After striking box office gold with a serial killer that may have been supernatural in Halloween, John Carpenter went the full spirit for his next project. He and cohort Debra Hill (also producer) concocted a seaside ghost story filled with bumps in the darkness and bodies in the dark. This wasn’t a major departure like his Elvis biopic TV movie starring Kurt Russell. He was back to make audiences get nervous and jump in their seats. Carpenter’s new cinematic effort didn’t stray to far from his Halloween success since The Fog was the night a whole lot of people came home.
The audience gets clued early that the movie is a ghost story with John Houseman (The Paper Chase) dressed up as an old sea salt. He unspools his spooky tale to a bunch of kids gathered around the campfire. He warns of bloodthirsty ghost pirates looking for revenge for the sinking of their ship. Does anyone take him seriously? Of course not because the seaside town of Antonio Bay is getting ready for their 100th anniversary as a town. Who wants to ruin the tourist event of the season with such nonsense? But there is something wrong in area. As darkness sets, a bank of phones go off, odd items are moving and glass is breaking. There’s something sinister approaching. In the midst of the strange events, a diary is exposed at a nearby church. Drunk priest Father Malone (Mark Twain Tonight‘s Hal Holbrook) seems a bit anxious as he flips through the pages. But he also doesn’t want to rock the ship. What is happening to a ship near the town is an massive fog bank. DJ Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau of Swamp Thing & Maude) dedicates a little warning to the sailors. However they need more than a song when inside the fog they get stabbed and chopped up by ghost pirates. These bloodthirsty scourges of the high seas aren’t done with this one attack. They aim to get in the town to claim lives that might include a fisherman (Halloween III‘s Tom Atkins) and hitchhiker (Jamie Lee Curtis). Trouble seems brewing for a councilwoman (Janet Leigh) and her assistant (Halloween‘s Nancy Loomis). What do the ghost pirates want? How much killing is enough? Will the fog clear up before the big celebration?
The Fog does a fine job as a modern ghost story. Even though it has an R-rating, the pirate attacks aren’t nearly as gruesome as they could get. There is a slight shock when John Carpenter plays the church handyman early in the film. The big thrill for horror fans is seeing the mother daughter scream queen combo of Janet Leigh and Jamie Leigh Curtis sharing a fright or two together. Leigh became a horror icon from her shower scene in Psycho while Curtis had just scored big in Halloween. Together they were ready for the ghost pirates. Beside directing, Carpenter contributes a pulsating score that heightens the ferocity of the mysterious fog. The Fog creeps in and delivers the right amount of scares.
The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic. Cinematographer Dean Cundey worked on the transfer. It looks sharp. For a movie that mixes darkness and fog, the details remain rich on the screen even with the darkness and fog effects that can screw up a digital picture. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 which allows the sound effects to bounce around the room. The original mix is provided as DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. The movie is subtitled.
Audio Commentary with John Carpenter and Debra Hill is an old track since Debra Hill passed away in 2005. It’s a odd recounting since the couple were dating before the film was in production.
Audio Commentary with Adrienne Barbeau, Tom Atkins and Production Designer Tommy Lee Wallace is new for this release. They have a good time remembering the fog rolling into their scenes.
My Time with Terror (21:46) allows Jamie Lee Curtis to recount the relationship weirdness on the set. Carpenter and Hill had broken up. To create strangeness on the set, Carpenter was now with Barbeau. What’s a young actress to do when the dynamics have shifted?
Dean of Darkness with Dean Cundey (18:40) is a mini-master class for cinematography. His tips might even help you shooting video with your smartphone.
Fear on Film: Inside The Fog (7:42) is a vintage promo video with Carpenter interviewed.
Tales from the Mist: Inside The Fog (27:58) is Barbeau interviewed for the original release.
The Fog: Storyboard to Film (1:26) is a side by side comparison.
Horror’s Hallowed Grounds: A Look at the Film’s Locations (20:22) is another fine tour of the locations hosted by Sean Clark.
Outtakes (4:10) are in rough shape.
Special Effects Tests (2:39) explores fog wrangling.
Theatrical Trailers (4:34) invite you back to get scared again by Carpenter.
TV Spots (3:05) is a blitz of ads.
Photo Gallery (8:02) is full of behind the scenes views.
Storyboards (2:18) sets up how Carpenter approached the action.
ABC Sunday Night Movie Promo (1:02) must be found in the menu’s gravestones.
The Fog: Collector’s Edition is a sunny and clear presentation even when things get murky. The bonus features give the proper context of how the film was presented to moviegoers back in 1980. You’ll be fearing an arrival from ghost pirates.
Scream Factory presents The Fog: Collector’s Edition. Directed by: John Carpenter. Written by: John Carpenter and Debra Hill. Starring: Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis. John Houseman, Janet Leigh and Hal Holbrook. Rating: R. Running Time: 90 minutes. Released: July 30, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: halloween, Jamie Lee Curtis, John Carpenter