Wednesday, October 6, 2010

#61. The Fog (1980)

Directed By: John Carpenter

Starring: Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh

Tag line: "What you can't see won't hurt you... it'll kill you!"

Trivia:  Kurt Russell was offered a key role in this film, but had to decline

Director John Carpenter refers to The Fog, his 1980 horror film, as a “learning experience”. After shooting and editing the entire picture, Carpenter realized he was stuck with a movie that simply didn't work. So, he paid a visit to Avco-Embassy, the production company financing the picture, and told them he needed to re-shoot, re-cut and re-score a movie they were planning to release in three months time. It was a bold move, yet Carpenter and his crew worked diligently over the next three months to transform The Fog into something the director felt was much more feasible. The result? A story that gives you the willies, and a movie I enjoyed immensely. 

The California coastal town of Antonio Bay is about to celebrate its 100th anniversary, but the planned festivities are threatened when local priest, Father Malone (Hal Holbrook), uncovers his grandfather’s diary, which reveals the shocking story of how Antonio Bay was founded. Exactly 100 years earlier, six of the town's leading citizens caused the deaths of a ship full of invalids, who were hoping to settle nearby. Fearing what such a group might do to their growing community, the six lured the ship towards the shoreline by way of a campfire, causing the vessel to break apart on the rocks, and killing everyone aboard. But a guilty consciences isn’t the only thing the townsfolk of Antonio Bay have to worry about.  A thick, threatening fog has also enveloped the community, one carrying the spirits of those killed a century earlier, who have risen from the sea to seek their revenge. 

The chills and thrills brought on by The Fog get under way pretty quickly. As the film opens, Mr. Machen (John Houseman) is telling the story of the 100-year-old shipwreck to a group of kids sitting around a campfire, explaining that the crew of this ghostly ship is now set to return from the depths, drawn to the light which lured them to their doom. It's an effective pre-title sequence, yet it’s only the beginning. Once the clock strikes midnight, the entire town goes haywire. Car alarms sound for no reason, dogs bark uncontrollably, lights dim, and convenience store shelves rattle, all before the opening credits have had a chance to finish! These initial scenes are jarring, and drag us to the edge of our seats, which is exactly where we’ll stay until the next time we see the credits roll. 

I can't say for sure what issues Carpenter had with the original cut of The Fog, but clearly, he was able to correct them. The Fog is an electrifying motion picture, one I love a little more each time I see it.



Unknown said...

This is the best American ghost story of the 20th century. It's frightening, not overly gory and leaves enough to the imagination for it to work on a totally mental level.

Dave B. said...

Thanks for the comment! And I agree with you. THE FOG is a tremendous movie.

Crash Palace said...

Another fantastic review, Dave. THE FOG is a blast!

TheVern said...

This is a movie that usually doesn't get mentioned when talking about Carpenter's work which is a shame because it is a good classic ghost story and although he has set the tone with slashers in Halloween. The Fog is still a good ghost story they don't make much any more. Great job at giving it some new light