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The Fog

John Carpenter began his directorial career with an uninterrupted explosion of creativity, turning out one uniquely memorable film after another while jumping across a variety of genres. For some reason, Hollywood has recently felt more inclined to remake those movies than to get behind new Carpenter projects. Of the first bunch of Carpenter films to be updated—including Assault On Precinct 13, Halloween, Escape From New York, and The Thing (itself a remake)—the 1980 film The Fog has the most room for improvement. A ghost story set on an isolated island, Carpenter's original version begins brilliantly with John Houseman delivering a chilling fireside monologue, which feeds into a supernatural intrusion on everyday life that echoes the alien-abduction sequence from Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. It out-Spielbergs Spielberg, but then falls apart. Somehow, the unsettling gaseous menace rolling into town stops being as scary when ghost pirates start crawling out of it.


But even the weakest moments of Carpenter's The Fog put the flaws of the beyond-unnecessary 2005 remake in sharp relief. Starring Selma Blair (in a role originated by Jamie Lee Curtis) and TV all-stars Tom Welling (Smallville) and Maggie Grace (Lost), it's virtually indiscernible from any other contemporary horror film except for, well, the fog. Carpenter knew how to invest films with character. (He still does, even though his creative and economic returns have diminished over the years.) The assembly line that produces most current horror films only knows how to plug pretty faces into a high concept.
Here, that concept is fog, which doesn't so much come in on little cat feet as roll in at a CGI-determined pace while making noise that sounds like goth-inspired ambient music. It's revenge-seeking fog, see. But while it seems to have a kind of sentience, it doesn't have much logic, unless knocking off a pair of bikini-clad boaters is a revenge-seeking fog's way of clearing its throat. Eventually, it sets its sights on the three stars, whose investigations reveal why the fog is after them.

It doesn't have anything to do with ghost pirates, but it might as well. Actually, ghost pirates would have helped. Where Carpenter accomplished more the less explicit he was with what the fog was all about, director Rupert Wainwright never really grasps how to make mist scary. Instead of carefully placed chills, there are a lot of shots of the cast reacting to computer effects. Cinematographer Nathan Hope delivers a nice muted look, but there's nothing in the frame that suggests all that trouble was worth the effort.

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