Dir: Rupert Wainwright. US.2005. 100mins.

More turns out to be less in Revolution Studios'overly busy and insufficiently scary remake of John Carpenter's lean 1980horror yarn The Fog. With two youngTV actors starring and British actor-turned-director Rupert Wainwright at thehelm, the remake adds a lot of plot background and a bit of romance toCarpenter's sparse ghost story. But it fails, even with the help of moderneffects, to produce the spookiness that Carpenter summoned, and neither does itoffer the kind of shocks and gore that contemporary horror audiences have cometo expect.

The remake opened in the USat the weekend through Columbia and topped the box office chart with a decentestimated gross of $12.2m (from nearly 3,000 locations), which suggests it willoutperform last winter's Carpenter remake, AssaultOn Precinct 13 (whose totals were $20m in North America and $14.7minternationally). With competition from other horror releases coming in therun-up to Halloween, however, The Fogis likely to drift pretty quickly towards US video stores.

Ancillary markets could bean even more important fallback outside the US. Distributor Sony PicturesReleasing International will have some marketing leverage in countries where Smallville and Lost - the TV series featuring themovie's two leads - are popular, but interest could be hard to whip up in otherterritories.

The original isn't one ofCarpenter's best films (though it stands as his fifth highest US grosser) andits tale of seaborne ghouls seems even more hoary nowthan it did 25 years ago.

Remake scriptwriter CooperLayne (The Core) preserves the basicscenario of a small island community engulfed in a fog that conceals the ghostsof those sent to watery graves a century before by the island's scheming foundingfathers. The ghosts sail into town on their decaying clipper ship to getrevenge on the founders' modern day descendents.

But Layne adds new materialapparently designed to appeal to today's younger, more female-skewing horrorcrowd.

In this version, handsomecharter boat captain Nick (Smallville's Tom Welling) has romantic histories with bothlocal DJ Stevie (Blair, from Hellboy) and prodigal daughterElizabeth (Lost'sMaggie Grace), who unexpectedly returns to the island just in time for acelebration of the founders' work. (The original's Elizabeth was a drifterplayed by Jamie Lee Curtis.)

And this time, the unwelcomevisitors are the spirits of leper colony members whose ship was burned afterthe founding fathers reneged on an agreement with the colony's leader (Sherbedgia, last seen in Batman Begins).

Whereas the original builtsuspense steadily and, by contemporary standards, very slowly, Wainwright (bestknown as a director for 1999 horror outing Stigmata) attempts to ramp up themood more quickly. But the remake's more elaborate back-stories and bigger castof characters serve to diffuse the tension. The story of the lepers on theirill-fated voyage is told in flashbacks that are interwoven into the present dayaction, and while the background makes the ghouls seem more sympathetic it alsomakes them less threatening (the original's ghosts were just money-grubbingseadogs).

The remake's significantlydifferent ending puts the spotlight on female lead Grace, but it's clumsilywritten, hard to swallow and considerably less scary than the original's climax.

Effects are a bit moreprevalent than they were in the original and are sometimes used quiteeffectively to turn the fog into a menacing presence. CG effects occasionallygive the fog some personality but they are used surprisingly sparingly. The ghoulsthemselves, when they are seen close up, are disappointingly generic.

The acting is pretty generictoo. The two leads have no chemistry together and while Welling at least addssome boyish charm Grace just seems to oscillate between hysteria and blankness.Blair's is the only performance that creates any inkling of character.

Production company
Revolution Studios

US distribution
Columbia Pictures

International distribution
Sony Pictures Releasing International

Executive producers
Todd Garner
Dan Kolsrud
Derek Dauchy

Debra Hill
David Foster
John Carpenter

Cooper Layne

Nathan Hope

Production design
Michael Diner
Graeme Murray

Dennis Virkler

Graeme Revell

Main cast
Tom Welling
Maggie Grace
Rade Sherbedgia
Selma Blair