John Carpenter is one of the few filmmakers who ever made a remake at least as good as its source material. Hell, with The Thing, he may have made a better movie than Hollywood legend Howard Hawks. I can’t form a concrete opinion either way.
Remakes are a fact of life in Hollywood. To me, it makes sense. If a movie made money from one generation, it could do it again with a new generation. Many moviegoers take offense with seeing beloved stories and characters reproduced with such callous regard for the bottom line, as if some sacred covenant with fiction were being abused and broken. Maybe I would agree if, when a remake is released, all previous interpretations are destroyed, but that’s not what happens. If a viewer does not like the remake of The Bad News Bears, if they truly feel only Walter Matthau captured the nuance and humanity of Morris Buttermaker, while Billy Bob Thornton was clearly a hack, then all they have to do is fire up the internet machine and they are only a few clicks away from fulfillment.
John Carpenter is an interesting case, and not because he made a fine remake. Rather, it is because so many of his films have been either remade or are perpetually in development to be remade. A partial list reads as follows: Assault on Precinct 13, remade in 2005; Halloween, remade in 2007, and got its own sequel; Escape from New York, remake in development hell; They Live, same as the previous, apparently; The Thing, a remake that got a remake that was also, bizarrely, a prequel; and today’s movie, The Fog, from 2005.
I, for one, welcome the remakes. John Carpenter is one of my favorite directors. He’s my guilty pleasure filmmaker. His films take no effort to watch, and despite first impressions, many of them are quite good. Most of them look cheap, because they were (he had respectful budgets in only a small minority of his oeuvre), but he was such a fine storyteller that he could work magic with budgets many directors would flee from. But, the limits under which he was placed always left me with the impression that his films could benefit from greater expansiveness. He never got the opportunity to do so, but remakes tend to be better funded. Alas, more money, while providing more movie, does not mean better movie.
The Fog remake, directed by Rupert Wainwright, once again tells the story of Antonio Bay, a small community on the west coast. The centennial of the town’s founding is at hand. But, there be some spirits about that don’t wish there to be a celebration. These evil beings are the ghosts of people killed by the founders of the town, and they are looking for revenge. As before, they descend on the town inside a supernatural fog bank, and cut up every person they come across.
The protagonists of this story are just about the same as in Carpenter’s film, but they trend much younger and hotter. Tom Atkins has been replaced by Tom Welling, the hunky Clark Kent form Smallville; Jamie Lee Curtis has been replaced by Maggie Grace (a wash, actually); and Adrienne Barbeau has been replaced (gasp!) by Selma Blair. I hate this last casting change. Barbeau’s character worked as a radio disc jockey. She had an act, a personality. Even the station had character, playing all that soft jazz. The updated character of Stevie Wayne, as played by Blair, is pure hot rebel chick by committee. Her station plays whatever early 21st century rock radio crap the producers could get payola for, and Blair, bless her, has no radio voice. I feel cheated.
The bland nature of this remake is what keeps it from being good. Carpenter’s film was cheap, but it had life. This Fog is just too generic to be any good. Add to that truly wretched CGI, and I have to recommend that this film be avoided by fans of both horror, and of John Carpenter. It is that bad. Alien: Resurrection is a better movie than The Fog remake.