The Fog

The Fog is currently available on instant Netflix and Amazon Prime.

The Fog (1980) – Rated R

“While an old, weather-beaten fisherman tells a ghost story to fascinated children huddled by a campfire, a piece of driftwood in a child’s hands begins to glow, and an eerie fog envelops the seaside community of Antonio Bay. From its midst emerges demonic victims of a century-old shipwreck seeking revenge on the small town. Director John Carpenter’s follow-up to his breakout film, Halloween, stars Jamie Lee Curtis and Janet Leigh.”

“Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream.”

“There’s no fog bank out there.” – ” Hey there’s a fog bank out there.”

One of the things I love about John Carpenter is that he does not beat ideas to death. After Halloween, he could have made a sequel but instead made The Fog. In spite of also being horror and also starring Jamie Lee Curtis, The Fog is very different from Halloween. Both of those films are quite different from his next two films, Escape from New York and The Thing.

John Houseman puts in a special appearance long enough to tell a wonderful campfire ghost story to a group of children. Naturally that serves as a prologue relating the story of the Elizabeth Dane, a ship that sank a hundred years ago.

John Carpenter assembles a wonderful ensemble cast here. In addition to Jamie Lee Curtis, he also brings Charles Cyphers and Nancy Loomis over from Halloween. Cyphers, Sheriff Brackett in Halloween, plays Dan O’ Bannon, the weatherman. Loomis, Annie Brackett in Halloween, is Sandy here.

John Carpenter cast his wife Adrienne Barbeau as Stevie Wayne, the local disc jockey and lighthouse keeper. Hal Holbrook is absolutely wonderful as the tortured, alcoholic Father Malone. Tough Tom Atkins gets leading man status as Nick Castle playing opposite Jamie Lee Curtis’ hitchhiker Elizabeth Solley. Finally Jamie Lee Curtis’ mother, Janet Leigh (yes Psycho), plays town matriarch Kathy Williams.

The beginning of the film where all the cars start honking, jars fall off shelves, gas pumps start themselves, etc. seems a little pointless. The first two acts are uneven – the campfire story, the attack on the boat, the discovery of the journal in the church, the coin turning into a piece of wood are all great scenes but many other scenes are just filler to pad time until we get to the siege of the town.

Carpenter’s use of the 2.35:1 widescreen format is wonderful. He has a great eye for composition and both of those set his horror films apart from those of this era. The visuals of the fog, the undead sailors, and the ship are amazing. The siege of the town takes up the last third of the film and is where The Fog really shines. It is good enough to make you forget the early flaws and is quite memorable. I try my best not to spoil endings so I will just say that The Fog has one of the best endings of any horror movie.

While not nearly as iconic as Halloween, John Carpenter’s electronic music for The Fog, mostly heard during the third act, helps raise the tension. His music stings are good as well. The sound effects are chilling particularly those in the early attack on the boat.

People Watch: Look for writer/director John Carpenter in a cameo as Bennett. Darwin Joston, the star of Carpenter’s low-budget Assault on Precinct 13, has a cameo as Dr. Phibes. Carpenter loves joke character names.

Sequel-itis: The Fog was remade by Rupert Wainwright in 2005 using state of the art CGI. The film is filled with young actors such as Tom Welling and is not very good. With Carpenter’s The Fog having a perfect ending, it is surprising that the remake blows that too.