You have to admire the way director Rupert Wainwright never lets a little thing like the specifics of plot interfere with the plodding pace he has set for THE FOG. It is as though he is following the exacting beat of a metronome and be it a scene of a babysitter watching a game show in television, or one of a creepy crawly vengeance-seeking wraith from the past, the penalty for not following its monotonous lead is too horrible to contemplate.
Also horrible to contemplate is the film itself, a remake of John Carpenter’s cult fave from a quarter-century ago. That one was not only a competent, even a fun, bit of horror peopled with good looking adults learning to fear the roiling fog that swept over their island. The remake, aside from its competency issues, which are legion, is peopled with luscious barely twentysomethings playing the roles of adults and not quite succeeding. Leading the pack is Tom Welling from television’s “Smallville” and luscious he certainly is. He is, in fact, preternaturally beautiful, which puts his co-stars, particularly his romantic interest, Maggie Grace from television’s “Lost”, at a disadvantage whenever they share screen time. Looks are key here because there is nothing else going on to pique the audience’s interest, certainly not a bank of fog that looks like, well, a bank of fog, and a plot that has been reworked into something resembling crudely made hash with special effects that can best be described as tired and derivative.
He’s Nick, the hunky owner of a charter fishing boat whose anchor stirs up something unfortunate and angry the same weekend that the island he calls home is celebrating its founders with a spiffy new statue and a shindig. She’s Elizabeth, prodigal daughter whose return from New York involves wandering the back roads of the island until Nick happens upon her on his way to see Stevie (Selma Blair), the sultry radio DJ who works out of the island’s abandoned light house. Together they have a tepid kind of chemistry not helped by Mr. Wainwright’s concept of capturing their tender moments in a shower as a tentative exercise that smacks of nothing so much as checking each other for ticks while delivering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation for which they have not been trained.
Things, however, get worse cinema-wise. There is not even the slightest attempt to knit together some sort of coherent plotline. Hence Elizabeth’s bad dreams that bring her back to the island begin before the angry dead are roused, she stumbles upon a journal in the most unlikely of fashions and in the most unlikely of places while also losing a key piece of evidence that would prove their pal Spooner (DeRay Davis) didn’t murder the pretty teenagers with the very white teeth and the hotly percolating libidos that are always sacrificed at the beginning of a horror film. That Grace, who is just fine on “Lost” is here a vacuous and stumbling automaton does nothing to ameliorate the situation. As for Welling, he’s asked to do little but stand there and act stalwart, the which he does for all he’s worth. Flashbacks to the original nefarious deed that brought all the fog on in the present are handled with the same ham-handedness as everything else rendering them not just tedious, but superfluous.
In hopes of making a little of its money back on its opening day, THE FOG avoided a slew of bad reviews by being released without a press screening. To be so badly thought of by the releasing studio is a singular distinction in a world that saw press screenings of GIGLI and SWEPT AWAY, not to mention CATWOMAN. Make of that what you will.