Directed by Rupert Wainwright. Starring Tom Welling, Maggie Grace, Selma Blair, DeRay Davis, Rade Serbedzija, Kenneth Welsh, Adrian Hough. (2005, PG-13, 100 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Oct. 21, 2005
Poor Rufus Wainwright. The son of singer-songwriting dad Loudon Wainwright III and mom Kate McGarrigle is probably wondering where on earth all the death threats are coming from. It’s just his luck that his name so closely resembles that of the director of this inept reimagining of a John Carpenter shocker, and that it’s such a monumentally bad remake of such an exceptionally chilling genre favorite. Like Carpenter’s 1980 original, Wainwright’s film (from a script by Cooper Layne) posits a seaside California fishing village that, on the eve of its centennial, is suddenly overrun by a demonic fogbank, the victim of a generation-spanning vendetta that can only be rescinded through blood. Carpenter’s original (a sparkling new double-disc DVD of which has just hit the market) came fast on the heels of his breakthrough hit Halloween, and while it may have lacked that film’s visceral claustrophobia, it more than made up for that with its creepy supernatural overtones and a bracingly atmospheric prologue from no less than John Houseman. Wainwright’s new take has none of Carpenter’s low-budget panache, instead recasting the sleepy (almost groggy) community of Antonio Bay into Antonio Island, a hotbed of hip-hop radio overseen from her lighthouse perch by a woefully miscast Selma Blair as deejay Stevie Wayne (a role originally played, far better, by then Carpenter paramour Adrienne Barbeau). Smallville’s Welling fills in for Tom Atkins as Nick Castle, a local fisherman with a dirty bloodline and, bizarrely, an African-American sidekick-cum-first-mate (Davis) apparently onboard to give the script an entirely unnecessary dose of urban spin. As the titular fogbank makes headway against the wind and breaches the shoreline, Graeme Revell’s boisterous score kicks into overdrive, mauling the characters onscreen at least as much as the dread spirits enshrouded within the fog. With a PG-13 rating, Wainwright’s film can’t hope to deliver the goods in the blood-drenched special-effects category, but the real shock comes in the form of the CGI fog, which, like the zombies in the recent remake of Dawn of the Dead, moves alarmingly quickly for something so ancient. It also pales in comparison to Carpenter’s original fogbanks, some of which were created by optical effects nearly as ancient as filmmaking itself but still vastly more believable than anything seen in this absolutely dreadful and just plain dull remake. But still, make sure you’ve got the right Wainwright before hurling invectives and/or cobblestones.