The Fog Reviews
Overall a very basic film with bottom of the barrel effects clearly done on a shoestring yet it still works effectively. I love the mist effects in this film as they remind me of many old classic black n white horror's. A really nice kind of 'Twilight Zone' feel about the proceedings that gives great atmosphere and a decent chill to the bone with all the misty cold dusk vista's.
As said the film is very basic but offers nice creativity on all counts. The nasty spooky ghosts are merely actors in dark clothes and shot in silhouette, the odd bit of seaweed draped on their arms and leader Captain Blake has glowing red eyes. They simply turn up with the fog and knock on peoples doors hoping to be let in so they can kill you...how polite!
Of course the cast is a classic line up of character actors, some of which Carpenter used for his previous popular horror flick, I don't need to mention them do I. Although personally I wouldn't have used Curtis again, bit samey.
I like this film very much, it has a great eerie factor with a plain and simple plot, no silly frills, a pure quality ghost story of old. Loved the use of a smoke machine to pump in the menacing fog at the required moments, so very cheap n obvious but so very cool.
Edgar Allen Poe
Deadly ghosts of murdered lepers come out of fog banks to terrorize the small Northern California town Antonio Bay(Point Reyes). Adrienne Barbeau stars as a radio jockey(Stevie Wayne) with a son that is told a "ghost" story of what essentially transpires by the late/great John Housemen who portrays a grizzled old salt(Machen) . This sets the mood for the film perfectly with his unique voice tone. John Carpenter's brilliant soundtrack work enhances the eerie premise as well. His cameo as assistant to Father Malone(Hal Holbrook) is silly, but I wouldn't put it past him to intentionally be bad for a certain effect. Regardless, he's one hell of a great horror filmmaker and cool guy.
And hey, we even get the scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis in this one.
The Fog is the kind of film that Hallowe'en would have been if Carpenter were not so adept at marrying storytelling to special effects. It contains a number of technically impressive set-pieces which foreshadow more expensive mainstream films, along with all Carpenter's directorial trademarks including a very good score. But although the story is as brutally simple as its predecessor, the film ultimately fails to make the most of it and ends up surprisingly dull.
Like Prince of Darkness after it, The Fog is on one level Carpenter's tribute to one of his favourite horror writers - in this case Edgar Allan Poe rather than H. P. Lovecraft. The film begins with a quote from Poe and a spooky prologue in which John Houseman sets the scene. This scene is very well-played, not only in creating the mood but in the level of horror it orchestrates. The fact that there are children present leads us to believe that the story is just another old wives' tale to stop people going out at night. But Houseman's delivery is so precise and dolorous that we can't help wondering whether we're mistaken.
Sadly, the suspense created in these first five minutes is completely undone by the following forty. With the exception of the prologue the first half of The Fog is very dull, with very little going on that is engaging or threatening in any way. Carpenter sets up a host of different characters who begin interacting in various ways, but none of these encounters on their own are enough to sustain our interest. Our emotional responses vary from annoyance directed at Janet Leigh to confusion as to how Tom Atkins and Jamie Lee Curtis ended up sleeping together so quickly.
Such shortcomings in the characters undercut the film's ability to truly frighten us. Until the sequence in the lighthouse with the burning driftwood, The Fog simply isn't scary, and its attempts to rectify this are desperately obvious. The scene of Father Malone reading from Blake's diary is so hokey that all we can do is smirk, and elsewhere all Carpenter comes up with is a few loud bangs in broad daylight. Even the elaborate opening involving clinking glass and car alarms contains nothing which is capable of generating a sustained level of terror.
In the absence of either engaging characters or proper scares, all we have left to admire in this section of The Fog are the special effects - which, as it turns out, are quite impressive. The low budget meant there simply weren't the resources to fill entire streets with artificial fog, let alone make it move in a certain way. To get around this all the wide shots of the coast and Antonio Bay's streets are done with scale models shrouded in black cloth, something you wouldn't notice unless you had studied the production in detail.
