Tag Archives: story

The Fog (1980 & 2005)

18 Aug

Watching a master working in his prime area is a joy to behold, so watching another horror movie written and directed by John Carpenter is always a lot of fun. Today, I want to look at his 1980 horror cult classic, The Fog, and it’s unfortunate 2005 remake. The history of The Fog is almost as interesting as the movie itself, with this being Carpenter’s horror follow up to his classic Halloween, but the way the story is told and the images he uses is what makes it a memorable movie. The same can’t really be said for the remake, but that isn’t all too surprising. With that, let’s dive right in.

Let’s go back to 1980 and take a look at the original version of The Fog.

fog_ver2_xlg

It should be a time of happiness for the small coastal town of Antonio Bay, which is celebrating its 100th birthday with vigils and town parties. Unfortunately for the residents, an evil force is lurking just over the fog covered horizon. When a small ship is terrorized and its occupants murdered, the threat soon becomes more real. The only person who knows the truth is the town priest, Father Malone (Hal Holbrook). As the fog rolls further inland, more paranormal events start happening to the town, which prompts the town’s radio station host, Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau), to report on the direction the fog is moving as certain member of the town work to lift the curse that has befallen them.

Following the overwhelming success of Carpenter’s independent hit Halloween, studios were eager to grab the talent (along with Carpenter’s co-writer and producer Debra Hill) and use it for themselves. That being said, The Fog is what I consider to be Carpenter and Hill’s true follow up to Halloween, and while it doesn’t quite stand up to that film’s excellence it still stands as a strong entry in Carpenter’s filmography. The biggest thing that drags this film down is the fact that it isn’t quite long enough. There’s a lot of time spent building up the mystery surrounding the town’s past and building up the cast of characters that not enough time is spent with the evil lurking in the fog. While this does act as a complaint, I will say that it also means the characters are much more three dimension than a lot in the horror genre of this time and it also gives the story a sense of urgency and depth.

1373667612_8

It’s worth noting the excellent cast of The Fog that brings the characters to life. Adrienne Barbeau, who was Carpenter’s wife at the time, is a good protagonist with an interesting task that makes her feel like more than just a target of the vengeful spirits. Hal Holbrook is great as Father Malone as he brings a real sense of fear to his archetypal character. Finally, it was cool to see both Janet Leigh and John Houseman have a small role in a John Carpenter film. The only person who seems underutilized in Jamie Lee Curtis, who doesn’t do a whole lot but tag along with Tom Atkins’ character.

While The Fog certainly isn’t John Carpenter’s best film, it’s still become something of a cult icon. The men standing in the fog, or even the fog rolling in from the distance to the little town has become images seared in the history of the genre, and taps into some deep, dark fear that we all have. If more time was spent with what was in the fog and the actual horror that happens in the third act, this would have been a perfect little horror film. Unfortunately, more time is spent building all that up that the climax feels less than what it should have been. Still, this is a horror movie well worth checking out.

With the new millennium came the trend to remake both foreign and domestic horror movies, and 2005 finally brought the highly unanticipated remake of The Fog.

timthumb

Life never seems to get too difficult in the small Oregon town of Antonio Bay. It’s a peaceful town with a good tourist attraction and a close knit attitude where everyone seems to know each other. This easy going way of life quickly comes to an end when an impossibly large fog bank rolls in from the sea and beginnings killing people in the town and destroying property. This grabs the attention of Nick Castle (Tom Welling) and his girlfriend Elizabeth (Maggie Grace), who start an investigation as to what could have caused this kind of paranormal occurrence. It doesn’t take long to figure out that the town they live in has been cursed by bloodshed since it’s founding, and the victims of the founder’s violence are returning to seek their revenge and to reclaim what is rightfully theirs.

