Day 3 of 31
The Fog (Horror, 1980) (18) D: John Carpenter W: John Carpenter and Debra Hill C: Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie, Lee Curtis, Tom Atkins, John Houseman, Janet Leigh, Hal Holbrook. 1h 19m. USA.
Synopsis : Legend says that Antonio Bay was built in 1880 with blood money obtained from shipwrecked lepers but no one believes it. On the eve of the town’s centennial many plan to attend the celebrations, including the murdered lepers.
TAGLINE : NONE
A chilling film about a small town with a dark past that on it’s 100th birthday finds itself at the mercy of a group of not so jolly zombie pirates who cloak themselves in an unseemingly dangerous fog. Surprisingly this film isn’t based on the book by James Herbert with the same name, instead it’s a story written by Carpenter and Hill, collating a lot of folklore and urban legend style stories of old American towns, corruption and inert fears of the weather.
With a few similarities to Halloween (1978) the residents of Antonio Bay are being plagued by a series of strange supernatural events that are drawn to the church within the town.
Considering the film is basically about a haunting it does have equal amounts of action and tense slower creeping scenes. It starts out in a miraculous way. An old man is telling a campfire tale to some school children around a fire, a story about ghosts and old ships wrecked on the shore, it really sets the scene for the movie, although the film is a tad scarier than the old man’s story!! Cutting from there we’re introduced to Stevie Wayne (Andrienne Barbeau) a radio DJ who works alone and lives with her young son. She’s considered quite a hotty and is often chatted up by Dan O’Bannon (Charles Cyphers) who gives her the weather information. Nick Castle (Tom Atkins), an avid fisherman is another inhabitant of the island and picks up Elizabeth Solley (Jamie Lee Curtis) when she is hitchhiking, as their romance blossoms during the most tragic era of Antonio Bay. Kathy Williams (Janet Leigh)is setting up the celebrations of the town’s 100th birthday with her amazingly enthusiastic assistant Sandy (Nancy Kyes/Loomis) and to top it off we have the drunken paranoid priest Father Malone (Hal Holbrook) who uncovers a secret diary and starts to decipher the real history of the town. The film flows through keeping the scares and chills regularly between but as more information is uncovered about the past then as a viewer your perspective is changed.
Taking different aspects of many an old tale, the Fog filters through being a ghost story, as well as being a thrilling mystery as well. It’s also interesting how pieces of information is uncovered by separate groups of people and how they come together to try and solve the big picture, everyone is connected to the past here. There is a huge recurring theme within the movie about families and family ties, and part of the conundrum is in relation to the founding fathers and this is revisited time and time again when it comes to the relationships among the characters.
Now I’m going to talk about two really intriguing moments in the movie that I absolutely adore but they are totally random and no one else care about them. So get the violins out and bare with me. There are a few scenes of mystery that I really adore, I don’t want to take away all the thunder from the amazing creepy scenes on the boat and in the hospital when corpses become very animated. But there is a simple yet great scene when Andy (Stevie’s Son) finds a gold coin on the beach but when it tries to pick it up, it’s suddenly a piece of driftwood, I personally can’t see the cut scene, how did they do it? Also I can’t not write about this film and mention the scene where Blake voice take over the radio (funnily enough this is a follow on scene from the coin morphing driftwood scene) he says “Something that one lives with like an albatross around the neck, No, more like a milestone. A plumbing stone, by God! Damn them all! Now I don’t know if it’s just Charles Nicklin’s voice or the sentiment but it’s just so powerful.
The quirkiest part of this movie isn’t the visuals or the effects it has to be the names! Carpenter used so many names of people he knew as characters and chucked in a few comedy names too including Dr Phibes, and finally.. John himself and Deborah Hill appear in the film unaccredited of course.
From the Wiki.. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fog
- Dan O’Bannon is a screenwriter who worked with Carpenter on Dark Star (1974).
- Nick Castle is the actor who played Michael Myers in Halloween (1978).
- Tommy Wallace has worked with Carpenter as an editor, art designer, and sound designer on several of his films in the 1970s and 1980s.
- Richard Kobritz, the producer of Carpenter’s 1978 TV film Someone’s Watching Me! inspired the name of the character Mrs. Kobritz.
Other references that are interwoven into the film include the name of the John Houseman character “Mr. Machen” (a reference to British horror fantasist Arthur Machen); a radio report that mentions Arkham Reef; and the town’s coroner Dr. Phibes was named after the titular character of the horror films starring Vincent Price from the early 1970s.
One of the titanic factors in relation to the spooky effects has to be great rolling fog scenes and creatures hidden in the mist. Don’t get your hopes up they aren’t like Silent Hill in anyway but they are a different style of hopalong horror pirate kinda way. although there are no parrots, you can’t have a pirate film with no parrots.. I might have to write to John about this! I jest. Going back to my point, there are some effect scenes where the fog is blowing into the town and while some of it looks a little tacky today it could be a lot worse.
For me it’s impractical to pinpoint the bad guys in this film. I want to point the finger in a few directions but not at the people who are currently being persecuted, this makes Blake and the other pirates total assholes, but they still descend upon the town wreaking havoc and I’m not sure what justice they were expecting?
Poor Jamie Lee got the worse role in the movie, she appears as if from nowhere and her character is suddenly thrust into a world of spooky weird shit. She does consider herself to be unlucky and she was so right. She has strange flying objects hitting cars that she’s a passenger in, dead people falling on and around her, then ends up being chased by zombies, it’s as if she wasn’t punished enough in Halloween (1978). Kurt Russell was offered the chance to appear in the movie but declined, it would have been a great early Carpenter Holy Trilogy of Russell movies but the the life of me I can’t picture him in this style of film, the ghosts would have left when he flamed the shut outta them, blowing up the entire town and pissing off the mayor and priest.
Carpenter was coasting along on a few massive success stories with his previous movies and I think he aimed really high with this film, despite it being cut and slashed before being released it’s still an excellent film but I wonder what he really had in store for us. I would imagine the team involved in this had a lot of fun playing around in whatever weather effects.
If you like a bit of spooky and it’s a clear night then this will be a good choice, but it’s not as hard hitting as other Carpenter movies of the time, it doesn’t have the dynamics of Precinct 13 (1976) or the thing. It’s way more “traditional” it’s story and approach.
The ghostly aspects of this film work well, the phantoms are both brutal and cunning and pretty creepy with their red eyes and hooked hands, but a little bit of me wanted to see more kills and violence but that’s the kinda girl I am. I adore the mystery solving, it’s not too Miss Marple and even a simpleton like myself is able to follow along. There isn’t much wrong with the film and I thoroughly enjoy it, apart from the double ending, one is okay the other is quite what the fuck!?
V: While it will be considered dates and has been remade with an inferior 2005 film. I have constantly enjoyed The Fog time and time again. It was one of the earliest Carpenter films that I remember seeing similar faces in and I adore directors who work with people time and time again. The Fog still gives me chills and I enjoy so many of the well scripted and beautiful scenes, not always the most scariest but also some warming interactions.It’s just brilliant!
Rating – 9/10
L: Radio DJ’s in films, Weather movies, Pirate films, Selected Ghost flicks
R: Silent Hill (2006), Prince of Darkness (1987), The Fog (2005), Village of the Damned (1960)