Monday, April 18, 2011

A Decade of Dreck #50: The Fog

Charge Shot!!! is celebrating the end of the decade in the most masochistic way we know how - by watching and writing about the 100 worst movies of the last ten years as defined by film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Click here to see RT's complete list, click here for more information about the Decade of Dreck project, and click here to see all of the movies we've done so far. 

Fifty down, fifty to go! We're halfway there, Charge Shooters!!!

My bachelor's degree in history essentially limits me to two possible career paths: schoolteacher or old town historian. You know, the old, tweedily impertinent fellow with eyeglasses and a bow tie who tells inquisitive kids about the sinister origins of their small hometown's founding. "Yessir, it's true. 'Round eighteen aught nine, Major Ogden burned down all the Chippewas' wigwams, rightabouts where the courthouse is now. And they say that on a dark, moonless October night...why, just like the kind we're expecting this Friday, the souls of the Chippewas return to the land of the living to terrorize Ogdenville's residents. 'Course, it's only a legend. Have a good weekend, kids!"

Yes, this stock character appears in The Fog, 2005's ill-fated remake of the John Carpenter original. I suppose we can't really chalk up too much originality to the first go through of this story, it seems it might still be your run-of-the-mill "town curse" movie. Still, Carpenter is an unusually talented filmmaker with enough cult classics (and the first and still best of the slasher movies in Halloween) and perhaps we can't count out the original based on the by-the-numbers badness of this one. But that's for another day, right now we have to marvel at the fact that someone bothered to fork up the money to remake a movie you could have straight up stolen the plot from and gotten away clean.

After all, if this story is so overdone, what does a remake of an unoriginal movie end up being (besides bad)?

So basically, there's this small Oregon town called Antonio Bay that's getting all into celebrating their history by erecting a statue of their four founding fathers. Shortly after putting the statue up, the titular water vapor rolls into town, and people start dying in (allegedly) horrific ways. It turns out, the town's founders killed a bunch of lepers or something so now the lepers are gonna haunt the fuck out of the town as revenge, and kill some people with fog while they're at it.

One of my favorite parts of this movie was the "necessity" of having a priest character, just so the phrase "sins of the father" can be explained; because nobody who speaks English and isn't a doctor of divinity can recognize that one.

Sidetrack time! During our freshman year of college, I knew Charge Shot!!!'s own Jordan Pedersen as three things: the guy who liked to play Star Wars Battlefront II with me, the guy who listened to Coheed & Cambria all the time, and the guy who watched Smallville. Jordan was Smallville Guy for the first year or so of our friendship, the dude just loved Smallville. What I'm trying to say is that Tom Welling is in this movie, as a commercial fisherman of all things. Apparently, the remake committee (or whoever is in charge of these things) decided that the movie needed more sexy teen idols than the original, so we get Clark Kent and Shannon from Lost in this one, being sexy and appealing to teenagers.

Yes, The Fog is poorly acted and directed (that goes without saying for this feature), but it's unoriginality is overpowering. I spent the entire runtime daydreaming about better scary movies, and I wasn't scared once, which is just egregious. The movie wasn't good enough, scary enough, sexy enough, or funny enough: it accomplished zero percent of what a horror movie can do. It's just some sort of amorphous carbon mass floating out there in the void.

I was especially enraptured by a scene where an old lady(!) is exposed to the Fog and becomes a victim to it. After being attacked by one of the Fog's specters, her skin begins to decompose and turn to ash, starting with her hands and moving up to the rest of her body. The woman's reaction is closer to mild alarm ("Oohhhh...OHHHHH!") than to terror and anguish ("ARRRRRRGHHHHHH! MOTHER OF GOD, MY SKIN IS BURNING OFF! YEEEEEERRRRRGGGGGGGHHH!"). It's just hard to take the menace of the title seriously when Grandma's violent death is so underwhelming.

There's also the requisite "Let's Solve Our Relationship Issues Whilst Battling The Forces of Evil" subplot between Welling and Maggie Grace throughout the movie. I'm just sick of this one: yeah, it sucks that your relationship has been on the rocks since you moved to New York, Maggie Grace, and yeah, Superboy is a jerk for fooling around with Selma Blair (she's in this too) behind your back, but does that really matter when you're being pursued by a cloud made of the souls of vengeful ghosts that burns your skin off?

Oh, and jeez, before we go: the "twist" (aka "plot hole nobody asked for") ending on this one is a doozy, and a rip-off of about fourteen better movies. It turns out that Maggie Grace is the reincarnation of the leper ghost captain's (Boris the Blade) wife, and she ends up getting taken away into the great beyond with the phantoms at the end of all the carnage. The last shot of the movie is a zoom-in on an old-timey photograph of the two of them, thereby establishing that yeah, she was a reincarnation of that character nobody mentioned before. Does that sound familiar at all?

By serving up a retread of a not-really-a-classic, The Fog doubles down on unoriginality, and it sucks for it. PG-13 remakes are the beginning of the end for horror cinema. Do yourself a favor and skip The Fog and rent The Mist (the black and white version!) and prepare to have your pants scared off for real.

The Fog is ranked #66 on the Rotten Tomatoes Worst 100 list with 5% freshness. Its RT page can be found here.