UK Release Date: 28th October 2018
Runtime: 89 minutes
Director: John Carpenter
Writer: John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Starring: Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Atkins, Janet Leigh, Hal Holbrook, Nancy Loomis
Synopsis: A coastal town celebrating its centenary is stalked by a group of vengeful ghosts seeking revenge for their murder a century prior.
The work of John Carpenter is currently under the spotlight, with the release of the latest take on his iconic slasher Halloween, for which he returned as an executive producer and on score composing duties. His oeuvre is also being reignited by Studiocanal, which is releasing four of Carpenter’s classic films into cinemas in a new 4K transfer, as well as on collector’s edition Blu-ray releases. First out of the blocks is The Fog, in which Carpenter does his level best to make the weather really scary.
Carpenter’s setting is the coastal community of Antonio Bay – a town that has “sat still for 100 years and where nothing happens”, right up until the evening of its centenary. Suddenly, a dense and unusual fog has descended, much to the confusion of radio presenter Stevie (Adrienne Barbeau). Also caught up in the chaos are Kathy (Janet Leigh), who is overseeing the town’s celebrations, local priest Father Malone (Hal Holbrook) and a young couple (Tom Atkins and Jamie Lee Curtis), who have just met when he picked her up at the side of the road.
This colourful array of characters is both a blessing and a curse. They add personality to the story and allow it to cover a broad area of the town, but they also rob the movie of the sort of focus that could have made it truly scary. There’s no clear lead in the way of Curtis’s role in Halloween – in a nice nod, her new boyfriend in this film is named after Michael Myers actor Nick Castle – and this means it’s tough to feel much emotion for the characters and their plight.
With that said, Carpenter’s undeniable gift for atmosphere is certainly present in The Fog. The score is vintage Carpenter and it’s remarkable how much creeping dread he is able to create from an over-active dry ice machine and some cadavers who seem to enjoy knocking on doors before enacting their bloody revenge. There are some very spooky scenes and at least a handful of memorably potent jump scares, even if the overall story doesn’t quite hold water in the way that Carpenter’s other lean, mean genre tales do.
It might not be one of the most unforgettable horror classics of either the 1980s or the filmography of its director, but it’s telling that even Carpenter working on 50% power is able to conjure a very strong movie that is able to find scares aplenty. He could’ve done with picking a lead actor in among this incredibly disparate ensemble because The Fog is lacking in focus, but the goal of horror is to scare, and this film certainly succeeds in that respect.
A pair of commentary tracks, with insight from all of the key people involved in making the film.
Pop or Poop?
The Fog certainly isn’t one of John Carpenter’s most successful horror movies, but it shows his gift for creating something from nothing. The notion of killer weather doesn’t necessarily suggest immediate genius, but Carpenter’s creeping, glowing fog and the creatures within create some compelling scares and serve as a clearly cinematic threat. The lack of focus on any one leading character means the movie feels over-stuffed and scattershot, but there’s no denying the chills when the finale comes around.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
The Fog is back in limited cinemas now and on Blu-ray from Monday. For more info on this and the other Carpenter 4K restorations currently in progress, visit the official website.