Fog, The (1980)
Cast: Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh, John Houseman
Director: John Carpenter
Nutshell: Atmospheric chiller… creepy and scary
“masterful” Time Out
“well directed but obvious” Maltin
“not one of Carpenter’s effective efforts” Blockbuster Video
“memorable exercise in supernatural horror” Creature Features
“transparent characters and telegraphed scares” Splatter Movies
“possibly the most criminally underrated horror film of the last two decades” Empire
It has taken years for The Fog to slowly emerge from underneath Halloween’s shadow to and be counted on its own strength as being one of John Carpenter’s finest moments.
The film arrived carrying an enormous burden of being the Carpenter/Debra Hill follow up to Halloween and legions of viewers went home disappointed as they had expected a rerun of Halloween and got a watery ghost story instead. The movie didn’t fare particularly well at the Box Office as people were thirsting for more stalk n slash stuff on the lines of Friday the 13th and The Fog failed to fulfil these expectations.
One can sit back now in 2000 and look back over John Carpenter’s numerous films and come to the realization that The Fog is in fact one of his most effective efforts and is actually one of the most chilling ghost stories made for many a year. Though it is slightly uneven and low on outright gore, there are brilliant sequences in the movie that exemplify Carpenter’s ability to squeeze every ounce of possible tension out of a situation.
There are scenes where the fog begins to slowly roll in that are superlative cinema. There is heightened tension and a sense of tremendous impending danger as Carpenters evil and menacing Fog stars unfurling relentlessly, inexorably….murderously. The director turns on the tension overdrive with his pulsating, pounding electro based music score.
There are moments in The Fog that bear the hallmark of John Carpenter at his very best. The mark of genius that was stamped all over Halloween and Assault on Precinct 13 – a mark of genius that was to sadly and alarmingly desert Carpenter right after he completed this film.
The story of The Fog is old fashioned ghost story territory, but it is given treatment more in line with a chilling undead film. In the remote coastal town of Antonio Bay exactly a hundred years ago, a small fishing vessel went down in mysterious circumstances surrounded by a thick blanket of fog. Exactly one hundred years later the same fog that was legend, becomes a nightmarish reality as it rolls in towards town leaving a trail of death in its wake.
Carpenter turns on the style once more and the film is another exercise in controlled tension. A tension that Carpenter turns on to unbearable levels during some wonderful sequences in the second half of the movie. It may have been a disappointment when people went to cinemas expecting another Halloween. Any follow up to that masterpiece would have to be a disappointment. Yet as time has gone by, The Fog has withstood the test of time rather well and gradually earned a following of its own and is quite correctly regarded as a minor classic.
Some of the more violent scenes were edited into the film weeks prior to release as the producers felt there wasn’t enough shock material for audiences rapidly becoming desensitised by an assault of horror films at the time. Some gore and shock scenes were added by Carpenter to beef up things a little. The film won’t satisfy those looking for outright shocks and jack in the box type horror scares.
For those looking for a creepy ghost story made with oodles of style and containing scenes of unremitting tension, look no further. Jamie Lee is classy in only her second or third role and it’s a kick to see her together with real life Mom, Janet Leigh. They were reunited years later by Steve Miner in the valiant H20.