John Carpenter’s The Fog was released in February of 1980 but the story takes place in April 21st 1980, the 100th Anniversary of the small Town of Antonio Bay. So with Today being the 21st of April it seemed like a good time to go back and pay tribute to this great film!
After the success of Halloween Carpenter decided to take on the classic ghost story after seeing a distant fog bank while on vacation one night. That planted the seed that would become The Fog. The film is about the small seaside town of Antonio Bay that’s about to celebrate their 100th anniversary. However the anniversary mysteriously falls on the same anniversary as the sinking of the Elizabeth Dane, a clipper ship that followed a false fire on the shore to their doom and crashed on the rocks and sunk taking the entire crew with her.
The Fog has some great players. The somewhat legendary Tom Atkins, Jamie Lee Curtis, the sultry Adrienne Barbeau and Janet Leigh (Jamie Lee’s Mom and star of Psycho). Atkins is apparently a fisherman, though that’s never made clear, who finds Curtis hitchhiking along a dark stretch of road outside Antonio Bay. Its after midnight and the whole town is experiencing some very strange occurrences. Chairs move on their own, buildings shake, alarms go off without warning and so on. Even with all this going on somehow Atkins manages to take Curtis home and bed her. He is the silver fox after all.
If you haven’t seen the Fog then I won’t ruin it by telling you all about what happens but needless to say there’s a major connection between the founding of Antonio Bay, the sinking of the Elizabeth Dane, the vengeful Fog that seems to be making people die or disappear. What makes the Fog a great ghost story is its such a slow burn that oozes atmosphere from every orifice. The Fog takes its time but its a creepy time lit beautifully by cinematographer Dean Cundey and who also worked on Halloween and The Thing.
The Fog is the type of movie that simply doesn’t get made these days unless its an indie film. 2009’s The House of the Devil is the last film I can remember that paced itself so deliberatly. There aren’t many kills in the movie and it really relies more on its tone and atmosphere than on a bunch of jump scares. There’s just an overall creeping dread permeating throughout the film. Carpenter’s wide anamorphic camera creeps around building tension in the very opening moments of the film. Even during the brightly lit wide shots there’s always a sense that something spooky is going on. Like many of Carpenter’s films, he performs all the music making the score a major part of why the film works. From its haunting piano to its pulsing beats during action oriented scenes the score drives the film and elevates it above being just another horror movie.
Probably the most amazing thing about this movie is the fog effects which are very low tech. Some of the shots are matte shots while others are simply fog machines pushing copious amounts of fog into the scene and back lit. However its far more effective to see shadowy figures in real fog then see big CGI faces jumping out and doing completely unrealistic things. Something the horrible and extremely unnecessary remake failed to understand.
I realize that there’s a lot of young people that would probably find this movie to be boring because its slow but what do they know? I could probably write volumes on what’s wrong with the horror films coming out of major production houses these days but that’s for another post on another day.