Reel Opinions

Monday, October 31, 2005

The Fog

Well, it's October, and it's time once more for the studios to parade out their horror films in an attempt to scare up enough money for one or two decent weekends before the holiday comes and goes, and the films sink like a stone come November. First out of the gate is The Fog, an empty-headed and mind-numbingly dull excuse for a thriller. I was actually looking forward to this film, as I have never seen the John Carpenter original, and had heard good things. I thought that with a fresh and unbiased look, I could get the full enjoyment out of the experience. If only there was any enjoyment to be had. If Carpenter's film is anything like this shallow piece of boredom, I guess I haven't been missing much.

A small island fishing village is gearing up to celebrate its four founding fathers with a statue and a celebration as the film opens. The village seems to be comprised of maybe 20 people tops due to the scant number of extras that populate the streets. Amongst the crazy old men and alcoholic priests that run rampant, we've got our main cast. One of our stars is Nick (played by Tom Welling from Smallville), the head of a small fishing boat who's having an affair with the local DJ (Selma Blair) while his girlfriend, Elizabeth (Maggie Grace), is away. Things aren't going well for Nick. His business is near rock bottom, and all he's got for company during his voyages at sea is his obnoxious jive-talking black ship hand (DeRay Davis).

Elizabeth makes an unexpected return to her island home after she rather suddenly departed for New York City six months ago without telling anyone, and that's when the ominous signs start popping up.It starts out innocently enough with trinkets like pocket watches and hairbrushes that seem to be centuries old washing up on shore. But then, in true horror movie fashion, the animals start acting strange (Rule # 1: When you see hundreds of birds flocking, and dogs acting strangely, get out of town.), and Nick's ship is attacked out at sea by a mysterious fog bank which winds up killing all but the black guy, who survives by hiding out in the freezer, breaking the cardinal rule of horror films that the black guy must be the first to die. Elizabeth seems very unnerved by these events, as she is continuously haunted by nightmarish visions of people being set on fire and drowning. It certainly doesn't help that dead people are now coming back to life for no explainable reason to give her cryptic warnings, and she has come across a book that seems to hint that perhaps the four founding fathers weren't too great after all.

After way too much ominous set up, the fog that attacked Nick's boat finally reaches the village. Chaos ensues, zombie-like ghosts start walking the street, and then it's over almost as soon as it begun. To call The Fog anticlimactic is an understatement. The entire first hour of the movie is literally devoted to almost nothing but build up. I'm serious, it literally takes well over an hour before the ghostly fog finally makes it to the town, and things actually start happening. We get a couple brief glimpses that hint at excitement, but then it goes right back to concentrating on the characters. This wouldn't be so bad if the characters in this film were interesting, but they're about as deep as a puddle, and about as fun to watch, as well.

Those descriptions I gave above for each character? That's literally all there is. Nick has supposedly been romantically involved with a single mother who works at an alternative music radio station, but aside from an awkward meeting between the two on the street, that's all we get. His relationship is even more forced with the female lead, Elizabeth. Other than a brief love-making scene in the shower (done in a PG-13 way, of course), we get no real look into their relationship whatsoever. Why are they together? What is their attraction? My only guess is it's because Nick is the only man on the island who's not an alcoholic or over 60 years old. If you're going to devote over half your movie to build up, you need interesting characters. Alas, The Fog contains not one single person we can relate to or even like, so we just sit patiently and wait for the carnage to begin.

Even when the carnage does come, it's underwhelming to say the least. I don't know, maybe I had grown frustrated by the seemingly endless build up that I just did not care anymore. But after what I sat through, I wanted a little bit more than a transparent Crypt Keeper reject walking around in dry ice. It'd certainly help if some of the scenes that were supposed to thrill us made more sense. A good example is the scene where Elizabeth is checking out the bodies of those who died on Nick's boat. One of them suddenly sits up and starts talking to her, then falls down again. No explanation or logic is given here. It just...happens. And how about the scene where the DJ woman is at work, and a trinket she got from her son that he found on the beach suddenly sets part of the room on fire? After she puts out the fire, it leaves bizarre symbols burned into the wall. Yet, she does not tell anyone, she simply calls her son, and tells him not to go to the beach, though she doesn't explain why. Okay, I can understand not telling the kid (who would believe her), but why the hell does she not get the heck out of there after that happens? Next time we see her, it's nighttime, and she's still in the room. I don't know about you, but if I was alone in a room, things started blowing up, and I started to hear bizarre screams and blood-curdling cries through my radio speakers, I'd get the hell out of there!

The Fog is filled with moments that don't make very much sense when applied to basic logic. But nothing quite compares to the highly anti-climactic ending that you can not only see coming from a mile away (even if you have not seen the original film), but almost seems to be an afterthought. We get about an hour of build up, 25 minutes of carnage, and then an ending that seems to come out of nowhere, like director Rupert Wainright suddenly ran out of budget, and decided "Okay, people, we've gotta wrap this one up!" I don't know if the original ended the same way, but I can't picture how Carpenter's version could be considered a classic by some people if the ending is this abrupt.

The Fog is a failure in just about every conceivable way. The writing, the plotting, the pacing, the performances, the music score...Everything is instantly forgettable and just plain half-assed. You can tell that no one cared when making this project, so why should you? The Fog is a thrill-less and junkie little horror film that will probably play well to the kiddie crowd and those who are easily scared by weather patterns. Even the Weather Channel is more exciting than this. Just stay away.

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