Something came back from the sea.
Back in 1980 John Carpenter, fresh from the high of Halloween, made a creepy little ghost story called The Fog. It has Adrienne Barbeau, an opening monologue by John Houseman, and ghost pirates. Twenty-five years later and we have Maggie Grace, no opening story, and the Fog of the title is still filled with wrathful spirits, but they're not the type to go "Arrr" anymore.
The main plot of the original movie is intact in this new version; the setting is the sleepy little fishing island Antonio Bay, now off the coast of Oregon instead of New England. As before, the town is getting ready for anniversary of its founding by four men one hundred years ago. What the modern descendants don't realize is that these four men they're honoring did something very despicable, and those they wronged are coming back for revenge.
Our main characters are Nick Castle (Tom "Smallville" Welling), who runs a charter fishing business with his buddy Spooner (DeRay "Barbershop" Davis). Nick was dating fellow founder descendant Elizabeth (Maggie "Lost" Grace), but six months ago she ran off to New York in the middle of the night. While she was gone, Nick started a relationship with Stevie (Selma "Hellboy" Blair), who runs the local
lighthouse/independent radio station. This sets up a romantic triangle for when Elizabeth returns to town unexpectedly . . . but this tension never happens. It's just used as an excuse for Nick to go charging off through the fog to try and save Stevie's kid Andy (Cole Heppell).
None of the characters are very deep, and while that's standard in most B-grade horror movies, they all commit the crime of being dull. B-grade horror characters don't have to be complex, but they should at least keep your attention. Spooner is the only one with any spark, and he's the standard Black Guy Stuck Here clichï¿½. Welling and Grace seem like they came in on their lunches to do this flick, and don't really bring anything to the party. Welling still oozes too much wholesomeness to effectively play Nick as the lothario he's written as, and Grace's job is to either scream or pass out so we can get the flashbacks to see the full story of the crime committed by the town founders.
As they go about discovering the secret of the town's founding, the characters wander around aimlessly. Most of them also make the standard horror movie mistakes of wandering off alone into the fog in the night.
Their cars die and won't restart so they just sit there as the fog rolls over them. Or they decide that the place to wait for their friends in the hospital is where the bodies of three earlier victims are being stored. I don't know which is more annoying; these dumb mistakes, or when a horror movie is so "hip" it points out these mistakes while it makes them.
The main change to the plot from the original is the century old crime. In Carpenter's version, what was done is spelled out in the opening few minutes, and the whole town was in on it. This time it's written as a mystery for the characters to solve and only four men were involved, so the ghosts are after their descendants. All the flashbacks are well done, and it's the desire to find out exactly happened is all that keeps the film going, as everything in the modern day is pretty bland.
I miss my pirate ghosts, but who these wronged people were is pretty interesting as well. Who they were makes the deeds of the four town founders even more despicable because they're killing innocents and not buccaneers. However, not being evil pirates back for revenge does rob them of a little pizzazz. The piracy added just the right touch of malevolence to the wraiths that the new guys lack.
In the scares department, there are a few decent ones near the end, but most of them are the standard "something you can't see is gonna GET you" variety. One of the best bits is in the trailer, when Elizabeth is on the next floor down from a ghost, and we see its footprints on the ceiling. When all the ghosts come out for the climax, they are all very cool, and reminiscent of the army of the dead in Return of the King (which closes the ghosts-resembling each other circle).
The climax is also good because you're happy that something is finally happening in the movie. This is yet another PG-13 movie, so almost all the kills are pretty bloodless, even when one character is shredded by flying glass. Because of this, while all the scares are interesting, none of them have any real bite. The direction isn't very stellar either, but then Wainwright's main work before this has been on MC Hammer's videos. Please Hammer, don't let him hurt me again.
If you want to watch a Carpenter remake, catch the new Assault on Precinct 13. If you want to watch a spooky movie this October, I'd either go rent the original The Fog, or one of Carpenter's other scary films like Halloween or The Thing, as there's not much worth seeing in this Fog.