In terms of story, the remake of The Fog follows the original pretty closely. The main plot about specters coming in the fog to reign terror down on Antonio Bay is all there, but this movie makes some very odd and, dare I say, stupid narrative decisions. At the beginning of the movie, a whole slew of characters are introduced, which led me to believe that they would all have something relevant to do at some point. Well that was just wishful thinking, because the only people that matter are Welling and Grace’s character, and to some extent Selma Blair’s, who plays this version’s Stevie Wayne, but even this character is left with very little to do and is easily forgotten by the end of the movie. That may be one of the hugest problems this movie suffers from. It’s almost as if the writers were just making stuff up as they went along and forgot about things they wrote earlier on in the screenplay.

fog1

Speaking of screenplay, the writing for the characters is completely derivative, both in how they speak and the dimensions they are given. There was one weird joke in the beginning that got under my skin so bad because it’s the kind of joke that only that really annoying person you know says. This whole movie is made up of characters that I really don’t like saying the most asinine things with complete sincerity. The final thing I have to say about the writing is the ending, which I won’t spoil but have to mention. It’s a completely different ending from the original film, which is fine, but it also blew me away with how stupid and unplausible it was. It’s seriously something that has be seen to be believed.

A bigger budget doesn’t necessarily make a better movie, and the 2005 version of The Fog is a perfect example. There’s obviously more money that was put into it, but the writing, the characters, and the acting were all so subpar the movie ended up just boring me to tears. I couldn’t take anything in this movie seriously, and that’s a big problem for a movie that’s meant to scare you. There’s to many jump scares and not enough actual fear. This is a waste of a movie and is best left to be forgotten.

Just to recap, I can say wholeheartedly that any fan of the horror genre should at least take a look at the original version of The Fog. It plays out like a campfire story or old urban legend happening right in front of your eyes. As for the remake, don’t pay any attention to it. It isn’t worth it.

Advertisements

The Fall – Review

2 Aug

Speaking as someone who was a child, it’s easy for stories and imagination to blend into the real world. This combination of fantasy and reality for children has been beautifully captured in movies, with my go to prime example being Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth. Fortunately, as of a few days ago I can add another go to film that explores this theme, but also a film that is one of the most beautiful exercises of cinematography and editing that has ever been used in all of film history. Not only is this a beautiful looking film, it’s story is beautiful. The entire movie itself can only be described as beautiful.

tumblr_n2l7bhhkmx1r2psneo6_1280

In the early 1920s when the world of film was evolving, stuntman Roy Walker (Lee Pace) finds himself in a European hospital after severely injuring himself for a particular stunt. He soon finds company in a little Romanian girl, Alexandria (Catinca Untaru), who he begins telling an epic, swashbuckling story of a group of heroes out for revenge on the evil Governor Odious (Daniel Caltagirone). What Alexandria doesn’t know is that this is all a distraction and a ploy for Roy to earn Alexandria’s trust and convince her to steal morphine from the hospital so that he can commit suicide after losing the love of his life and possibly ruining his career. As Alexandria hears more of the story and risks more than she knows trying to steal the morphine, employees in the hospital begin weaving their way into Roy’s story more and more while evils from the story are finding their way into the hospital.

Before I started watching The Fall, I had a concern that this movie was pretty much just going to be about the visuals and the locations. Pretty much I just thought that this movie was going to look nice and lose some points in terms of story. I was happy to see once again that my assumptions were wrong. This movie has a wonderful story that is filled with hallucinatory moments, wonderful moments of childhood, and an imagination that would do Hollywood a lot of good. The Fall was one of those movies that slipped through the cracks, which is really unfortunate since it has so much to offer. I was also surprised to see how little awards were given to this film, especially in terms of cinematography and editing which are some of the most impressive I’ve ever seen. It’s like walking into a museum and seeing the paintings come to life.

The-Fall_54

One of the best things about this movie is the relationship between Roy and Alexandria. It’s one of the most touching and genuine friendships and really makes you feel the emotional impact when something good or bad happens to either of them. The performances by Pace and Untaru are both really great, and at the risk of sounding redundant, they feel very genuine. This is especially true for the young actress Catinca Untaru who gives a startlingly impressive performance. I’ve never really seen a child actor give a performance that felt so real. Apparently the director Tarsem Singh has Catinca believe that Lee Pace was actually paralyzed, a move that he felt made the performances more real. From what I can see, it actually did work.

Finally, the themes of this movie are very heavy and true to life, much like the ones in Pan’s Labyrinth, which I consider to be the fraternal twin of The Fall, being as they both were released in 2006 and share much of the same thematic material. In The Fall, however, the themes concern self worth, suicide, and childhood innocence and naïvety in both children and adults. It’s so interesting to see the scary adult world filled with violence and self loathing through the eyes of a child who has lost so much, but still doesn’t understand the real meaning of loss. Both characters have suffered loss, but only one seems to be really affected by it while the other is still lost in her own world of innocence. This is a very sad movie, but it also leaves you with a feeling of satisfaction and hope for the characters, and possibly even life itself.

