John Carpenter created a productive niche for himself with clever B homages to studio Hollywood, honoring Howard Hawks especially. Two of these pastiches have been remade this year, first Jean-François Richet's whip-smart version of Assault on Precinct 13 (a Rio Bravo redux) and now The Fog (originally inspired by The Birds), directed by Rupert Wainwright. Making concessions at every turn to the youth-horror market, the film slashes the ages of its protagonists by some 15 years, and its IQ follows suit. The schlubby working-class hero of the 1980 film, played by Tom Atkins, has become a dewy-eyed meathead (Smallville's Tom Welling), and our sympathies dive accordingly. The plot remains relatively unscathed: The small harbor town of Antonio Bay, presided over by sultry radio hostess Selma Blair (gamely filling the seat held by Adrienne Barbeau), is stalked by specters from its nation-building past. In Carpenter's film, the ghostly entrance was marked by long, quiet takes of small-town banality, the everyday turning oppressive in the wait. Here the fog is as impatient as its target audience, billowing roughshod over the town before our imagination can invest sufficient dread at its arrival.
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