Thursday, March 02, 2006

"Sooner or later, everything comes back..."

Mes Amis

It should be hard to piss up a great central premise completely. And the Fog's central premise - a small town shrouded by a mist that seems to be filled by supernatural creatures - is simple and terrifying. John Carpenter's original is a little skimpy on explanations and maybe not as terrifying it wants to be, but its still a fine little film, with its tension and effects achieved simply.

Of course, simplicity is not a word that the blockbuster machine understands now. And so we get the boated, incpompetent and incomprehensible mess that is The Fog (2005). Look, its got fucking Superboy (Tom Welling) in it which should have been a warning.

In the original movie, the townsfolk are set up simply and with the minimum of fiss. Relationships are quickly established and suddenly the whole thing is moving. The fog is in. The local DJ is trapped in her lighthouse-cum-studio and people are panicking, trying to work out what the fog is and where it come from. There's a slightly sudden but not entirely dissatisfying ending.

In this new version we spend what feels like hours watching Tom Welling make googly eyes at the rich-bitch girl from Lost and pretend he's not been having an affair with the lighthouse DJ (The slightly lop sided but oddly attractive Selma Blair). Of course this love triangle plot line, which makes Welling's character out to be a monumental sleazy bastard - in spite of the fact the rest of the script seems to make out he's just a nice guy - who never, not once, gets his comeuppanc, is swiftly forgotten. It could have been the ideal tension builder as Elizabeth (her from Lost) finds out about his dalliances while they're trapped in the town hall at the end of the movie. I mean, when you've got to band together, its always more exciting when something's tearing you apart. But all of this is thrown to the side in favour of contionuous flashbacks to the town's founding fathers beating up some Lepers and setting fire to the ship on which they travel (You see - and look, everyone explains this three hundred times in the movie for the hard of thinking, so I don't really consider it a spoiler) so that we all know the lepers are the cause of the fog. They want justice. But quite why they waited so long is beyond me (the explanation seems to be that Tom Welling's anchor got caught on an old bag at the bottom of the ocean and this released the vengeful leper spirits. Maybe they just wanted to kick his ass for taking up the TV schedules with the dull-as-dishwater Smallville). And quite why there's this sudden plot twist at the end regarding reincarnation which results in the evil leper-fog dissapearing is beyond me. There's no rationale for it and having Selma do a radio broadcast saying, "I guess we'll never know what happened" is a sign not of mysterious spooky stuff but rather of script writers who couldn't be arsed checking that what they wrote made sense.

Add into all this town authorities so dumb they manage to let a suspected murderer - who is recovering after a night trapped in a freezer - escape out a window, a fuse going on the fritz and causing a bigger explosion than when the nuclear bomb blew up in the godawful Ben Affleck vehicle Sum of All Fears* and a complete lack of logic both physically and psychologically and you have what must be one of the worst films of the year if not the decade.

There are moments - and they are moments - when you realise what a good film this could have been. The scene where a party on a boat is intruded on by the fog could be chilling but is ruined by the inclusion of ominous chords that tell you where to scream. The tension is destroyed. The fear is dissipated. The film's so damn loud all the time that any sense of fear or tension is lost amidst the rumbling soundtrack. The thumps on the door whenever the ghosts want to come inside should be ominous, but its just one more bass track to add to the continual cacophony.

Look, the Fog is a bad movie. The premise meant that we could have had a tight little shocker. But instead we got unsexy sex between Tom and Her From Lost, Selma Blair as a single mother/Lighthouse DJ and a bunch of ghosts that made Casper look terrifying. In the film's favour, the effects of the Fog itself are okay. There's a scene where Obligatory Stupid Child is running from the rolling mass of white mist and it looks very cool. But two seconds of a pretty good shot are not good enough. There was an opportunity to take the premise of what was a pretty good film and make it a great one. But that got lost somewhere. After this, Amityville, Resident Evil and The Ring2, I ask myself where, oh where, have the scary horror films gone?**

Au revoir


*Although the nuclear explosion in that movie reminded me of someone having a bad gas attack.

**And no, terrifying though it was, Van Wilder: Party Liason does not count.


Sandra Ruttan said...

Um, Russel, tell me what you really think! LOL!

Sandra Ruttan said...

(I'm so scared I'll come here one day and see a review of my book...)

Russel said...

Sandra, trust me

Your book and the fog: big, motherloving difference. For one, your book doesn't star Tom Welling. For another you have an understanding of storytelling.

I honest can't believe they made that movie. I'm still reeling from how bad it was.

I just can't believe how badly folks piss up horror movies. One day they shall make a movie that scares me again...

Sandra Ruttan said...

And then you'll be scared because you'll wonder if your standards have just been lowered from overexposure to mediocrity, or if it's really actually good.

Sometimes I get like that after I read a lot of substandard stuff - I wonder if I've been contaminated.

(But thanks for your nice words! What's the fee?)

that girl said...

oh my god, van wilder was the funniest film. I laughed and i laughed. Brilliant

Russel said...

You are trying to wind me up, aren't you?

that girl said...

Ummmmm....Actually no. Remember I'm the person who loved Dumb and dumber. Like LOVED it.

Russel said...

Because its you you shall be forgiven :-)