The Fog (1980)
Release Year: 1980
Director: John Carpenter
Writers: John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Adrienne Barbeau, Janet Leigh, Tom Atkins, Hal Holbrook, Charles Cyphers, John Houseman, James Canning
Moviegeek Sunday Classic #123, week 42 2016
While celebrating its centenary birthday, a coastal town in California is visited by a glowing fog bringing with it the ghosts of the murdered people on whose stolen money the town was founded.
Following his groundbreaking slasher Classic, Halloween (1978), Carpenter wrote and directed this old-fashioned horror gem. The Fog is a fine example of a classic ghost story about a small town visisted by a curse. From the wonderful opening scene in which Mr. Machen (John Houseman) tells the legend of a shipwreck out in the bay that happened a hundred years earlier, the tone is set for good old-fashioned terror and suspense. Few directors master the building and execution of suspense as well as John Carpenter, and the flawless editing demonstrates his talent for visual storytelling. There are no unnecessary explanations or scenes added to explain the plot. With one exception you could even turn off the sound and follow the story, but that would mean missing out on the atmospheric and intense score, composed by the director himself. The scream queen of the late 1970s and early 1980, Jamie Lee Curtis (Prom Night, 1980), sort of stars, but the film doesn’t really have any main character, rather it follows a handful of people who experience the various spooky consequences of the glowing fog. Apart from Curtis the film focusses on the down-to-earth Nick (Tom Atkins), the mellow-toned radio host Stevie (Adrienne Barbeau) and Hal Holbrook’s troubled priest, Father Amlone. Furthermore, Curtis’s mother Janet Leigh (Psycho, 1960) appears in a smaller role as a somewhat disbelieving town official somewhat reminiscent of Murray Hamilton’s mayor in Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975) although far less cynical. The story is perhaps not original in the common sense of the word, but that is not a bad thing here. The Fog isn’t trying to change the game or surprise its audience; it is simply here to tell a ctacking good ghost story in style as only John Carpenter can do it. Highly recommended and a must see for fans of classic ghost stories.
Director John Carpenter gives an uncredited performance at the beginning of the film as Bennet, Father Malone’s assistant.
Although the film is a low budget horror film, John Carpenter decided to shoot the movie in anamorphic widescreen Panavision, giving the film a grander feel.
Adrienne Barbeau who plays the smooth voiced radio disc jockey, Stevie Wayne was married to John Carpenter at the time of filming. He wrote the part especially for her.
If you are interested in learning more about John Carpenter’s The Fog check out this documentary on the making of the film (30 min.)
Picture Copyright: UIP