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Monday, October 30, 2017

The Fog (1980)



Can’t have Halloween without some John Carpenter movies. Though instead of starting off with the obvious I threw in one of my favorite ghost stories ever filmed. The Fog follows the inhabitants of a small coastal town called Antonio Bay. They are celebrating their one hundredth anniversary with a statue to the town founders. Things take a supernatural turn when a mysterious fog rolls in the night before the big event. Inside that fog is something that is angry and killing anyone that crosses their path. This includes some fishermen out on their boat. But that isn’t all that happens.

In one of the creepiest scenes in the movie we get a montage of spooky happenings like all the pay phones ringing at once, lights turning on by themselves, bottles rattling for no reason, and a lot full of used cars suddenly honking their horns. Oh yeah and the windows in our hero’s truck suddenly blow out for no reason. Scares the heck out of him and the lovely lady hitchhiker he has picked up. The next night the fog rolls into and over Antonio Bay and more people are chased and killed by the figures who emerge from it. Much of this action is narrated by our local radio show host Stevie Wayne, who by the end is the only one with power and a good vantage point to let everyone know where the fog is and where it might be safe to hide.

This is another of those classic horror movies that I expect most people have already seen. But if you haven’t then please let me convince you to rectify that situation with all due haste. After starting off with a cool ghost story around the fire told by an old ship captain, played by John Houseman, we jump into the action. Things go sideways in the town with all the spooky stuff I mentioned above. This sort of sets the plate for the main course of vengeful ghosts. From here the plot shifts between us seeing the ghosts killing the townsfolk and the local reverend reading a journal that he discovered in the walls of the church. The bodies pile up as the characters discover why it is happening. Won’t spoil that for you but needless to say they have a reason to be angry!

Doesn’t matter how good your story is if you don’t have the cast to execute it. Our leads are Elizabeth and Nick, the previously mentioned passengers of the now windowless pickup truck. They are played by Tom Atkins and Jamie Lee Curtis with one of them being very good. Atkins plays his normal tough guy part and is great. But I’ve never thought that Curtis put much effort into her role. I get the feeling that she is just phoning it in here. Though in her defense maybe there just wasn’t much written for her character. I do think it was cool seeing her work with her mother Janet Leigh (Psycho) who plays a town bigwig. Adrienne Barbeau kills it as the radio host Stevie Wayne who has a huge role, but I don’t think appears with any of the other characters with the exception of her character’s son.

These Ghosts are mad and have swords!
The special effects are decent, but don’t expect a bloodbath. In the Carpenter spectrum, this is more Halloween with implied gore than it is The Thing. The ghosts look good cloaked in the fog, but their kills are mostly off-screen. This fits well because the Fog isn’t the kind of movie that is going to give you explicit gore or put the creatures in your face. Here it is way more effective to let the audience fill in those blanks.

This movie has aged well and keeps surprising me with the new little touches that I notice each time I watch it. Let me give you an example. After that burst of noise, punctuated by the car horns the Fog is silent. Pay attention to how little ambient noise is present in the background. Now when things are over and justice served pay attention to the characters walking out of the church. You hear a dog barking. Everything is back to normal. That is amazing filmmaking and why I highly recommend The Fog.



© Copyright 2017 John Shatzer

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