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Lost in ‘The Fog’: Movie Review

Rama Gottumukkala | Friday, March 24, 2006

For some reason, the powers that be at Revolution Studios thought it was a good idea to drop 18 million dollars into the hands of director Rupert Wainwright, giving him free reign on a 21st century remake of “The Fog.”

Before the script was even written.

“The Fog,” a remake of horror kingpin John Carpenter’s 1980 version, is a failure on multiple fronts, not the least of which is its paper-thin excuse for a plot.

One hundred years following the mysterious, underhanded founding of Antonio Bay, a sleep, isolated coastal town, vengeful spirits return to wreck havoc on the descendents of the town’s first settlers. Inhabiting a supernatural, malicious fog, these spirits plague the characters at inopportune moments throughout the film.

If the plot sounds hokey, it is. There are countless, classic horror films that arise from similarly thin plots. But the reasons they succeed – and linger around Halloween season – are the genuine thrills, scares and heart-pounding chase scenes that draw the audience into the action. While “The Fog” attempts to play off the genre’s rich traditions, it fails on all three of these fronts. The film’s apparitions come across more as mild annoyances than palpable threats, easily avoided and lacking any real peril.

The cast of “The Fog,” a motley collection of Hollywood’s rising young stars, put on a brave face and try their best with the film’s lean material. But they don’t have nearly the colossal amount of charisma needed to right this sinking ship. Tom Welling and Maggie Grace, who play ill-fated lovers Nick Castle and Elizabeth Williams, have amassed plenty of experience from starring roles in two popular television drams, “Smallville” and “Lost” respectively. But their characters are so one-dimensional, it’s hard to empathize with their woeful predicament. In fact, one of every three lines Welling spouts off seems to be, “Come on. We need to keep moving,” as he herds the survivors of the fog from one town locale to the next. This doesn’t exactly qualify as riveting entertainment.

Selma Blair’s (“Hellboy”) character, Stevie Wayne, is thrown into the mix as part of a love triangle. But the lack of any real passion, or even empathy, between the characters dashes another of the film’s attempts to rise above its cookie-cutter nature. And does it even qualify as a real love triangle if Blair and Grace’s characters exchange hardly a dozen words? Probably not.

While Wainwright and the rest of his crew crank up their artificial fog machines throughout the film’s pivotal scenes, the novelty of the billowing effect quickly wears out its welcome. In fact, it seems like the film’s budget was geared more towards creating computer-generated fog banks than any other chilling set pieces. None of the hazards pose much of a challenge for the film’s intrepid heroes as they run disjointedly from one fright to the next, unfortunately dragging the audience along for the ride.

So far, “The Fog” has taken in over $25 million in its theatrical tour of mediocrity. And it’s likely that semi-strong DVD sales will help drop a tidy sum of money into the pockets of the film’s financiers, which is the real travesty of “The Fog.” Its success will probably fuel the vicious cycle of Hollywood studios dropping money into unnecessary films. Even before a script is written.