Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Movie Review: "The Fog" (1980) vs. "The Fog" (2005)

Today, we are here with another installment in our series, FEATURE FILM FACE-OFF! In this series, we take two movies and pit them against each other in a battle for the ages! We break down each film and see which one will be the winner.

Back in 1980, John Carpenter directed a little movie called "The Fog." It was not a critically acclaimed film, and it was not a smash hit, but was a modest success and has become a bit of a cult classic. 25 years later in 2005, director Rupert Wainwright decided to release his version of "The Fog." With better technology at his disposal, he figured he could make a newer, sharper looking horror film than Carpenter's low budget feature. Carpenter has managed to outdo an original film with his own remake in the past ("The Thing"), so can Wainwright outdo Carpenter at his own game? Let's take a look at this Feature Film Face-Off: "The Fog" (1980) versus "The Fog" (2005).


Both films share most of the same characters, including lighthouse D.J. Stevie Wayne (Adrianne Barbeau 1980/Selma Blair 2005), Nick Castle (Tom Atkins 1980/Tom Welling 2005), Kathy Williams (Janet Leigh 1980/Sara Botsford 2005), and Father Malone (Hal Holbrook 1980/Adrian Hough 2005).

The most significant difference between the two movies is with the character of Elizabeth. In 1980's version, Elizabeth Solley (Jamie Lee Curtis) is a random hitchhiker in the wrong place at the wrong time. Her character doesn't get much to do except tag along as the girl on Nick Castle's arm after he gives her a ride. This ride turns into a quick hookup, and eventually, she becomes his constant companion. In the remake, the character is renamed to Elizabeth Williams (Maggie Grace), who is now the girlfriend of Nick Castle and the daughter of Kathy Williams. She is one of the most central characters in the present and is also the reincarnation of the wife of Blake (Rob Bottin 1980/Rade Šerbedžija 2005), the head ghost leper who is out for revenge. Though Elizabeth has more to do in the 2005 version, most of her extra screen time consists of her delivering exposition. The whole reincarnation angle doesn't make sense, especially at the end when she turns into a ghost in one of the biggest "WTF" bad moments of the film.

Another big difference is the character of Father Malone. In the original, he was the grandson of one of the founders and was dealing with the torment of his grandfather's actions. There was a means to his existence in this version. Malone's primary purpose for existing in the remake is to be the resident raving drunk who gets killed in spectacular fashion.

The acting is not all that exceptional from either film, but when you compare them, it feels like the actors in the original are actually attempting to give good performances with some semblance of nuance. Almost every actor in the new incarnation is either giving a bland, one-note performance or an obnoxiously over-the-top one.

The characters are also much more connected to one another in the remake. Nick is dating Elizabeth but had an affair with Stevie (that is mentioned only once or twice and is then completely dropped). Most of the other characters are direct descendants of the founding fathers, whereas in the original, very few individuals are connected, and Stevie spends the entire movie by herself in a lighthouse.

Finally, the 2005 version adds a character named Spooner (DeRay Davis), who is an unnecessary comic relief character with no purpose in the movie.


Both versions of "The Fog" have the same basic concept: a ship called the Elizabeth Dane that is full of people infected with leprosy are trying to relocate to a colony outside of the main town. They are both double-crossed by the town founders, they are all killed, and are now out for revenge.

How each group is killed is the biggest difference and is integral to the story. In 1980, thanks to a thick fog bank, the six founding fathers are able to light a fake signal fire that leads the Elizabeth Dane into the rocks, which sinks it and kills everyone on board, hence why the ghosts return in the fog. In the remake, the four founding fathers board the Elizabeth Dane and begin killing the people on board and then burn the ship. This begs the question, why come back in the fog? The fog in the remake only exists because the film as a whole is a remake of the original "The Fog." It would have made more sense for these specific ghosts to return from fire since they were burned alive.

The catalyst for their appearance is different as well. 1980 is the 100-year-anniversary of the town of Antonio Bay. They are gearing up to have a centennial celebration in honor of the founding fathers, the ones responsible for murdering the lepers. In 2005's version, Nick Castle accidentally unearths a bag of knickknacks from the sunken Elizabeth Dane while on his boat called The Sea Grass.

When they return in the original, the ghost pirate lepers have a clear purpose: "Six Must Die." This means they are going to kill six townspeople to make up for the six founding fathers who took their lives. In the remake, their goal is not as clear. They want us to believe that the ghosts are targeting the descendants of the founding fathers, but these new ghost lepers kill random people as well, so there goes that theory. They also finish their killing spree before all of the descendants are dead, so what exactly was the point of telling us why they are killing in the first place?

Each version also has a very different method of killing people. In the original, the ghosts kill with swords, meat hooks, and other stabbing weapons. In the remake, they can apparently murder people with a simple touch, with telekinetic powers, or even with some form of possession. These murders really happen whatever way the script needs them to so it can appear more fresh and hip than the original. While neither story is convoluted, the remake's script its much more contrived, and Wainwright and his writers show no consistency in their storytelling. They both might be basic, but at least Carpenter understood how to create a coherent narrative.


Directing and editing are where some of the greatest variations between these two films can be found. Though neither is considered 'high art,' it's clear that John Carpenter is the much more capable director. Carpenter knows how to create atmosphere and tension. He knows what's important to the story and understands how not to waste time by spoon-feeding mounds of superfluous information to the audience through constant unnecessary flashbacks. On the other hand, Rupert Wainwright seems incapable of creating mood, tension, and atmosphere. Everything is shiny and super glossy and full of CGI. Wainwright doesn't know how to tell a story and winds up with a plethora of repetitive information as he tries to hold the audience's hand every step of the way because he thinks his stupid story is too complex for the average moviegoer to understand. Wainwright also starts little subplots that are dropped just as quickly as they arise: Spooner's murder charge and how he runs from the police, the exonerating evidence on the video camera, Stevie's affair with Nick, all of these plot points go nowhere and amount to nothing.


Music is one of the most influential factors in creating proper tension and atmosphere for horror movies, and you can't beat the eerie score by John Carpenter from the original "The Fog." That synthesizer type of score sound has become synonymous with 80's horror, and John Carpenter deserves a lot of credit for that. It is that very score that can raise the hairs on the audience's neck long before anything scary pops up on screen. We would be hard pressed to remember the score in "The Fog" from 2005, it is that unremarkable. As for the new version's soundtrack, it appears that Wainwright's idea of "scary" is Fall Out Boy's most popular song. Apparently, nothing says horror like Fall Out Boy! This also seems to be his idea of ~*edgy alternative rock~* as well because Stevie Wayne plays whatever she wants on her station...and whatever she wants is almost always a top 40 hit of the era.

Another big factor is the visual effects and makeup work. The practically-created fog of the original looks a hundred times better and more ominous, as do the ghosts that are kept in the shadows the majority of the time. The ghouls have a much better presence because their details are hidden (except for a couple of instances of gruesome detail). Wainwright's version has partially transparent ghosts that look like they just escaped from Disney's Haunted Mansion ride. They don't come close to comparing.

By now, it should be abundantly clear which version of "The Fog" is better. It isn't even close. The winner here not just edges out their opponent, they stomped them into a bloody pulp.

Winner: The Fog (1980)


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