Wednesday, December 7, 2011


The Fog
Director: John Carpenter
Year 1980

The Fog is John Carpenter's sensational ghost tale about a shipwrecked undead crew who terrorizes the residents of the sleepy coastal town of Antonio Bay. After churning out two exceptional TV movies, Someone's Watching Me and Elvis, Carpenter burst back onto the big screen to continue his legacy of fear which started with the cult classic Halloween.

Crafted with a heavy dose of atmosphere and a stellar cast, The Fog makes for a great viewing that really showcases the wild ride that Carpenter's career would take in the following years. If you're looking for a neat little haunted tale, then look no further then The Fog.

Adrienne Barbeau you are AMAZING!

Something's in the fog.... Who is that?

Antonio Bay is the fictional setting for this wonderful little horror gem and boy is it a picturesque sight. Nestled against the moody shores of the Pacific Ocean, Carpenter uses a number of various locations to set up his quaint cinematic town that soon becomes the victim of a terrible curse that is violently set upon its townsfolk for the crimes committed by its founding fathers. A slow and brooding build up provides the perfect introduction and ambient opening to let us get to know the world that Carpenter has created in this story. It's these quiet moments that occur in the early parts of the film, that really give the movie a deliberately restrained pace, allowing for us to get to know the layout of the town and the living cast within it.

The gradual approach of slowly revealing the various areas and inhabitants of Antonio Bay, is complimented rather nicely against the director's trademark use of anamorphic lenses, which beautifully showcase the surrounding areas breathtaking landscapes and unique vistas. This eye for detail is not just provided for visual splendor, but for emotional impact as well, as Carpenter cleverly uses these locations to tell a parallel story within the film. He places his characters in secluded locations throughout Antonio Bay, in order to emphasis that lonely feeling that he sets up in the initial moments of the introductory opening of the film. With his guided direction, the town to us feels empty and lifeless, home to only a few lost souls that we are slowly introduced to one by one.

Is that one of the Goonies? Hey you guy!!!!

Who's the son of a bitch that stole my mustache?!?!

What is most interesting to me, is that the haunting nature of the film is not only provided by the ghostly zombie like apparitions that come into play later on in the movie, but it is assisted by the overall coldness of Carpenter's portrayal of the town of Antonio Bay. By combining the moody visuals of the coastal town with the jaded lives of the various characters of the film, Carpenter makes for a unique blend of melancholy malaise that perfectly establishes the film in a ghost-like reflection. This really comes to light when comparing some of the characters to their assigned locales within the movie.

A great example of this, is that of the lighthouse which serves as one of the film's most iconic fixtures and an essential informational post for the film's entire citizen population. The lighthouse serves as the local radio station, Radio K.A.B., and it is essentially home to disc jockey Stevie Wayne, played by the fabulous Adrienne Barbeau. Set at the end of a seemingly never ending iron staircase, high upon the cliffs, the secluded nature of the radio station helps to provide a feeling of helplessness that is highly prevalent when shit really starts to hit the fan for the sleepy town of Antonio Bay. Being the only person in the whole town that really has an eye on the whole situation high atop her lighthouse station, Stevie Wayne provides the much needed information to the unsuspecting people below.

Someone's not gonna like finding this guy home.

So why'd you steal Tom Atkins' mustache Padre?

What's unique about this position that she is in, is that she is as helpless as the rest of the people of Antonio Bay. Trapped with no where to go, she is powerless to protect her young son when a thick fog rolls into town containing some very pissed off and vengeful ghosts. The seclusion is maddening, but deliberate in part by Carpenter's overall vision for the movie. You could say that his approach is almost Hitchcockian in a sense, most notably mimicking elements from Rear Window, where she is forced to see this impending doom approaching the town, but can do little to stop it. Even in such dire circumstances, she finds a way to hinder the oncoming storm by broadcasting updates on where the fog is heading and the safest place to ride out the strange arrival of this dangerous and mysterious thing that has gripped their small coastal town.

It is through these efforts of communication, by Barbeau's character, that we are primarily connected to the rest of the ensemble cast. From Tom Atkins and Jamie Lee Curtis' group to Charles Cyphers, Janet Leigh, Nancy Kyes, and finally Hal Holbrook's character, a community begins to form bringing a cohesion that isn't as strongly felt during the beginning half of the film. It's fascinating to see things come together, starting from the cold and distant relations of the individual characters to eventually ending with them coming together as a solid unit in the most desperate of times. It's something that you don't initially come away with after first watching the film, but after analyzing it after a few viewings, you begin to realize that this movie is far more then just a simple ghost story.

Damn hitchhiking ghosts.

One of the creepiest and coolest wedding processionals.

Aside from my deep personal analysis of the film, the movie is just stupendous if viewed as a straight forward tale of terror. Carpenter injects such a sense of dread and foreboding, that you really don't need to look as in-depth and personal as I have stated earlier in the review. You can take the film at face value and it still makes for one classic tale, filled with some great subtle performances and killer atmosphere. Hell, the ghostly apparitions are creepy to boot, coming off more as a horde of zombies then any kind of ghost that I've seen prior to this film.

Fundamentally, the film just hits all the right notes in providing an engaging story with memorable characters, frightening ghouls, and exceptionally crafted atmosphere. I haven't even mentioned the amazing original soundtrack provided by John Carpenter himself, which compliments the visuals so well that you'd be hard pressed to separate the two. When it comes to music, not many can capture that unique flare that Carpenter seems to effortlessly create for his projects. The Fog is definitely a film that has the Carpenter stamp of approval, having his professionally crafted hands in all aspects of the production. The man is a legend.

Holy Shit! The power of Christ compels you!

Smoke if you got em.

The Fog is a film that feels complete in every aspect of its production. The world that John Carpenter has created in this film, feels whole and lived in, even if it is lifeless and lonely for the characters within it. The hauntingly somber and picturesque locations, enhance that feeling of dread and solitude that lies so heavy on this ghostly tale. Much like the sordid history of Antonio Bay's past, the story gives off that overbearing presence of being inherently marked by the events of the past. Cursed to pay for the wrong doings of our forefathers, yet there is a silver lining in the coming together of the various characters. Through their sense of community and the combined efforts of the townspeople as a whole, they can right the wrongs done and find new life.

Whether you look at the film from a more in-depth view point or just take it as one hell of a fun ghost story, you are going to come away from this film with an appreciation for what John Carpenter has created in this little gem and what he has contributed to the genre. The movie just oozes atmosphere in every inch of the frame and is paced beautifully, so check it out if you haven't already and if you have, give it another go. Long live Carpenter!

5 out of 5 stars       John Carpenter's Ghostly Masterpiece!