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.

Creepshow

Okay while normally I never miss cable, especially since I never run out of things to watch, this week I would have liked to have seen Mick Garris’ adaptation of Bag of Bones. Still it will be on Netflix eventually and Netflix does have plenty of Stephen King to go around.

Creepshow (1982) – Rated R

“Based on the E.C. comic books of the 1950s, this horror anthology includes radioactive meteorites, a creepy Father’s Day party, a monster in a crate and thousands of cockroaches. Venerable horror director George Romero (Night of the Living Dead) and screenwriter Stephen King are responsible for the creepfest, which features performances by Leslie Nielsen, Hal Holbrook, Ted Danson, Adrienne Barbeau, Ed Harris, E.G. Marshall and even King himself.”

“This is going to be extremely painful Mr. Verrill!”

I love portmanteau (anthology) films even if far too many of them have the same wraparound story (Omigosh they were all dead to begin with! I never would have guessed that!). Some of them are direct adaptations of EC Comics (Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror) but none of them captured the actual feel of those comics until Creepshow.

Obviously much of the credit has to go to the wonderful tongue-in-cheek screenplay from author Stephen King. He captures the spirit of the Tales from the Crypt comics much better than the Amicus films or the HBO TV series ever did. The stories are all fun with a good punchline that may have you groaning.

Unlike his brief cameos in other films, King actually carries one of the segments of the film (“The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill”). His acting is atrocious but fits in well with his segment. Joe Hill, Stephen King’s son, plays the young boy in the wraparound segments.

George Romero does an excellent job of directing here. He gets great over-the-top performances from a good cast of actors. Hal Holbrook and Leslie Nielsen are particularly good here. Much of the film is done as comic book panels with bright primary colors and backgrounds. Because of the nature of the portmanteau film, none of the stories overstays its welcome.

Romero regular Tom Savini handled the special makeup effects and this film features some of his best work. Savini also has a cameo as one of the garbagemen.

Two final notes: If you don’t enjoy tongue-in-cheek or campy material then you are unlikely to enjoy this film. If cockroaches bother you unduly then do not watch the last segment of this film – you have been warned! Even on repeat viewings, I often skip the last segment. It’s great but boy does it give me the heebie-jeebies.

 

Demolition Man – The Expendables week

In honor of the upcoming Sylvester Stallone action extravaganza, this is The Expendables week. Our first star from the Expendables is Sylvester Stallone. Demolition Man is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Demolition Man (1993) – Rated R for non-stop action violence (I love that reason!) and for strong language.

“In the violent 1990s, a cop (Sylvester Stallone) catches a relentless killer (Wesley Snipes), and both end up in a cryogenic deep freeze. In the peaceful year 2032, the criminal emerges from his long chill and attacks the now crimeless California. Unable to stop the bloodshed, a “Big Brother” boss (Nigel Hawthorne) defrosts the murderers past nemesis, who struggles to adapt to the ways of a new world and a restless new partner (Sandra Bullock).”

“Dont you think…” – “I try not to – however you are young, think all you want.”

“We are police officers. We are not trained to handle this level of violence.”

Not only is this movie a guilty pleasure but it begins with a guilty pleasure. The opening sequence begins with a shot of the Hollywood sign on fire. We then track over south central L.A. under siege and our hero, John Spartan bungee jumps from a helicopter down to a rooftop.

There are a number of logical flaws in the script. The most prominent one occurs almost immediately. It is silly to think that the police could not reason out that the hostages had already been killed after discovering their bodies.

Sylvester Stallone is not only a good hero here but he also has good comic timing. He really sells the physicality of the action hero as well as the primitiveness of his methods. All this and he has the second most awesome main character name, John Spartan! (top prize still goes to Hiro Protagonist).

Wesley Snipes plays Simon Phoenix. He is absolutely gleeful in the role. Stallone wanted Jackie Chan for the role but Chan does not play villains. Snipes is a fifth degree Black Belt in Shotokan karate and studies kung fu and Capoeira. The director had to have Snipes slow down many of his moves in the film so that they could be seen.

Sandra Bullock has an early role here as a future policeman fascinated with the 20th century. She is as lovable here as she is in most of her roles. The following year Bullock would get her big break in Speed.

Comedian Denis Leary has a small but vital role. He plays Edgar Friendly, a rebel leader, and he has a hilarious Leary-esque monologue. His TV series, Rescue Me just became available on instant Netflix.

Benjamin Bratt appears as a policeman – he would later costar again with Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality. Rob Schneider also appears as a policeman and would later appear with Stallone in Judge Dredd.

Jesse “The Body” Ventura and Jack Black both appear in blink-and-you-will-miss-them roles and the voice of the computer is Adrienne Barbeau.

Product placement is hilariously rampant though not to the level of Waynes World. John Spartan requests Marlboros by name and Simon smokes them as well. Taco Bell actually features prominently in the plot and all of those sequences are hysterical.

The vision of the future given to us by the writers is not only filled with action but also pretty humorous. While there is a lot of language and violence that is at times grotesque, the humor is actually quite light-hearted in nature. This is not the dark sardonic future of Paul Verhoeven.

I heartily recommend this tongue-in-cheek futuristic romp – both for the action and the humor.

People Watch: Other Stallone films currently available on instant Netflix are Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV, Cobra, Tango & Cash, Rocky V, Get Carter, and Eye See You. As you can see there are quite a number of Stallone options.