In the beginning of The Fog a small fishing boat tries to pull up it's anchor but can’t because it has gotten snagged on a bag of silver lying on the ocean floor. As the sailors struggle to free their anchor they inadvertently rip the bag open, freeing it’s contents to ride the ocean’s current. They sail back to the shore unaware that they have just awakened a ghost ship of leprous pirate-y types who are still mad that their fancy-ass hairbrushes were stolen from them circa the Civil War. Before long, the angry undead are swooping into town on the back of a mystical fog to kill the grandchildren of the people that killed them.
All of which raises one question: are the fishermen liable for manslaughter charges? Because if your actions cause someone to lose their life you are still legally liable for that death even if you didn’t actively kill them yourself. If those fishermen hadn’t disturbed that bag of treasure then the ghosts would theoretically still be trapped in that bag and their murderous vengeance would be un-enacted. That seems to suggest that the fishermen’s liability is clear. On the other hand, prosecuting them might set a dangerous precedent: all they did to rile up the evil spirits was set an anchor down in the wrong spot in the middle of the ocean. I set things down all the time, and so far I haven’t had the bad luck of unleashing a plague of leprous pirate-y types, but that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t do that some day. I don’t want to park my car and end up liable for the destruction of a small town just because the spot I picked just happened to be haunted.
Of course, their crime – if, indeed, it was a crime – took place on the high seas, which means there needs to be a follow up question: were they far enough asea to be in international waters? Because if that fishing boat was outside of the purview of any specific nation then they should be free to rile up evil spirits with complete impunity…
Which raises another question: how does the concept of “international waters” apply to specters? Ghosts are no longer citizens of the place where they are currently murdering, and it's arguable that they aren't even present on Earth, so they probably don’t recognize any national boundaries. (At least I hope they don't; how sad would it be if there ghosts wandering around the Middle East looking for “Mesopotamia”?) So if ghosts aren't members of any nation isn't any ghost-type murder an international waters sort of deal even if it takes place on land? (I kind of just blew my own mind.)
Unfortunately, none of these pressing legal questions are addressed in the Fog. Instead, the film focuses on telling the sort of ghost story that middle schoolers might tell each other around a Boy Scout campfire, except way louder. (The film is so loud that it even makes a jump-scare noise when a mom enters from out of frame to hug her young son whom she hasn’t seen since the ghosts started their killing spree. It was the same lame fake-out that cheap horror films always do with cats jumping into frame for no reason, but more maternal.) If there had been even one moment that made it clear that this film was aimed at pre-teens – if “and there was a hook hanging on the side of the ship’s ghostly rowboat!” was said just once – I might have indulged the film a bit, and said, "enh, it's just not for me." But alas, The Fog did not seem to understand how lame and uncomplicated it was, so I’m going to have to flunk it. If that makes the ghosts unhappy, they can try to appeal my verdict. Actually, I kind of hope they do; arguing with them about whether or not they have the standing to properly object to my review would be a lot more entertaining than thinking about this movie for another second.
Winner: The Cat