Film

The Fog (2005)

Cynthia Fuchs

As usual, the child is the one with a clue; as soon as Andy sees the digital fog rolling in, his eyes go wide and he murmurs, 'It wants us.'"


The Fog

Director: Rupert Wainwright
Cast: Tom Welling, Maggie Grace, Selma Blair, DeRay Davis, Kenneth Welsh, Adrian Hough, Rade Serbedzija
MPAA rating: PG-13
Studio: Columbia
First date: 2005
US Release Date: 2005-10-14
Somebody please beam me out of here.
-- DJ Stevie (Selma Blair), The Fog

"We gotta go!" Poor Nick (Tom Welling) says this a few too many times in The Fog, and every time he does, you're likely to be thinking the same thing. Rupert Wainwright's dull remake of John Carpenter's bizarre, though judiciously spare 1980 version maintains a steady, slow pace, never building to a climax that matters. Though the flesh and blood characters' primary opponents are vengeful 19th-century ghosts, they're more egregiously inconvenienced by the clunky script, which manages to explain and leave out too much at the same time.

Nick lives on Antonio Island, off the Oregon coast, where self-important local mucky-mucks -- including the on-edge mayor (Kenneth Welsh), the hoity-toity Mrs. Williams (Sara Botsford), and the miserable, perpetually drunk Father Malone (Adrian Hough) -- are inaugurating a memorial to the town founders. An early, misty flashback reveals that these founders were in fact dastardly sorts, the precise and grisly nature of their crime to be revealed anon (though not anon enough -- the saga grinds on for an hour and 40 minutes). This and other flashbacks -- most often appearing as "visions" attributed to Elizabeth (Maggie Grace), leggy and blond and apt to walk through scary hallways in her underwear -- lay out the reasons for the ghosts' reappearance in linear fashion, but they don't do much for the forward motion of the scary plot.

The flashbacky clutter also runs counter to the low-budget leanness of Carpenter's original, which was occasionally comical, but also creepy. The elucidation is only vaguely topical: the founders sign a contract with a group of lepers looking for an island of their own, then renege big time, locking the lepers in their ship and burning it at sea. It's one of those "Indian burial grounds" set-ups that cheesy horror movies so love to exploit: the lepers' ghosts are unleashed by a wayward anchor, and come to kill the founders' descendants. (The ghosts' skeletal and dusty-looking visages are actually yuckier than the flashbacked leper faces, but the frequent closeups of the latter suggest the filmmakers wanted to show off their makeup effects.)

The anchor belongs to Nick, who runs a tourists' fishing business, handed down from his dad, an actual fisherman, now dead, and the descendent of founder. Also in this unlucky group, Nick's erstwhile girl Elizabeth rolls back into town after an apparently hasty departure; "You left without a note," complains Nick after he picks her up on a lonely cliff-side road (this parallels Elizabeth as unrelated hitchhiker in the first film). She confesses her nightmares when, following a tastefully soft-lit sex scene, she wakes up in a panic beside Nick, and starts explaining the perfect sweat on her brow.

Elizabeth feels connected to the founders' crime (though the film's resolution quite undoes this connection, or twists it inside out, as it becomes unclear whether she's a descendent of the founders or the founders' victims, or maybe she's just a generic sacrificial blond). So she heads off on her own search for narrative, to learn how her burning ship dreams fit together. Her efforts to decipher the mystery include googling, interviewing craggy town elders, and nearly drowning when aggressive seaweed grabs at her.

In a more organized film, Elizabeth's story would be connected with everyone else's. But she spends way too much time alone (her painfully limited performance consisting of reactions to noises and effects). Nick's involvement is even more passive, except when he valiantly drives through the assaultive fog to rescue Andy (Cole Heppell), young son of his sometime lover, DJ Stevie (Selma Blair, whose restrained reaction to the fog seeping into her car only demonstrates that she profoundly outclasses this movie). As usual, the child is the one with a clue; as soon as Andy sees the digital fog rolling in, his eyes go wide and he murmurs, "It wants us."

Stevie is the film's designated Clever Girl, repeatedly placed in jeopardy and repeatedly figuring her way out. (Ordinarily, this would be Elizabeth's job, but she's not so clever.) While she spins "the platters that matter" (apparently, she's stuck in her own wayward century) in a lonely lighthouse, she has to deal with the flirtations of Dan the weatherman (Jonathon Young), who advises her of the fog's whereabouts ("What kind of fog moves against the wind?" she wonders) and sends her a webcam ("If I wanted to be seen," she groans, " I wouldn't have gone into radio"). Really, though, the camera serves one purpose: it makes her the unwilling but rapt witness of Dan the weatherman's burning when the fog ghosts attack.

Alas, Stevie's wiliness doesn't stop the film from culminating in the standard big confrontation between townies and fog ghosts, framed by the somewhat antic commentary by the one outsider, Nick's first mate and best friend Spooner (DeRay Davis), the only black character in sight. Though Spooner initially works overtime to "fit in" with the white folk, whooping and drinking and training his video camera on bikinied girls during a nighttime cruise with Nick's dead-meat cousin, he's eventually quite eager to dissociate himself. When the townies are informed, "The sins of the fathers are visited upon the heads of the children," Spooner rightly shouts, "Keep my father out of this. I'm from Chicago!"


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Music

Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?

Music

Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.

Music

IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.

Music

Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.

Film

NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.

Books

David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.

Music

David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.

Music

Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".

Music

Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.

Music

The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.