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Fog: Unrated Version, The
The fog in "The Fog" is capable of possessing people, hurling them through windows, and even picking up knives and stabbing people. In other words, the fog demonstrates more heroic abilities than the movie's actual hero. No wonder it's the title character.
"The Fog" is a bad movie, of course, stupid in all the usual ways, with characters who behave foolishly and culminating in a catastrophically silly ending. Written by Cooper Layne ("The Core") and directed by Rupert Wainwright ("Stigmata"), it is a remake of a John Carpenter film from 1980, and whatever tension or spookiness that version had has been removed. But there is a scene where Tom Welling and Maggie Grace take a shower together! John Carpenter's version didn't have THAT!
Set on an island off the coast of Oregon, the film takes place over two nights when a dense, malevolent fog has rolled in. The cause, apparently, is Nick Castle (Tom Welling), whose fishing boat's anchor dislodged some long-dormant artifacts at the bottom of the bay, dredging up not just an old hairbrush and a pocket watch, but a century-old pile of vengeance, too.
In a flashback to 1871 that's shown in pieces over the course of the film, we learn the island's bloody history and see why certain ghosts may be justified in their thirst for revenge. Now, whether it's fair for these spirits to pursue the great-great-grandchildren of the people who wronged them, I don't know. Seems a little extreme to me. But YOU try reasoning with spirit-zombies who live in fog! Diplomacy never works with them.
Anyway, weird stuff starts happening in the town, including some deaths, all of it paralleling what happened in 1871. One guy even gets a huge leprosy sore on his face, which he hilariously tries to cover with a Band-Aid. And Nick's girlfriend Elizabeth (Maggie Grace), who was gone for six months but now has come back (just one of the film's many irrelevant details), keeps having dreams that remind the viewer of that fateful night 134 years ago.
She also finds a diary, which she becomes obsessed with, even though it doesn't really reveal very much. In fact, since the characters don't see the 1871 flashbacks that we do, I wonder how they figure out what's going on at all.
But the diary plays a role in my favorite scene of the movie. Nick and Elizabeth are rushing to someone's house to rescue a kid named Andy (Cole Heppell) before the fog gets him. They pull up in Nick's pickup truck, and before he dashes into the house, he tells Elizabeth, "Turn the truck around and keep it running!" Elizabeth's response is to ignore him and keep reading the diary.
When Nick emerges with young Andy, the fog is nipping at their heels. There is no time to lose. Starting the ignition and turning the truck around will cost them precious seconds. Yet he makes no reference to Elizabeth's failure to perform the one simple task he asked of her. He just hops in, starts it up, turns it around, and hightails it out of there.
I would like to have seen him return to the truck, see Elizabeth sitting there reading, and shout, "What did I tell you?! I tell you to turn the truck around and keep it running, and you just sit there?! How's the reading? Pretty interesting? Can I drop you off at the library on my way into town?" That's what I would have done.
I also like the part where Andy's mom Stevie (Selma Blair), who runs the island's radio station, is chatting with someone on a web-cam when she sees him get attacked by the fog. She immediately picks up the phone and calls ... not 911, but her son, to make sure he's OK. When she can't reach him, she makes an urgent announcement over her radio airwaves: "Someone go to my house and make sure my son is OK!" She is uninterested the poor guy she just saw get attacked over the web-cam, nor does she give a general warning to people to watch out for the danger that is apparently lurking. No, it's all about her son.
Of course, none of this matters too much if the movie is suspenseful, but it isn't. The threat is too vague (so there's ... fog? And it's going to ... do something?), and its effects are not especially chilling. The film isn't creepy or spooky or scary. It's atmospheric, but only in the literal sense.
This is the "Widescreen Unrated Version." A full-screen version is also being released, but it's the theatrical version. This "unrated version" has about 3 minutes of additional footage incorporated into the story, and director Rupert Wainwright identifies the moments in his commentary, always declaring that he wished they'd remained for the theatrical version. In other words, this is a director's cut that's been called an "unrated version" solely as a means of fooling viewers into thinking they'll be seeing more gore or nudity. We do get a little bit more gore, mostly in the form of people being on fire, but nothing spectacular. And no nakedness.
There are optional English and French subtitles, as well as an optional French (5.1) soundtrack.
VIDEO: The anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) transfer is outstanding. The deep blues of the night scenes are rich, and in the day scenes, the beauty of the island village shines through. (Credit Vancouver, B.C., for standing in for the Oregon coast.) It's quite a good-looking film, if nothing else.
AUDIO: The audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 and makes excellent use of all channels. This is one of those modern "horror" movies, where instead of putting scary things on the screen, you put creepy/eerie noises on the soundtrack. For what it's worth, they sound just as creepy/eerie here as they were meant to.
EXTRAS: Director Rupert Wainwright does a commentary that is droll and easy-going, a pleasure to listen to. The jolly Australian has a good sense of humor, at one point questioning whether Selma Blair would say "ugh." ("Do you think it was a like a literal reading from the script? ... Do people say 'ugh'?") Of course, if he really didn't think it sounded believable, maybe he should have said something at the time, being the director and all, but still. Another time, when a character gets stabbed in the eye with a knife, Wainwright talks matter-of-factly as if the actor had died, too -- not the sort of levity one normally hears on a horror-flick commentary track.
Wainwright is often silent for 30 seconds or more at a stretch, and a lot of times all he's saying is simple narration: "The fog is rolling in, you think it's going to get her ... but no, it's just her boyfriend." I could do with a little less of that.
But he's good about noticing the film's flaws, too, pointing out continuity errors and places where body doubles are noticeable. He wonders aloud why pretty blondes always go into dangerous places alone in horror films -- and he says it at a time when Maggie Grace is doing just that. He's quick to observe places where the studio interfered, with a hint of bewilderment and frustration in his voice.
He also explains how a lot of the difficult or unusual shots were accomplished, including some that a casual viewer probably wouldn't have noticed anything special about. That means he made it look easy, which is a compliment.
There are three featurettes of varying quality. "Whiteout Conditions: Remaking a Horror Classic" (8:21) is a telling behind-the-scenes discussion of how a script gets made. Wainwright talks about how he convinced writer Cooper Layne to keep one of his best ideas out of the first draft, solely because he knew it wouldn't survive the studio's note-giving process, and to sneak it in later.
"Seeing Through the Fog" (10:04) is piffle, the usual on-set interviews with actors describing their characters and praising each other and just generally wasting our time.
But "Feeling the Effects of the Fog" (14:27) is a fine explanation of how various special effects were achieved -- not just the fog itself, but several other elements, too. It's fascinating to see the ingenuity and creativity that go into making even an mediocre movie. You gotta respect that.
By the way, John Carpenter, who directed the original film and served as a producer on this one, appears in each of these featurettes. He has a white mustache, white hair, a pale white face, and is wearing an off-white sweater. He looks like he should be IN a horror movie, not merely talking about one.
The eight deleted scenes are negligible. Most are simply longer versions of scenes included in the film. They are available with an optional commentary by Wainwright, and he continues to be an amiable, informative and forthright presence. OK, he never comes out and acknowledges his film isn't very good, but maybe that would be expecting too much.
The film isn't bad to the level of incompetence. It won't terrify you, but you might get a few jolts out of it. And the DVD presentation makes it worth renting, though certainly not buying.
(Note: Most of the "movie review" portion of this article comes from the review I wrote when the movie was released theatrically. I have re-watched the film in the course of reviewing the DVD, however.)