The Fall is really a beautiful movie to look at, listen to, and understand. It has swashbuckling adventure, unbelievable visuals, and a core story that is as real as we made out favorite heroes out to be when we were children, ourselves. The way fantasy and reality begin to become one was so interesting to see, and made me think of this movie as another reminder why I love movies as much as I do. It was a perfect combination of talent, idea, and dedication especially since it took four years to film on so many different locations. This is an intelligently executed work of art that would be a sin to miss out on.

Lady in the Water – Review

5 Dec

I’m one of those people who defends M. Night Shyamalan, and abstains from mocking him and laughing at his movies. Everything from The Sixth Sense to The Village gets a thumbs up from me. The Happening had potential, but unfortunately flopped, and I chose to stay away from The Last Airbender. What about that little movie that never seems to get brought up, Lady in the Water? Well it’s certainly not perfect or, even great, but watch it with an open mind and try to look beneath the surface and you very well may like the depth that this movie goes and the allegories that it presents.

Ladyinthewater_pos_gal

 

Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) is a nervous handyman at an apartment complex which houses a fair share of strange, yet interesting people. One night, Cleveland finds a mysterious woman named Story (Bryce Dallas Howard) swimming in the apartment’s pool. He learns that she is actually a water nymph called a “narf” from the Blue World with a mission to inspire a writer living in the complex (Shyamalan, himself). This may sound easy, but there is a dangerous wolf-like creature, a “scrunt” lurking in the grass around the pool waiting for an opportunity to lash out at the nymph and prevent her from completing her mission. Cleveland rounds up the tenants of the building to battle the scrunt and help Story get home safe.

Anyone whose really analyzed a Shyamalan movie knows that he is avery religious person. Hell, you don’t even have to try very hard to get the message. Lady in the Water was more of a challenge to find the religious allegories and symbols, and I’m not going to spoil what they are, but this is a fun movie to study more than watch. To anyone who just wants to kill a few hours with this movie may be a little disappointed. Looking at it like a puzzle is more fun.

lady-in-the-water-stills21

 

The main detraction of this movie is the convulsion of the plot combined with some poor pacing. First off, narf and scrunt are pretty laughable titles, but that’s nit picking. Clocking in at an hour and fifty minutes, I could easily scrub twenty off. Scenes go on for too long or don’t even need to exist. It felt like some scenes would have been better off as a deleted scene on the special features menu. The plot is also a little hard to believe. The people in this complex are more than ready to risk their lives for a supposed water nymph from another world. It would have been more interesting to see Giamatti’s character try to really convince the tenants what was going on. Also, anyone used to cool Shyamalan scares and love his plot twists may be a little disappointed as this movie is lacking both. There’s definitely an air of horror, but not much pay off.

Paul Giamatti is excellent and you can tell that he’s really trying to sell his lines, which is pretty successful most of the time. Bryce Dallas Howard also does a fine job, even though its a pretty one note performance. That stays within the realm of her character, so this isn’t a detraction. The other people in the apartments are less than spectacular, save for a surprising little performance by Jared Harris. He is great but doesn’t really have much to do, which is really disappointing.

lady in the water 2006

 

Again, watch this movie with an open mind and really think. Finding all the clues, meanings, and worldly critiques are more interesting than the actual story. I can’t say I totally agree with Shyamalan’s philosophies, but they are intelligent and respectable in their own right and he does a great job at hiding them within the screenplay. Not everything is as obvious as it seems, which is a challenge that the characters in the film even have to overcome.

While Lady in the Water may not be a great movie, I’d still put it in the “good” category. It’s certainly not a bad movie at all, and I feel a lot of the hate towards this movie stem from the bandwagon of mockery that M. Night Shyamalan has to put up with. He’s not a bad film maker, in fact, he’s a very intelligent one and it shows in this film. I recommend it for the intellectual stimulation that is offered and Giamatti’s performance, but not so much for the story and the supporting cast.