The Fog Review
Tag lineWhat you can't see won't hurt you... it'll kill you
The DVD market is a lucrative one. So much so that studios are using the platform to re-release newer, updated versions of films already available. There are so many special editions, director's cuts, extended versions or collector's editions available it is a wonder the first release of any film ever sells at all. Of course it begins and ends with Star Wars, I have lost count with the amount of re-releases this film has had, and they're still happening! So, on to tonight's feature John Carpenter's The Fog, a re-release, dubbed a re-mastered in high definition, of the 2002 MGM release, itself a special edition; this review will concentrate on a direct comparison between these two versions. To this end, the screen grabs below are taken at the same frame point for each film and composted together with the new edition being placed on top in all cases. There has been absolutely no manipulation of the image other than removal of the 'black bars' and composing the separate frames into one picture.
Flush from their success with Halloween, Carpenter and Hill decided on collaborating again on another horror film. The story was a simple one, from a simple idea by Carpenter, wouldn't it be scary to have things coming to get you from a fog bank. From this initial idea, the story of ghosts coming back to haunt the town that caused their death and reclaim what is rightfully theirs was born. For that is really what The Fog is, an old fashioned ghost story, like the thousands told around a camp fire in years gone by, a shrewd move on Carpenters part, then, to open the film with that very scene. In it John Houseman neatly tells us the entire premise and plot of the film, yet delivered with such presence it is a joy to watch. From the credits on, the film builds slowly, seemingly innocent objects becoming ever more dastardly. As the town prepares for its centenary, ever more peculiar actions take place, could it be that the very foundations of the town were the cause of all the ensuing madness. It seems the church holds a deadly secret, and once discovered the original decedents of the town are in mortal peril as the fog rolls in it conceals a horror that wants to reclaim what once was its own.
The film itself is generally regarded as a smaller gun in the Carpenter arsenal. The story itself has a 'heard it before' feel, but is saved by a trademark delivery from Carpenter. The scares come thick and fast, though they are relatively tame, even by his own standards. There were a few problems during principle production requiring a hasty re-shoot of several key scenes to 'beef them up' a bit, principally to add more gore. Though even with these additions there is a fundamental lack of characterisation that leaves us unwilling to care for the fate of the characters. The only exception might be the delicious Adrienne Barbeau (at the time Mrs Carpenter) as Stevie Wayne; it is on her shoulders that the film rests. However during the climax, she is set apart from everyone else, rendering their own plight somewhat less in our minds, whereas this is where our focus should be since this is where the heart of the story lies. Yet even with these flaws The Fog still remains a decent ghost story well delivered. It has gained many a fan through the advent of video and now DVD, and a good thing too.
The first thing to point out is that there has been no change to the story of the film for this edition, it run's at exactly the same length as the previous release of one hour twenty nine minutes and forty two seconds, no additional footage has been added or removed. Since it is the same film, this new release must therefore live and die on the quality of its transfer, sound and extras all of which should be greatly improved upon if MGM want to persuade people to part with there hard earned cash, because the 2002 version is itself an already decent package. Leading to the first difference, the packaging, this new version is blue and has eyes on three of the ghosts (personally I think the eyes on the centre one look to be too low), but apart from that there is no difference, the font and quotes are reproduced exactly. At first glance the back cover appears quite different, but don't be fooled, rearrange the words and pictures; once again there is no difference apart from the colour. With such a cavalier attitude as this, I was at once worried about this release, thinking it was nothing more than a marketing ploy; ultimately I could be right.
Once the discs load up we are greeted to the familiar green fog rolling in, before the menu options are revealed, both are exactly the same. Well not exactly, on the documentaries submenu of the original disc, there are extra notes below the two features, proclaiming a 'new documentary created for this release' (couldn't very well include that on the re-release) and 'original 1980 documentary' respectively. The only other difference, the re-release has is an additional menu option in the special features to view the trailer for remake of The Fog (discussed below); surely this entire new release is not just a promotion for that?
Talking of remakes, I've often posed the question why Hollywood insist upon remaking classic films, films that were 'right' the first time around and as such do not need remaking. A far better plan would be to remake films that flopped first time and correct the mistakes. As such, I think The Fog is right for a remake, not that the original is bad, or, indeed because it flopped, but there are problems. Once initial principle photography for the film was over, Carpenter and Hill knew there was a problem and had to hastily re-shoot additional scenes. And, though, these additions did address most of the concerns, there is still that feeling that something is not quite right. So Hill's decision to re-look at The Fog shouldn't be viewed as a mistake in this sense, rather as a re-interpretation to correct the original problems and hopefully make it better. If only that were true, initial reports say it is a travesty, but that is a review for another time.
So, back to our Fog, we have the same cover, but a different colour; we have the same menu with two slight differences and we have the same length film, things aren't looking too good.