Saturday, January 7, 2012

FOG, THE (1980)

(February 1980, U.S.)

John Carpenter's THE FOG may be a more significant horror film than you might think. After the incredible success of HALLOWEEN (1978), this follow-up puts Carpenter right at the peak of his craft during a six period that I personally consider to be the best of his career (frankly, after STARMAN, I never enjoyed another thing that he did. He's still a masterful musical composer, though). THE FOG also solidified Jamie Lee Curtis as the "queen of scream" least until she started making some non-horror films. THE FOG is also one of those rare horror films that takes place in a coastal setting. Let's face it, the beach and the sea may be beautiful, but they can also be very creepy if you have the right kind of weather to go with it.

So, for THE FOG, we visit the fictitious northern California town of Antonio Bay which is about to celebrate its centennial. This event is also marked by a series of ominous events; as the witching hour strikes and the date of the town's centennial begins (April 21st), various odd phenomena begin to happen all over the sleeping town (objects move by themselves, television sets turn themselves on, gas stations seemingly come to life, and all the public payphones ring simultaneously). We've also been exposed to a secret diary revealing that in 1880, six of the founders of Antonio Bay (including the town priest's grandfather) deliberately sank and plundered a clipper ship named the Elizabeth Dane. The ship was owned by Blake, a wealthy man with leprosy who wanted to establish a colony near Antonio Bay. During an unearthly foggy night, the six conspirators lit a fire on the beach near treacherous rocks, and the crew of the ship, deceived by the false beacon, crashed into them. Everyone aboard the ship perished in the icy water. The six conspirators were motivated both by greed and disgust at the notion of having a leper colony nearby. The town of Antonio Bay and its sacred church were then founded with the gold plundered from the ship. Thought-provoking events, indeed, that have now put a curse on the town, because the residents are going to pay with their lives when the dead of the Elizabeth Dane rise out of the fog one hundred years later and take their revenge against the descendants of those that conspired against them.

You see, people...sometimes a rather intruiging plotline CAN make for a better and creepier horror film!

I mentioned earlier how original I consider the locale of a coastal town to be for a horror film. I should also mention how original I consider the lighthouse radio staion to be, as well. The lighthouse not only represents the uneasy feeling of absolute isolation from the world, but also provides the lone DJ Stevie Wayne (played by Adrienne Barbeau) who not only watches over the calm sea to search for the fog, but also serves as the town protector in a way, as she uses her position of radio communication to warn the town citizens of what's about to happen to them.

THE FOG is not only true spook at its best, but one of my personal favorite horror films of all time. It's one of those rare treats you can enjoy on a cold night all by yourself at an isolated house on the beach with no neighbors around you (other than JAWS, anyway).

Favorite line or dialogue:

Stevie Wayne: "I don't know what happened to Antonio Bay tonight. Something came out of the fog and tried to destroy us. In one moment, it vanished. But if this has been anything but a nightmare, and if we don't wake up to find ourselves safe in our beds, it could come again. To the ships at sea who can hear my voice, look across the water, into the darkness. Look for THE FOG."


  1. This is Carpenter's Ghost Story and a very solid film. It has John Houseman at the beginning, telling little kids at the beach a Ghost story when Fog starts rolling in. Houseman was in another Ghost Story (actually the title) that year with Fred Astaire and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. It was also very creepy. I still can't believe you've got no love for Big Trouble in Little China. Oh well, it is an acquired taste.

  2. Sadly, though, Carpenter himself was never too impressed with this film. This is partly why he supported that horrible 2005 remake.