While every great filmmaker has made his share of stinkers – two notable flops stand out like a sore thumb on HALLOWEEN mastermind John Carpenter’s resume: his remakes of VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED and THE FOG. Eerily, one thing stands out as a weird coincidence about both films – the stars were actors best known for playing SUPERMAN – Christopher Reeve and Tom Welling.
As far as bizarro film facts go – that’s a mighty odd happenstance. Is the so-called “Superman Curse” responsible for the failure of these two Carpenter remakes?
First, let’s examine the alleged curse. Reportedly, everyone who has donned cape and trunks to play the Man of Steel has endured grievous misfortune. Well, other than the first TV Superman George Reeves who died under mysterious circumstances officially ruled a suicide in 1959 and Christopher Reeve’s 1995 tragic horse riding accident which left him paralyzed, pretty much everyone else affiliated with the Big Red S fell victim to that old industry bugaboo – typecasting.
After eluding the long shadow of creeping Clark Kent-isms, Reeve made a smooth transition to other roles – toplining the adaptation of Richard Matheson’s fantasy SOMEHERE IN TIME. So when Carpenter offered him the role George Sanders made famous in the original VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, Reeve accepted. The film based on John Wyndham’s classic novel The MIDWICH CUCKOOS detailed the horrific circumstances regarding the birth of a small group of children. The similarly looking blond-haired, glowing eyed alien brats used psychic abilities to keep the small town in a grip of terror.
Successfully helming a critically acclaimed remake of THE THING (1982), Carpenter set his sights on a DAMNED re-do. He changed the setting to a small Northern California town and set in in modern times. Despite Reeve’s best efforts, a chain-smoking Kirstie Alley and Mark Hamill as a priest, the remake failed to generate chills. Panning the flick, the New York Times called it “more sly than frightening.” Carpenter later dismissed the entire venture as a “contractual obligation”.
Carpenter’s remake of THE FOG (2005) is another story. He produced the re-tread with longtime partner Debra Hill but did not direct. That was left to the stunning ineptitude of Rupert Wainwright. SMALLVILLE’s young “Superman in training”, Tom Welling had the thankless task of playing Nick Castle – the role made famous in the original by Tom (“Thrill me”) Atkins. Rounding out the cast were Maggie Grace and Selma Blair.
Reportedly, when THE FOG began rolling, Welling shuttled from the film’s location to the Kent Farm in Vancouver because he still had three weeks of shooting the CW series. As directed in the film by Wainwright, Welling barely emotes. Yet his “deer in the headlights” acting style could verily well be justified when menaced by ghost pirates. After the film was released to scathing reviews, producer Carpenter described his on-set presence thusly: “I come in and say hello to everybody. Go home.”
And as far as the so-called Superman curse? Considering what later befell both Christopher Reeve (his paralyzing accident) and Tom Welling (relative obscurity), they were the victims of a curse alright – the John Carpenter bad remake curse.