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Screenwriting Help E-Mail (Previous)

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This week's question: 

DcH, I know you don't do film critique, but could you at least comment on the writing of "The Fog."  I know something was wrong with it, but I'm can't quite put my finger on it.

Morgan


This week's Answer: 

Foggy Writing

Hello, Morgan, and thank you for your question, which I'll try to answer as best I can without venturing into the film critic's corner.  (You're not the Morgan who was the last man on earth and whom the ungrateful dead always tried to eliminate when night came, are you?  I figure Charlton Heston would only do a drama based on a true story.  Maybe not.)  

I guess the best way I can put it is that The Fog is a big foggy.  Both literally and figuratively.  Let's focus on the figurative side, shall we?  I'm not perfectly clear exactly what the story is about besides some conned and mistreated lepers returning from the sea to seek revenge on a town where they were expecting to take up residence (sounds like a typical anti-developers story to me).  Apparently the leper colony's leader has a great deal of supernatural powers such as being able to catapult hapless townies through windows when they're closed, start things and people on fire, and cut humans with swirling glass.  And he knocks on doors very nicely, too.  Maybe he got his power from the fog, which moves in from the sea and onto the Oregon island (I didn't even know Oregon had an island.  It must be covered by fog all the time.) whenever it has a mind to.  The powers of the fog or ghastly arms that seem to come out of it through drains and other such places where fog lurks unbeknownst to those who do not understand the ways of fog seem to incorporate the ability to grab, hold onto -- unless it lets go -- and turn innocent humans into darkly-blotched and eventually very crisp creatures that become skeletons before they hit the floor.  The fog also seems to like little boys who only want to play at the shore (hmm.  Could we have a pedophilial fog here by any chance?)  The fog also seems to have it in for old, harmless sea codgers.  If you're a wizened sea captain or somebody who looks like they want to be one and wear a captain's cap, and you happen to pick up a buried rope in the sand that leads out to sea or just happens to like dogs, the fog apparently can get you, too (and your little dog, too!).

It's usually helpful when endings clearly inform the viewer exactly what he or she has been watching, clarifying what has gone before and explaining the why's, what's, when's, and whatnot's.  In the case of The Fog, this is not clearly the case (in case you were wondering).  The upset lepers (and who wouldn't be if one were betrayed and locked in one's own ship, which was set fire, only to break out and end up in the ocean's depths -- but more importantly, and much worse, lose one's hairbrush and watch and some other thing that nobody knows what it is?) end up in the cemetery, setting afire the father of somebody connected to the town -- after cutting to death a priest who didn't know what to do in every scene but drink alcohol (better writing would have been to have him cut to death by his own liquor bottle), and the leader of the upset lepers, Captain Leper, who must have had much more charm than the young, attractive boyfriend (who looked a lot like Superboy only with something on his face that resembled a beard or three days worth of super hair growth) somehow manages to merge and disappear with the female who returned to the island of bad development ideas and looked a lot like somebody in a picture with the captain before (or was it "after"?).  

And why did that poor dog have to be fried to death (or whatever it was that happened to it?)

The through-line of the screenplay is that everything eventually returns from the sea.  Or something pithy and profound like that.  I was thinking (and I don't mean to be a revengeful leper who lost out on a good development deal  and returns from the sea)...

Maybe this screenplay shouldn't have.

DcH

 


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