Sunday, October 16, 2005

So fogging bad....

Writing an extensive critique on why the remake of The Fog was so deplorable, would be like elaborating on why a car accident is bad. Anyone who has been witness knows why, words are unnecessary.

I know I’ve bashed a lot of these horror remakes on this blog, whined and complained about their unoriginality and lack of coherency: The Ring 2, The Amityville Horror, The House of Wax, among them. I even called Fantastic Four the (probable) worst film of the summer in my review a couple months ago. It was one of the most scathing reviews I’ve written since I began this blog.

This is why I am having such a difficult time trying to quantify the complete and utter worthlessness of The Fog. Words can not describe, and yet I will attempt to express my anguish over the two hours of my life which I can never get back, by way of some analogies.

The Fog is to me as:

Chocolate is to Dogs
Hydrochloric Acid is to eyeballs
Man-o-Wars are to babies

Even when a movie isn’t very good, there are still usually certain things that were well done. Sometimes a movie will have a terrible story and script, but will have beautiful art direction and cinematography. Sometimes, it may have a very low production value, and the plot may be completely forgettable, but the actors do a great job with what they have. Not so with the Fog, which lacked a single redeeming quality. I could ramble on for paragraph after paragraph about how poor the directing was, how there was zero character development, and how it lacked any scary or suspenseful moments. Instead I’ve chosen to focus on one glaring element which nearly made me scream with confusion and rage at the end of the film.

The Fog is a remake of the 1980 John Carpenter horror film of the same name. The plot of the original is fairly simple, but cleverly executed. Antonio Bay is a small island community in the Pacific North West, about to celebrate its centennial anniversary. On the eve of this historic moment, strange occurrences are beleaguering residents. Ghostly apparitions appear shrouded in thick fog, and odd artifacts begin to wash up on the beach. Eventually, the sinister origins of Antonio Bay are revealed; a hundred years prior, the town’s founding fathers deceived and killed a shipload of lepers. On a foggy night, the founders had lured the leper’s ship onto their rocky shore with a false fire. They stole the lepers gold, left them to die, and used the money to expand Antonio Bay. But on the hundred year anniversary of their death, the ghosts of the deceased lepers have come back to haunt Antonio Bay and take their revenge, traveling in the same misty fog that led them to their fate.

Straightforward enough right? It’s a traditional style ghost story that’s played as a mystery in the original film. Strange clues build up leading to the ultimate reveal of the town’s ghastly past. The remake, while changing around some of the characters, sticks almost exactly to the storyline of the original. In fact, the story is so similar, that John Carpenter and Debra Hill who wrote the 1980 version, got screenwriting credit in the remake as well.

At the start of the film, we are introduced to the quiet town of Antonio Bay, also approaching its centennial with a newly erected statue commemorating it’s four founding fathers. Unlike the original, the film actually opens with these four men on a rowboat swearing an oath to one another as they are about to board a large ship, i.e. the leper’s ship. So already they’ve deflated the reveal of the town’s dark secret.

Being the close knit community that Antonio Bay is, many of its residents are direct descendants of the original founding members of the town. (This is the case in the original as well.) The remake places particular emphasis on the four men who are to be honored with the statue, and stresses the fact, every chance it gets that our main characters share the same last names as those four men; Williams, Malone, Castle and Wayne. These characters, primarily Nick Castle (played by Smallville’s Tom Welling), and Elizabeth Williams (played by Lost’s Maggie Grace) seems to be suffering the brunt of the odd fog induced incidents that have begun to occur.

So far so good. We’ve got the ghosts targeting the relatives of the people who screwed them over. That makes sense. But then all logic seems to go out the window….

Early on in the film, Elizabeth Williams (just to re-emphasize, she is related to one of the four men who deceived the ship of lepers) reappears into town unannounced, after being away for six months. When things don’t go so well when she surprises her mother, (one of the town’s officials leading the centennial), she finds herself back in the arms of her X-boyfriend, Nick Castle. While crashing at his place, she has a terrible nightmare, which she describes as people screaming and a sensation that she’s drowning. As Nick tries to comfort her, she tells him that she’s been having a lot of these dreams lately, and this is the reason that she has come back home. ????? She also offhandedly says that she’s never felt like she belonged in Antonio Bay, and this is why she left in the first place. (Keep in mind we know precious little else about her character. How old she is, what she was doing in NYC while she was away ---none of it).

As the film progresses Elizabeth sense of foreboding dread only increases. An old sea hobo gives her a watch that washed up on shore, and suddenly she is compelled to google search the images engraved on it, because they seem familiar to her. She finds a diary of one of Antonio Bay’s forefathers stashed in an old boathouse. She has an encounter with one of the victims of the Fog when she is in the hospital, a dead man, whose corpse suddenly becomes reanimated and creeps up behind her. As she searches for “answers,” to all of these things, she begins to uncover the mystery of Antonio Bay, yet she is desperate that no one seems to believe her.

As the action on Antonio Bay unfolds, the film intercuts with flashbacks from the night that the four forebears boarded the leper ship and set fire to it. During these brief muddled scenes we meet the head of the lepers, Captain Blake, and catch glimpses of him stroking the pretty blonde hair of his wife. The director makes a clear point of hiding the front of her face from the camera. Funny, she sure has the same hairstyle as Maggie Grace….

AND NOW TO THE BIG REVEAL. The film’s climax takes place in the Antonio Bay Cemetary, in a face off between the town members and the army of leper ghosts. One minute Elizabeth is standing next to Nick, the next she is arm in arm with Captain Blake, her ghost leper husband, and is now also transparent. Let me repeat this for clarifications sake. Elizabeth Williams, great, great, grand daughter of Founding Father Williams, one of the men who aided in the destruction of the leper ship, is actually a ghost. But not just any ghost, she is the lost spirit of Captain Blake’s Wife, one of the lepers who died in the water that night.


After we see Elizabeth transform into this ethereal appartion, she tosses a coy little smirk as Nick’s direction. We then cut to the final shot of the film which is an old sepia toned photograph of Elizabeth in a wedding gown standing next to Captain Blake. You know, just in case we missed the fact that she was the blonde in the flashbacks on the leper ship. Just to reiterate that she was actually a ghost the whole time.


You know, if the filmmakers really wanted to go the whole ghost route, which is weak plotting at best, why make her the descendant of a founder. How could she be on the boat, but then related to the founder? Wha happen? I don’t understand it. How? Why? It’s driving me crazy. I can’t take it. I------------


Blogger The Moviequill said...

I heard the studio did not allow any critics to advance screen it so they could fool everyone on opening weekend, hoping to get back most of their money before word of mouth sunk it

5:56 AM  
Blogger The New Yorker said...

Yeah, I heard that too. Unfortunately at that point I was already on my way to the theater. Oy vey.

7:51 AM  
Anonymous nach said...

did you know blogger was founded by a tufts alum? neither did i. now we know.

3:12 PM  
Blogger The New Yorker said...

Wow, I actually didn't. Pretty cool....

3:13 PM  
Anonymous Brian said...

Was that Wha Happen based on your Tufts experiences, or that movie that I didn't see?

9:43 AM  
Blogger The New Yorker said...

The movie you silly goose.

9:47 AM  
Anonymous Brian said...

I'm just saying, there was also someone at Tufts who used to say "wha happen?" even before that movie came out. You should be respectful of the Chinese food delivery man, he needs all the help he can get.

2:24 PM  
Blogger The New Yorker said...

If you must know, I was actually specifically referencing Fred Willard's character in A Mighty Wind, whose claim to fame was the line "Wha Happen?" --a byproduct of his bizarro accent.

2:28 PM  

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