The Fog

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, Nick 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 makes no mention of the poor guy she just saw get attacked over the web-cam, nor is there 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.

D (1 hr., 40 min.; PG-13, a little sexuality, some violence.)