Adrienne Barbeau …. Stevie Wayne
Jamie Lee Curtis …. Elizabeth Solley
Janet Leigh …. Kathy Williams
John Houseman …. Mr. Machen
Tom Atkins …. Nick Castle
James Canning …. Dick Baxter
Charles Cyphers …. Dan O’Bannon
Nancy Kyes …. Sandy Fadel (as Nancy Loomis)
Ty Mitchell …. Andy Wayne
Hal Holbrook …. Father Malone
Where has the real John Carpenter gone? During the late 70’s and throughout 1980’s the guy made household names out of Michael Myers and Snake Plisken, as well as cult hero Jack Burton, but now his characters are flat and forgettable. Where is the guy that started the Slasher genre with Halloween or made “Rowdy” Roddy Piper into an action hero in They Live? Carpenter even made one of the best blends of Science Fiction and Horror ever with The Thing in 1982, but now the best he can muster is Ghosts of Mars. While that film was watchable at times, many of the same themes were recently used in Serenity to much better effect.
Looking back at his 70’s and 80’s work, the director had so much promise that it feels a little disappointing to see where he went, but its still fun to watch his early gems. These movies are filled with energy and a deep love for the genres they take place in. One of the great examples of this is The Fog. Now I know you’re saying “Didn’t that movie just come out?” but that would be the pale remake, this was the spooky original.
After the success of Halloween, the studios were clamoring for a follow up, and Carpenter and his writing partner Deborah Hill came up with an idea for an old fashioned ghost story. Being a fan of HP Lovecraft, Carpenter wanted to fashion a story around a villain that could not be personified. What he ended up with is surprisingly effective.
The Fog is the story of Antonio Bay, a small island community that’s about to celebrate its 100th Anniversary. The community is apparently a near perfect little town, but on the eve of the anniversary everything starts to go wrong. Car alarms and TV’s come on for no reason. At the local convenience store, all the freezers shake and freak out the late night cleaning guy. At the town’s only church the wall shakes open a chamber where the local priest, Father Malone (Hal Holbrook), finds a small journal.
This is the setup for one of Carpenter’s most underrated films. The Fog is a completely old school Horror film, relying more on creating a mood than anything you actually see on screen. What actually comes out of the fog that terrorizes Antonio Bay? Well if you guessed Zombie Ghost Pirates, then you’d be right!
As Father Malone reads the journal he finds out that the town has a dark secret. His great grandfather, the town’s first bishop, was responsible for the death of a ship full of seaman who had a chest of gold. Lured by cries of help and a bonfire, the sailors died on the rocks outside of Antonio Bay during a thick fog. A hundred years later, they come back.
First and foremost, The Fog isn’t that scary of a movie. If you’re looking for a film the same level as Halloween or The Thing on frights and chills, look elsewhere. What The Fog is, is creepy. It’s really amazing here how Carpenter so much with so little. With a thick fog and half seen ghost pirates, Carpenter effectively creates a spooky low budget film that shouldn’t work at all, but somehow does.
It does help that Carpenter has a good cast to work with. Janet Leigh and Jamie Lee Curtis are both in the film, but never really have any scenes together. Leigh is the town’s mayor, whose husband is the first victim of the pirates. Jamie Lee Curtis is a hitchhiker that gets picked up by Tom Atkins’ Nick Castle when they’re attacked by the fog and its inhabitants.
The best performance of the film comes from Adrienne Barbeau as the town’s sole DJ Stevie Wayne. Stevie is the voice of the town’s radio station and can see the fog rolling into town. Throughout the she stays on the air, warning others before they go to their deaths. She even has to battle the pirates atop the converted lighthouse/radio station.
There are certain moments that do fall flat. As a group of survivors gather in a church, the pirates attack, but they look pretty lame. Fortunately, other sequences do just what they’re supposed to. One has a group of the zombies waiting for one of their victims in a big hall. As they stand there, the atmosphere is just right as they’re all silhouetted except for some red eyes.
Overall, the film is successful, but not in the same league as Carpenter’s better films. The Fog is about as successful as Escape from New York or They Live, but no where near as good as Halloween, The Thing, or Big Trouble in Little China. It’s like if Pirates of the Caribbean were set in modern times and was a serious Horror film. It doesn’t reach its aspirations of greatness, but there is enough good here to recommend the film.
The Movie is presented in an Anamorphic Widescreen with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The print itself looks really nice, especially for low budget film that came out a quarter of a century ago. It’s not a perfect print, but still pretty good.
Same goes for the soundtrack. It’s presented in Dolby digital 5.1 and works well to make the film as spooky as possible.
SPECIAL FEATURES:Audio Commentary, Documentary on the Making of the Film, Making-Of Featurette, Outtake Reel, Trailers, TV Spots
Audio Commentary with Director John Carpenter and Producer Debra Hill – Most of these features were already on the previous edition of The Fog, but you know, studio executives have to eat too! This is a pretty informative commentary with Carpenter and Hill going over how many moments that had to be added to make the film scarier. The studio apparently hated the original cut of the film and demanded that it be much scarier. This is actually one of the few cases where studio intervention helped with a film as some of the best moments were actually done last minute.
Tales from the Mist: Inside The Fog – This is a 28 minute documentary that goes over nearly every facet of the film from start to finish. Hill and Carpenter go over many how much they wanted this film to differ from Halloween. You can feel how much all involved really love this movie here.
Original 1980 documentary: Fear on Film: Inside The Fog – This Featurette runs about 15 minutes or so and is pretty informative, but nothing terribly special.
Storyboard to film comparison – This illustrates how closely the film stuck to the original storyboards made up for the film.
Outtakes – This is about 3 minutes of outtakes. They’re ok, but not that funny.
Advertising gallery – This is a pretty big collection of posters, Trailers and TV Spots. The only new feature on the disc is a trail for the 2005 version of the film.