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Unnecessary ‘Fog’ still has a good ghost story

The film follows the basic horror movie formula and does no more or less
/ Source: The Associated Press

Some movies are so atrocious that the studios keep critics from seeing them before opening day, hoping and praying for one decent weekend at the box office before being done in by word of mouth.

“The Fog” didn’t need to be one of them.

Yes, the fog itself looks pretty cheesy, as do the zombie-like mariners who inhabit it in their century-old quest for revenge.

And the script from Cooper Layne contains your typical horror-flick lines that overstate the obvious, like, “That guy gives me the creeps,” in response to seeing an obviously creepy fisherman, and, “Nick, ever since I came home, horrible things have been happening.” These are necessary evils of the genre. You need something to laugh at before you get scared again.

But director Rupert Wainwright — whose previous movies include “Stigmata” starring Patricia Arquette and “Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ’Em: The Movie” starring, um, Hammer — manages to create some genuine intensity and suspense.

He does the basic horror-movie stuff right — with lighting and shadows, with things that go bump in the night, though he’s overly fond of the kind of loud, false scares intended to make you jump. And he’s got some actors people have heard of, instead of a bunch of generically good-looking no-names. Well, he’s at least got three: Tom Welling, Selma Blair and Maggie Grace (from “Lost”).

Like most remakes, “The Fog” is pretty unnecessary. John Carpenter’s original from 1980 is considered a solid effort from the horror veteran, though perhaps not a complete classic like his “Halloween.” It featured the first on-screen pairing of Jamie Lee Curtis and her mother, Janet Leigh. And it had Carpenter’s then-wife, Adrienne Barbeau, in all her curvaceous glory. Shouldn’t we just leave the memory of that shining in the distance?

This new “Fog” stays pretty true to its roots, though. A hundred years after the founding of a small coastal town, a thick fog rolls in night after night, knocking out electricity, destroying boats, causing car accidents and — oh, yeah — sucking people through glass windows like cat fur through a vacuum cleaner.

Trying to escape this madness are hunky fishing-boat captain Nick Castle (played by that hunky Welling from “Smallville”), his ex-girlfriend, Elizabeth (Grace, in Curtis’ old role), and the town’s sultry radio DJ, Stevie (Blair, filling in for Barbeau).

Things get pretty bombastic toward the end — people and objects spontaneously combust, shattered glass noisily flies everywhere — as the town’s dark history is revealed. Apparently, stealing land from lepers wasn’t such a good idea.

But it’s still a good old-fashioned ghost story, and you really can’t go wrong with that, no matter how hard you try.