Director – Rupert Wainwright, Screenplay – Cooper Layne, Based on the 1980 Film Written by John Carpenter & Debra Hill, Producers – John Carpenter, David Foster & Debra Hill, Photography – Nathan Hope, Music – Graeme Revell, Music Supervisors – Budd Carr & Nora Felder, Visual Effects – Hy*drau*lx (Supervisor – Chris Watts), Pre-Visualization – Crack Creative (Supervisor – Joshua Holden), Special Effects Supervisor – Bob Comer, Makeup Effects – Schminken Studio Inc, Production Design – Michael Diner & Graeme Murray. Production Company – Revolution Studios/Debra Hill/David Foster Productions
Tom Welling (Nick Castle), Maggie Grace (Elizabeth Williams), Selma Blair (Stevie Wayne), DeRay Davis (Spooner), Kenneth Welsh (Tom Malone), Sara Botsford (Kathy Williams), Cole Heppell (Andy Wayne), Adrian Hough (Father Malone), Rade Sherbedgia (Captain Blake), R. Nelson Brown (Machen), Jonathon Young (Dan the Weatherman), Alex Bruhanski (Uncle Hank), Mary Black (Aunt Connie)
On Antonio Island, fisherman Nick Castle meets up with his old girlfriend Elizabeth Williams after she returns to town, drawn back by her dreams. At the same time, a mysterious fog bank closes in around the island. A ghostly sailing ship is seen in the fog. Any person caught inside the fog is then slaughtered in bizarre ways. Nick and Elizabeth realise that the fog contains the ghosts of the Elizabeth Dane, a ship of lepers that the townspeople robbed and set alight for its gold in 1872, and that the ghosts have now returned seeking justice from the townspeople.
The Fog (1980) was genre director John Carpenter’s fourth theatrical film as director, the first film that Carpenter made after the enormous success of Halloween (1978). Following The Fog, Carpenter would go onto other classics like Escape from New York (1981) and The Thing (1982) and numerous other genre films. Today, Carpenter’s The Fog has faded in stature and sat in a largely forgotten back corner of videoshelves up until its revival by this remake. Nevertheless, at the time the original The Fog was made, it was regarded as a reasonable effort and helped cement John Carpenter’s reputation as one of the top horror directors of the 1980s.
Here, The Fog joins a host of other horror films of the 1970s and 80s that have been revived in big-budget cinematic remakes in the 00s. Others of these have included The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), Toolbox Murders (2003), Dawn of the Dead (2004), The Amityville Horror (2005), Black Christmas (2006), The Hills Have Eyes (2006), The Omen (2006), Sisters (2006), When a Stranger Calls (2006), The Wicker Man (2006), The Hitcher (2007), April Fool’s Day (2008), Day of the Dead (2008), It’s Alive (2008), Long Weekend (2008), Prom Night (2008), Friday the 13th (2009), The Last House on the Left (2009), My Bloody Valentine (2009), Night of the Demons (2009), Sorority Row (2009), The Stepfather (2009), And Soon the Darkness (2010), The Crazies (2010), I Spit on Your Grave (2010), Mother’s Day (2010), A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), Piranha (2010), Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2011), Fright Night (2011), Straw Dogs (2011), Maniac (2012), Carrie (2013), Evil Dead (2013), Patrick (2013) and Poltergeist (2015). Indeed, among these host of revivals, John Carpenter’s works seem to be a clear favourite with there also having been a remakes of Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 (2005) and The Thing (2011), as well as Rob Zombie’s reworking of Halloween (2007) and new versions of Escape from New York (1981) and They Live (1988) on the drawing board.
