John Carpenter is a modern ‘master of horror’ so it’s not surprising that Hollywood eventually pillaged a handful of his movies for the remake treatment. While the Assault on Precinct 13 remake was decent and Rob Zombie’s Halloween update has its fans, the 2011 update of The Thing was pretty underwhelming. However, each of these movies looks like a masterpiece when compared to the 2005 reboot of The Fog. From a box office perspective, The Fog actually performed relatively well with ticket sales more than doubling its budget. But critics and audiences alike savaged the knockoff ghost story.
As the small coastal Oregon community prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary, a strange glowing fog submerges the community into a nightmare. Somewhere hidden in the fog are ghostly figures and a century-old secret of greed, death, and revenge.
John Carpenter’s The Fog a Minor, But Worthy Entry in 80s Horror
In between Halloween and Escape From New York and The Thing, John Carpenter wrote (alongside Debra Hill) and directed supernatural thriller The Fog. Its tale of revenge beyond the grave divided critics and ended up as something of a middling hit. At just under 90 minutes, Carpenter weaves a fun ghost story that never drags and boasts a midnight movie vibe. Carpenter wisely leaves his ‘ghosts’ as shadowy figures, which hides lower budget make-up effects. OOn one hand, The Fog periodically descends into slasher territory. Moreover, the movie relies a little too much on horror contrivances (i.e, a car that won’t start). Nevertheless, Carpenter crafts a few ‘edge-of-your-seat’ moments. The best of these scenes finds a little boy trapped alone in his bedroom as the fog envelopes his house and ghosts come pounding on his door. Yes, The Fog is guilty of repeating some of these scares, but they mostly work.
At just under 90 minutes, Carpenter weaves a fun ghost story that never drags and boasts a midnight movie vibe.
Like with most of his movies, Carpenter also composed the score for The Fog. If this supernatural slasher ranks amongst the middle of his work, the score itself ranks as one of Carpenter’s best works. Less intrusive than some of his other compositions, The Fog’s score maintains tension in the the thriller’s quieter moments, while ratcheting it back up as events build to the climax. The Fog also beneftis all-star cast of familiar genre actors including Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Atkins, Hal Holbrook, Charles Cyphers, and Adrienne Barbeau. Scream queen legend and Curtis’ mother, Janet Leigh, also has a small role. Fans of 80s horror will find plenty to get nostalgic about while watching The Fog.
The Fog Remake a Soggy Remake That Drags the Bottom-of-the-Barrel
Most of the horror remakes that surfaced in the 2000s were pretty bland efforts, completely misunderstanding what worked in the originals. When a Stranger Calls, Prom Night, The Stepfather – none of them remotely improved upon what were pretty mediocre horror movies in the first place. And The Fog remake repeats most of the common mistakes. Director Rupert Wainwright (Stigmata), working from Cooper Layne’s screenplay, gets to work with much better production values. As a result, the Tofino coastline – subbing for Oregon – looks appropriately haunting. Yet the genre had largely abandoned practical effects in the aughts in favour of poor CGI. So we get lots of fake-looking swirling fog and poorly rendered ghosts that are too overexposed. In what was likely a studio decision, the horror on display feels neutered for that box office PG-13 rating.
But Layne’s screenplay makes the sorts of revisions that plagued most remakes of the era.
This brings us to another problem with The Fog remake – Wainwright struggles to effectively stage suspense or scares. When the remake closely follows the Carpenter original, it’s a generally watchable effort. But Layne’s screenplay makes the sorts of revisions that plagued most remakes of the era. Specifically, The Fog adds more backstory that has the exact opposite effect as intended, reducing the atmosphere and suspense. Some characters have their roles expanded with Maggie Grace’s (Lost) Elizabeth sharing some unexplained connection with the ghosts. Other characters – important in the original movie – see their roles made meaningless. Wainwright criminally underutilizes Selma Blair’s lighthouse DJ Stevie Wayne and this version’s Father Malone gets wasted. And Smallville’s Tom Welling subs in for Tom Atkins though he probably wishes he was back on Krypton.
The Fog Remake Even Worse Than Your Typical 2000s Do-Over
Like most horror remakes from the aughts, The Fog isn’t lacking in production values or recognizable talent in front of the camera. By and large, Wainwright and the studio make the same mistake as other lukewarm remakes. Poor CGI replaced practical visual effects with less scares. Inexplicably, R-rated violence got downgraded to safe PG-13 fare. And unnecessary backstory got added to the original story with seriously diminished returns. Yet somehow the 2005 version of The Fog stands out as one of the worst remakes from the decade. Almost nothing here works on any level. Though John Carpenter’s original ghost story may have been a good candidate for a re-imagining, this wasn’t it.