Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Fog (1980)

Seen: On dvd on our projector set-up, rented from the Tisch Library at Tufts.

Once in a while I'll remember that there are several John Carpenter films I haven't seen, and after seeing a trailer for The Fog at the Terrorthon I was like daaaamn I ain't seen The Fog yet! So here we are. Carpenter's fourth feature imagines a great evil hidden inside a thick fog that attacks a small harbor town on the anniversary of a horrific shipwreck. The experiences of various townspeople during the fog's midnight arrival are documented, from a harried government official (Janet Leigh) to a guilt-stricken priest (Hal Holbrook). The news is spread through the local radio station, as station owner Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau) gradually pieces together the supernatural weirdness assaulting them. BUT HOW CAN ANYONE ESCAPE THE FOOOOOOG?

It's kind of silly in its premise but mostly this is a straight horror movie, working in elements of mystery and suspense. Unfortunately its narrative is stretched thin even in its fairly trim 89 minutes, and the climax is ultimately underwhelming. The first half of the film is paced slowly and deliberately, building up certain characters and revealing stranger and stranger occurrences in this isolated community. I loved the subdued but uncanny mood of the earlier scenes, which built up a tension that was clumsily dispersed by the final scenes. It's not that the ending is bad, necessarily, it just felt like the build up didn't really lead to a satisfying conclusion. It all happened too quickly. Plus most of the characters were underused, flailing about until Hal Holbrook's Father Malone drunkenly accepts his fate after solving the fog's mystery. Maybe my expectations were too high, because I thought The Fog would be more thrilling.

But of course there are plenty of things to like here! It's a John Carpenter movie! Jamie Lee Curtis is there as an adorable hitchhiker, plus Jamie Lee Curtis's mom is there! Janet Leigh, maybe you've heard of her? They don't have much screentime together but it's still cool. Adrienne Barbeau is easily the standout, rockin' a smooth dj voice in the studio while being a cool mom and a resourceful person in a crisis. I really liked the scenes at the radio station and the idea of this woman desperately broadcasting to a possibly unreachable audience as she watches this eerie, homicidal fog move in across the water. I wanted more of that, actually, but maybe it's just the Pontypool lover in me. Anyway, I don't actually have much to say about this movie I guess. It's got some great creepy moments, creative visual effects, and a good cast, but it loses its momentum by the final act and doesn't make the best use of its characters after introducing them. Oh well. At least there are plenty of zombie seamen! And Carpenter does that cute thing of naming characters after his friends, like the weather man is "Dan O'Bannon." Aww.


Pair This Movie With: Ah, I don't know. The aforementioned Pontypool? Sure.

PS I forgot to mention that I have a new twitter account where I just post movie taglines (with accompanying posters) and that's it. For October I've been doing most horror movies but I'll mix it up next month! You should followwwwww meeeeee.


  1. I have a real soft spot for The Fog and Carpenter's films in general (even the bad ones). He commits to the silliness, even when it doesn't totally work. I agree with you on the building atmosphere, which is well done. The so-so ending isn't really a surprise; how crazy can it really be?