Retro Horror Review: John Carpenters The Fog

by  on Apr.21, 2012, under horror movies, Movie Review, reviews, Slasher Movies

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.

The Silver Fox Strikes again

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.

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3 Responses to “Retro Horror Review: John Carpenters The Fog”

  1. Adam says:

    Great review bud:) I am big lover of this movie and you hit right on when you said this movie delivers. The score makes up a large portion of suspense and the uptake of the film. I collect memorabilia related to this film and I have never seen nor will I waste viewing time on the remake!! I even had a custom made mask of Capt. Blake based on Rob Bottin. Yes I am a little obsessed with the film, but JC did better with his independent films with original ideas than all of these remakes that are being pumped out today!! You said people might not like this film due to being too slow, that’s only due to the fact kids of this generation are looking to be pushed to the limits, hence the paranormal activity franchise. What bothers me is that some of these kids refer to this film as a slow zombie film!!! WTF to that? Anyone I’m done rambling.

  2. admin says:

    Oh those kids today! Yeah my friends and I talk about this every now and again. Todays young generation just don’t get slow build up horror. They seem to just want fast cuts and brutality to keep them interested in between tweeting about it to their friends in the theaters. Makes me scared to see where horror and cinema in general go in the next 20 years.

  3. marty says:

    I love this movie and always try to watch it on April 21 at the exact time in the movie. It’s simply effects work for me and the score is right on. I know it sounds crazy but my wife and I both find it as a comfort movie of sorts and have it playing in the dvd player in the bedroom to fall asleep to. Not that it’s boring by any means but something we both find comforting in a warped kind of way. We both look forward to visiting the filming locations some day along with Bodega Bay. I love the commentary on the dvd and JC and Debra Hill do an excellent job of describing locations and events.

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