The 319th review!
When I do my horror movie marathon, it gives me an excuse to check up on classics that, for one reason or another, I never got around to seeing. For me, from the late 1970's through the 80's, there's no better director than John Carpenter. So today, let's check out one of John Carpenter's lesser heralded classics... the 1980 horror film...
The Fog (1980)
I love foggy weather. It's so cool and ominous, it's really the perfect horror movie... and video game atmosphere. Granted, my love for the weather phenomenon comes from the Silent Hill games. I'm the type of nerd who will praise that game at a moment's notice, both on a personal level, and of course a professional one. I had never seen this version, but I did see the very bad 2005 remake because I heard there was going to be a Silent Hill trailer beforehand. What? I used to work a movie theater, seeing movies was free.
I think I kept skipping the original because of how bad the remake was, and I have to say, I was a dummy for doing that. This movie is really, really good. I was drawn into this film right from the beginning. I've always had a fascination with the sea and those small fishing communities that seem to live in their own world, it might be why I like Lovecraft so much. It may also explain why Carpenter has so many Lovecraftian elements to his movies. The Fog starts with a very effective ghost story told by an old man to a bunch of kids. I'm going to be honest, it kind of creeped me out in the best possible way.
This movie immediately sets the perfect mood. It hits all the right buttons and it's one of the better intros I remember seeing. Everything is so eerie. And when I say everything, I mean everything. This movie doesn't miss a beat keeping you unsettled. You have the old man's ghost story, and then John Carpenter's haunting score kicks into gear. That combines with beautiful scenery, Adrienne Barbeau over the radio and then the spooky fog. Then you come across three drunk fishermen on the water, followed by the whole town seeming to come unglued all at once, and holy crap I'm loving this movie.
I guess I should talk about the story now. The town of Antonio Bay is celebrating their Centennial when a hard drinking priest comes across a diary from his grandfather who was also a priest. Come to find out, when this town was formed, they gave the OK for a leper colony led by a rich man to set up shop about a mile away. Eventually the town leaders don't like the idea of lepers living so close. When the lepers are coming by sea to move in, a massive fog rolls over the area. Betraying them, six town leaders set up a signal fire on some rocks causing the Elizabeth Dane to crash, killing all onboard. Next, they steal the man's gold to build their town. 100 years later, the ghosties are pissed. It's a straight forward revenge tale told wonderfully.
Another thing you'll notice, the cast is phenomenal. You have three Scream Queens in Adrienne Barbeau, the mother-daughter combination of Janet Leigh and Jamie Lee Curtis and the always-awesome Tom Atkins, who is surprisingly clean-shaven! One thing that I enjoy when it comes to these older movies is how different society was back then. When you first meet Atkins he's drinking a beer while driving his truck and no one draws any attention to it.
You hear people talk about atmosphere when it comes to movies and this one has atmosphere in spades. There are no wasted shots, everything is there to make you feel a certain way. The foreboding score, the imposing fog, Barbeau's sultry voice over the radio, and the visuals of the ghosts in the fog... it's all so good! Plus, it's incredibly creepy the way the fog rolls in swallowing the town combined with the way the ghosts knock on the door with their hooks. There were parts in the movie that literally gave me chills.
If I had to knock one thing, it would be the ending. I understand the motivation for the ghosts but their mission seemed kind of random. I don't want to get into spoiler territory because this a wonderful movie and you should definitely check it out, but their choices of victims kind of straddles the line between making sense and wrong place at the wrong time. It's a minor nit because I thought this movie was pretty great.
9 Dr. Chainsaws!
1 h 29 min
According to legend, six sailors killed when shipwrecked 100 years ago in Antonio Bay, California, will rise to avenge their deaths when a strange glowing fog appears. The vengeance of their victims will be the death of six people. As daylight fades, a mysterious fog envelops the town and begins to strew panic and death.
Directors: John Carpenter