As for the fog itself, it's real fog. In contrast to the blatant CGI used in the remake, Carpenter used machines known as mole foggers to generate the sepulchral clouds and then guide them as best he could with carefully positioned fans. Dean Cundey, Carpenter's long-time cinematographer, lights the fog to get the greatest amount of menace out of what is essentially an inanimate object. When it's coming in off the sea, it shimmers with an iridescent blue, while in the boy's house it is the same lurid combination of red and green of 1950s Hammer.
Fittingly, it is one particular special effect which finally kicks The Fog into life (and no, it's not the TV turning itself on in the manner of Poltergeist). It comes when Adrianne Barbeau is in the radio station testing some pre-recorded demo tapes near the piece of driftwood her son found on the beach. While her back is turned, the wood begins to drip with water, until it works its way into the tape machine and garbles the sound. Barbeau turns round to find the writing on the plank has changed from 'Dane' to '6 will die', and then the whole thing bursts into flames.
Quite apart from its technical proficiency, this sequence is the first time in the film where we have both a real sense of tension and a provable physical threat. The execution of this scene conveys the supernatural elements of the story - water catching on fire - while retaining the physical grounding of the film's villains. And because the action happens so close to us on screen, we feel the beginnings of a connection to these characters and their rapidly darkening predicaments.
But again there is a problem. As the screen time accorded to the ghosts increases, we begin to ask questions about how they function on a physical level. Blending a supernatural force with natural elements (i.e. ghosts in fog) is a hard act to pull off, and as the film rolls on more inconsistencies come to light. Perhaps this is a result of the various production problems, which necessitated reshooting a third of the footage.
The Fog never sets out any kind of parameters in which the fog or the ghosts operate, and yet every time we try to impose our logic on it, it very quickly defies it. We assume that the fog has no power of its own - until it creeps of its own accord into the boat's generator. We accept that the ghosts cannot have influence without the fog - until the driftwood gets soaked. And we embrace the fact that the ghosts are physical, having to knock on doors rather than walk through them - except at the end, when they magically re-materialise in the church. Errors like this not only make the film confusing but work against our desire to become involved in the story and our desire to be scared by it.
Fortunately, there is just enough in the way of atmosphere created in the last half hour to prevent The Fog from completely collapsing. Carpenter's dynamic score is well-matched to the ominous shots of the fog creeping in off the coast, and several of the set-pieces work pretty well. The scene of Jamie Lee Curtis being attacked by the reanimated corpse is pretty creepy, as is the final confrontation in the church involving Father Malone and the shimmering cross.
The performances in The Fog are also pretty decent. Adrianne Barbeau, who was then married to Carpenter, gives a convincing performance as a local radio DJ, even if she does spend a little too much time screaming out repetitive instructions. Hal Holbrook brings a brooding presence to Father Malone, turning his few lines into something which seems more significant. And Janet Leigh gives her all in her last film role, sharing scenes with two graduates of Hallowe'en - one being Nancy Loomis, the other her real-life daughter Jamie Lee Curtis.
The Fog is a disappointing follow-up to Carpenter's greatest work. Its special effects, score and performances are just about enough to carry it through its running time, and there is some appeal in seeing a cutting-edge horror filmmaker re-approach an old-fashioned ghost story. But while technically interesting, it's also narratively inept, coming nowhere near the heights of its predecessors or Carpenter's subsequent greatness on Starman and The Thing.
The Fog is John carpenter's follow-up to Halloween and in many ways it follows the basic premise of that film in that this is a film that takes a generalized legend and builds a story around it. Halloween was basically about The Bogeyman and The Fog is about those sea legends that abound coast towns east and west. It's a simply film about a simple town populated by simple people such as the town priest (Hal Holbrook), the local DJ (Adrienne Barbeau), the town cheerleader (Janet Leigh), the town playboy (Tom Atkins), and who can forget the town drifter (Jamie Leigh Curtis).