The depressing thing about The Fog 2005, which John Carpenter took an active co-producing role on, is that the original has now been reconceptualised as an 00s teen horror film. Much of the casting plays to the teen audience – Tom Welling takes his shirt off throughout for no clear purpose. The lead character in the original was Adrienne Barbeau’s radio DJ Stevie Wayne. There is an equivalent of Stevie Wayne present here, recast with Selma Blair, but she is relegated to a minor supporting character. Adrienne Barbeau was the heroine of the original but Selma Blair’s turn in the part is a forgettable one, where Stevie has become no more than a bland modern rock chick. Missing entirely are the memorable climactic scenes of the original, which had Barbeau pursued around the roof of a lighthouse by the ghostly sailors.
The central roles here have been taken over by what in the original were the supporting characters of Tom Atkins’ truck driver Nick Castle and the hitchhiker he picks up and spends the night with, Jamie Lee Curtis’s Elizabeth Solley (who has been renamed Elizabeth Williams). The two characters have been changed into generic youth leads and given a romantic past. At the same time, the apparent age of the characters has been lowered to appeal to the teen horror demographic. In the original roles, by contrast, Tom Atkins was aged 45 and Jamie Lee Curtis 22 years old. Here Atkins is replaced by Tom Welling, Superboy/Clark Kent from tv’s Smallville (2001-11), who is aged 28, and Maggie Grace from tv’s Lost (2004-10), who is 22, which is at least the same age Jamie Lee Curtis was in the original. While Adrienne Barbeau was age 35, in her role here Selma Blair is 33, which is only two years younger than Barbeau, although Blair looks more like she is 23.
There have been various other changes made such as recasting Antonio Bay as an island rather than a coastal town. Perhaps one of the better – indeed, probably the only good thing that The Fog 2005 does – is to clean up the original’s plot. In the original, the plot had the feeling that it had been slung together as a series of random scare scenes with little in the way of explanatory rationale or connecting logic. The Fog 2005 evens that out somewhat and gives us a series of flashbacks interspersed throughout that tells us the fate of the crew of the Elizabeth Dane in much more detail. This leads to an entirely new but bizarre ending where Maggie Grace for some reason turns out to be the reincarnation of the Elizabeth Dane captain Rade Sherbedgia’s wife and the two come together again in ghostly union.
The director chosen for The Fog 2005 is British-born Rupert Wainwright. Rupert Wainwright started out directing commercials and music videos, before making his feature debut with the kid’s film Blank Check (1994). Wainwright’s previous venture into the horror genre was Stigmata (1999), an occasionally stylish and an almost good film. (Wainwright also directed the tv pilot for Wolf Lake (2001), which I have not seen but seems fascinating in description). Here though Wainwright goes disastrously awry. He badly flubs all the pieces that he copies from the original. One of the spookiest scenes in the original was the appearance of the Elizabeth Dane from out of a fog bank, drifting by lit up like a phantom ship. Wainwright sets up an equivalent scene here but the potential ghostliness of the effect is badly undercut by his immediately cutting away to an absurd scene with two girls partying aboard a fishing boat being thrown through a window and attacked by a levitating knife. Wainwright has little-to-no idea about creating atmosphere. There is nothing in the film that ever resonates with the spookiness of the opening moments in the original where we tour the town and various objects start moving of their own accord, or the intense threat of shadowy figures looming out of the fog and hammering at doors.
The Fog 2005 has a much bigger budget than the original and spends a substantial amount of this on recreating the fog with CGI effects. We get a number of scenes with the fog behaving in mysterious, very un-fog-like ways and shapes appearing out of it. However, most of these digital effects are ridiculous and absurd – like where the flaming corpse of Jonathan Young’s weatherman is flung through a window and we see it melt down; or where Mary Black’s aunt reaches her hands down into the kitchen sink as the fog appears and turns her to a calcified skeleton in seconds; and ghosts cause Selma Blair to drive off a cliff. It soon becomes apparent that these absurdly overdressed pop-up digital effects are all that the remake has going for it. There is nothing in the remake that ever coalesces into any of the genuinely creepy and suspenseful moments that John Carpenter gave us in the original.
(Winner in this site’s Worst Films of 2005 list.).