

REVIEW (2005 Remake)
THE FOG remake is one of the many reasons why I don't like so-called "re-imaginings" of films. I don't know about you guys, but if you want a remake done, shouldn't you improve on what was WRONG about the original? I mean, the original was good yet flawed. If the remake had actually done that while keeping what was good about the original, I wouldn't have issues with this horrible mess that calls itself a film. Gee, where do I begin?

What about the fact that Rupert Wainwright sucked up all the atmosphere, mood, tension, suspense, and intelligence that the original possessed? NOTHING HAPPENS IN THIS FILM! The storyline was so slow and boring that this 100 minute film felt thrice as long. Shouldn't something happen in every scene to make the film...I dunno...meaningful and watchable? All I got were really tedious flashback/reincarnation subplots, horrible exposition scenes that added up to nothing, and an investigation that didn't deserve to be investigated. Why do I want to see Maggie Grace, who probably wished she was still on that island on LOST [at least things happen THERE!], visit libraries, read books, and talk to the townsfolk for over an hour just to fill time? And why was the love triangle between Nick, Elizabeth, and Stevie even implied here? It didn't lead anywhere! There was no love triangle in the original. Why complicate things and no do anything with it? And what was up with that old guy with the metal detector? And that annoying black guy on the boat [talk about a stereotype]? Nothing goes together in this film. I blame the stupid PG-13 rating, that limits the real terror this film could have placed on the audience. But noooo...we need to be mainstream and cater to everyone for that quick cash! Fuck that! I want blood, scares, and tears running down people's faces out of fear! This film was the equivalent of THE WALTONS, only less scarier.

I can't believe John Carpenter produced this crap. Did he not appreciate the original and how subtle it was? Maybe Carpenter did and wanted this remake to be done so we could appreciate the original even more. I don't know but it's just sad that he wanted to make a quick dollar on a film he probably put a lot of love back back in 1979/80. I really hope he's happy with this crap because he might be the only one.

Smart move picking a first time film director and the screenwriter who wrote THE CORE. How the writer to THE CORE is still getting job offers boggles my mind! The sad part is that THE CORE is actually a better film than this one! He dumbed down the original's simple premise by adding unneeded subplots and dialogue that only brought confusion rather than resolution. Adding insight to simplicity only creates difficulty, asshole. Let's see what Cooper Layne [the man who wrote this film] thinks what a horror movie is:

Boring characters? Check.

Illogical storytelling? Check.

A fog that moves fast one minute and slows down the next? Check.

Characters who only like to pop out of shadows to scare each other for no reason whatsoever? Check.

Tacky CGI monsters that look faker than Pamela Anderson's breasts? Check.

Making a horror movie that doesn't actually have horror? Check.

Pissing off fans who enjoy horror films? Double check.

You know, I could go on and on about these two dillholes, but I won't give them the benefit of my ranting. They just did a horrible job and did everything OPPOSITE of what John Carpenter did. How could you fuck something so easy up? The original was the blueprint. Work with it and improve on it! Giving me flashbacks [which the original lacked in my opinion] was the only decent thing done in the film. Even that was faulty though. But why tie Elizabeth into the whole fog phenomena? Why have Stevie work in a lighthouse when nothing was done with the location? Why telegraph your scares beforehand, taking out the unpredictability factor from the film? And the characters...what happened to the realistic and interesting characters the original possessed? How can two people make real people so damn boring? Why was this film even made? I don't get it!

The acting is abysmal in this film. Tom Welling needs to stick to playing Superman because he does not have 1/100th of the charisma that Tom Atkins had in the same role. Just because the guy is pretty doesn't mean he's an automatic leading man. He was the equivalent of watching paint dry, only with paint drying being more interesting to watch. And Maggie Grace...no wonder she was killed off on LOST. I was hoping Jamie Lee Curtis would burst onto the screen, beat some sense into this Barbie doll, and show everyone how it's done. She's so bad. I was not convinced by her performance at all. At least get naked or something. That would have compensated for lousy acting! By default, the best performance was by Selma Blair as DJ Stevie Wayne. At least she was trying to act, even though it was a poor interpretation of Adrienne Barbeau. And Selma, next time someone dies right in front of you, try and act scared, okay? Okay. At least you looked hot.

Oh God, this film makes me want to puke. Someone hand me a paper bag...

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE WATCHING BOTH FILMS
1. Don't ever pick up a hot hitchhiker. Her brother may be a psychopath with an obsession about killing on a certain holiday.

2. The dry piece of wood found on the beach had a serious leaking problem. I also have wood that leaks, although I don't think it applies to the previous sentence.

3. The fog brings death to anyone it comes across. That poor air quality in California is really getting out of hand!

4. The weatherman got hooked by one of the ghost pirates. While death is bad, he could have gone out a lot worse.

5. The priest is drinking liquor to get rid of his fears and guilt. That ain't holy water, Padre! Get yourself together and may God bless you!

6. Screaming gets nothing done. Not true. It gets you noticed by everyone - something the remake doesn't need.

7. The black guy got attacked last. When did the horror genre start using Affirmative Action?

8. Elizabeth didn't have her head explode when Nick banged her in the shower. I guess having sex with Superman isn't so dangerous after all!

9. There were wet footprints on the ceiling. I guess Lionel Richie is making a comeback.

10. Stevie's son figured that putting scotch tape on the cracks of his bedroom door would keep the fog out. Just because it says "Magic Tape" doesn't mean it's from Hogwarts, idiot!

THE FINAL HOWL
If you have to watch any version of THE FOG, watch the 1980 John Carpenter version. At least you won't be pulling your hair or falling asleep to the crappiness of the 2005 remake. You know what the sad part is? The remake is more dated than the original. Just comes to show that sometimes, don't fix what ain't broken. LEAVE THE ORIGINALS ALONE!!

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