It's a basic ghost story film that is really interesting, yet fails at times , especially as we get closer to the ending. It doesn't stand up to Halloween, but it is a film that will keep your attention as the fog rolls into Antonio Bay. It's not perfect, but The Fog is an entertaining thriller.
John Carpenter does some excellent things with a shoestring budget here. I was surprised to find that this movie was made on a million dollars, exponentially less than what a horror movie of similar construction would cost these days (even accounting for inflation). The fog effects don't look so great, sure, and the obscurity of the murderous lepers blurs the eternal horror line between threatening intangibility and total cheapness. It's handsomely filmed, which I guess was never a problem of Carpenter's, and his eye for locations is disarmingly excellent. Halloween had a gift for making suburbia inexpressibly creepy; this takes the invisibility of what lies beyond the ocean and turns it threatening. All that said, I didn't find The Fog particularly scary. It got a few chills out of me, but a majority of the suspense breakdowns seem predictable, and the gore is disappointingly tame. Furthermore, I never felt the characters were in any particular danger, and it's not a great cast anyway. I think Elizabeth is the weakest of Jamie Lee Curtis's '78-'80 horror heroines. She brings her typical charming modernity to a desperately shallow part. She's in more of a supporting role here, granted, but who's really the main character here anyway? Barbeau? Her character, though a major component in the movie's success, feels almost incidental. Surely not Tom Atkins, who is a terrible match for Curtis in both looks and personality and about the most boring horror hero you can find. Hal Holbrook seems to be reaching, and the interplay between Janet Leigh and her deadpan secretary gets old in record time. All of these people work better in tandem, trying to vanquish a common foe, but separated they aren't particularly compelling.
The Fog is definitely worth watching, and it's a strong product of its time, but Carpenter and Curtis have done better and it's definitely the "minor horror classic" that Carpenter himself considers it. It's at least miles better than the remake, too, if that means much to you at all.
I would advise any lover of good ghost stories to check out this early John Carpenter gem.
It's absolutely atmospheric and chilling with a minimum of gore and effects and a thick, glowing fog that is as much a star of the movie as the human actors.
I loved the settings in this film - Antonio Bay is well played by Inverness, California, and the actual working lighthouse is impressive to behold. All sights are excellently photographed by the always reliable Dean Cundey. I've always liked the fact that Carpenter's movies are shot in Panavision because you get that nice wide shot.
The other ingredients are here, too - I've never heard a Carpenter music score I didn't like - including a superb ensemble cast (real-life mother and daughter Janet Leigh and Jamie Lee Curtis co-star, although they don't actually play mother and daughter, and share very few scenes); in particular, Oscar-winner John Houseman makes the opening sequence mesmerizing. Adrienne Barbeau, who was once actually married to Carpenter, makes her film debut here and looks great in addition to giving a solid performance. There's also Tom Atkins, Hal Holbrook, Nancy Loomis of "Halloween", and Darwin Joston of "Assault on Precinct 13".
"The Fog" is subtle, intriguing, and spooky - just a great little ghost story, which was also written by Carpenter and Debra Hill
Rob Bottin, the man behind much of the creature effects for "The Thing", had his first association with Carpenter here - providing the film with one brief makeup effect as well as playing the red-eyed phantom Blake.
This is one of Carpenter's very best, right up there with the likes of "Halloween", and "The Thing". If you haven't seen it, check it out and avoid the awful remake.
Scary still to this day.
Watching it today, I have a much higher "scare threshold" but an advanced and more informed method of analyzing film, in particular story, to compensate for that first inadequacy.
Simply put, Carpenter is a director who knows how to set pace perfectly, he rarely includes impertinent details, and he acheives scary visuals without gore or even seeing the menacing figures. The editing really makes this movie move (it takes alot to make a ghost movie really move like that) at a perfectly escalating pace. This is a classic horror film, but gorehounds won't find much here. On the other hand, if you appreciate horror literature, you will find this to be a worthwhile investment of your time.