Review Written by: Brian Huddleston
Directed by: John Carpenter
Written by: John Carpenter and Debra Hill
Produced by: Debra Hill
Starring: Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh, Tom Atkins, Hal Holbrook, Nancy Kyes, Charles Cyphers
Buy it!, Buy it, rent it or skip it: Buy it
After watching the terrible remake, I wanted to re-visit Carpenter's superior horror film and a cult classic we know as The Fog
. This is one of my personal favorites from my dvd collection and I felt like giving it a proper reviewing treatment.
The film itself really does stand up better than one might expect, mainly because I feel it taps into what always makes a good horror film experience. It leaves much of what happens and what we see to our imagination. This key element went unseen in the vomit-inducing remake, which wants to spell everything out for you, leaving the viewer with anything to envision or dote on. Carpenter, more than anything else, wants the main character to indeed be the fog. It's the ominous face of evil which lets the viewer know that something sinister is about to take place. What is amongst the fog? What ghoulish beings lie deep within this mass of white cloud? The film shows us a seaside town celebrating the 100 year celeberation of Antonio Bay's birth. A priest (Hal Holbrook) finds a diary which unearths a dreadful secret which soon tells us who must be within that living, moving fog. Several principle characters are the ones who find out how what evil lies within that fog. The voice of the town is Stevie Wayne (Adriene Barbeau). Stevie is the Lighthouse disc jockey (playing jazz which actually brings a flavor to her scenes) who communicates much to the town in weather and other topics within her tunes. Her son provides a link to the fogmen in a piece of wood with "Dane" on it. We realize that Dane is the partial name to a ship which was destroyed at the hands of the founding fathers and that those fogmen are indeed a crew which were slaughtered for their treasure. Other characters provide intimate points to the behavior of the fogmen. Tom Atkins plays a fisher who picks up hitchhiker Jamie Lee Curtis as they become intimately involved and also find a sign from the fogmen themselves. Atkins looks for a crew of fishermen he needed to contact and finds they fell victim to something quite heinous (we see what happens to them early on when they spot the "Elizabeth Dane" masked in a cloud of fog). Janet Leigh and Nancy Loomis play organizers of the celebration to praise the 100th anniverary of Antonio Bay. They come in contact with Holbrook who informs them that the founding fathers were in fact murderers.
There are quite a few slayings in the film, but it's not the usual bloodshed one sees in horror today. Carpenter aims more for style and atmosphere than filling our eyes with buckets of blood. The film opens with John Houseman telling us the tale of the crew of the "Elizabeth Dane" which is quite eerie and excellently shot. This was something that just couldn't be replaced in the remake. Carpenter opens our minds up for something quite terrifying with Houseman's dialogue to a group of kids and once the film opens we can only await what Antonio Bay has coming towards it. Carpenter applies terrific music to this film which really heightens the tension and atmosphere.
If there are fans of the film, I urge them passionately to purchase the DVD. It's excellent and features lots of goodies. The audio commentary to the film is provided by director Carpenter and the late Debra Hill. They are a pleasure to listen to and speak quite candidly on how difficult the film was to make. It operated off of 1 million dollars, quite a miniscule budget in those days, but perhaps the struggles only brought out the best qualities through the film. Often we see horrible horror films with heavy budgets. Money can never replace ingenuity. We find that the film is shot in many locations and that Tommy Wallace's editing was essential to how the product all created turned out. We also get a great deal of understanding in just how important Dean Cundy(director of photography), an expert in photographing, was to the film in the gifts of his lighting. We also find that Debra Hill, a consistent partner with Carpenter acting as producer, had also acted as photographer for a lot of second unit work (the photography of the town in the opening was often used merely with natural light or a flashlight). Their candor is quite pleasant and not too self-indulgent. There are two good documentaries, one from 1980 and another for the DVD release of the film. Both are fascinating eyes into the film during it's initial run and the success that it had years later. There is a storyboard to film comparison, outtakes and liner noted from John Carpenter. There's an advertising gallery and you have a choice of seeing the film either in it's standard, full screen form or the widescreen (the one I highly recommend), theatrical format. The film is beautifully transferred with excellent sound. MGM did a first rate job on this film. I definately recommend buying this DVD, especially if you are an admirer of Carpenter's work.