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Overall Rating
4.06

Awesome56.25%
Worth A Look: 18.75%
Average: 12.5%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 12.5%

3 reviews, 62 user ratings


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Fog, The (1980)
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by Mel Valentin

"Not top tier Carpenter, but definitely worth a view (or revisit)."
4 stars

Minuses weaknesses in character depth and characterizations, John Carpenter’s "The Fog," his follow up to 1978's seminal slasher flick, "Halloween," is an effective, atmospheric, low-key, supernatural horror film, primarily due to Carpenter’s detailed attention to visual composition (shot in anamorphic widescreen Panavision), pacing, dread-inducing set pieces, and visual effects that hold up surprisingly well twenty-five years later. The fog of the title emerges as a character on its own, a character seething and rolling with light, mystery, history, and menace motivated by a century-old crime and consequences that spread across decades and generations.

Set in the fictional Northern California seaside town of Antonio Bay (Pt. Reyes Station and Inverness, California), The Fog opens with an old sailor, Mr. Machen (John Houseman, in a cameo role added after principal photography) spinning a tale of doom and retribution by campfire to the town’s children as the hour strikes midnight. The Fog then introduces Stevie Layne (Adrienne Barbeau), a radio DJ and station owner (appropriately enough, we hear Stevie’s voice before seeing her), an unimpressive, underused church administered by an alcoholic priest, Father Malone (Hal Holbrook), who, after almost being injured by a falling stone, discovers a journal written by his ancestor hidden inside a church wall.

The first hints of the supernatural slip into the peaceful, sleepy town. Fluorescent lights flicker and pop, car sirens go off simultaneously, a hitchhiker, Elizabeth Solley (Jamie Lee Curtis, a holdover from Halloween, whose character early on slyly mentions her bad luck) meets a local, Nick Castle (Tom Atkins, later revealed as the nominal hero) on an empty road, a glowing fog bank moving off shore is spied by Stevie in her lighthouse/radio station, ultimately settling in with the ill-fated crew of a fishing trawler, The Sea Grass, for the first clash with a phantom ship and saber- and hook-wielding ghosts, eager to exact bloody revenge for a 100-year old crime tied to the founding of Antonio Bay.

The next morning, Kathy Williams (Janet Leigh), the head of the centennial committee, learns about the disappearance of The Sea Grass and her husband. With centennial celebrations culminating later that night, Kathy seeks out Father Malone for a late-night benediction over the proceedings, just as he begins reading from his long-lost ancestor’s journal. Each line is paralleled by the discovery and search of The Sea Grass by Nick and Elizabeth. The day turns into night, and the night turns into prime hunting time for the ghostly avengers. Only Stevie, high above the town in her lighthouse, suspects the nature of the fog and what it means for the townspeople, including her son, Andy (Ty Mitchell), who earlier that day discovered a piece of driftwood carved with the name of a ship.

With multiple characters and storylines, The Fog first follows the characters separately (or in small groups) as each, in turn, encounters the fast-moving, green-glowing fog and its otherworldly, malevolent specters and, later, at the climax, as the survivors gather inside the Beacon Hill Church, with a still drunk Father Malone foretelling their grisly doom. As the specters mass for an attack, genre fans will immediately see echoes of Night of the Living Dead or John Carpenter’s second film (and acknowledged "cult classic"), Assault on Precinct 13. Alas, rather than an extended set piece (or pieces), the scene inside the church ends quickly, with the exposition-filled journal all too easily providing the solution for the survivors to deflect or stop the ghosts before they enter the church while cross-cutting with Stevie alone at the lighthouse, fending off several ghosts of her own.

While genre fans have come to expect minimal characterizations or character depth (the characters here have limited backstories and nonexistent character arcs, outside of surviving the night), The Fog also suffers from a limited set of complications or reversals, as well as a rushed, abrupt final scene and several, obvious plot holes including ghosts whose powers are limited or expanded depending on the needs of the plot, ghosts who wield sabers and fishhooks for no discernible reason, a central character who makes an unsupported leap into a supernatural explanation for the fog and the disappearances associated with it, or why the centennial celebration would reawaken the return of the ghosts from their slumber at the bottom of Antonio Bay.

Shortcomings aside, "The Fog" ultimately succeeds due to Carpenter’s controlled, classically inspired direction, specifically the set pieces that culminate not in shots of blood and gore, but in (mostly) off screen violence, an eerie, minimalist score, and strong, impressionistic images that reach at something primal and visceral, a combination of our fears of the dark and fears of the unknown (and the unseen). In this, Carpenter isn't far from H.P. Lovecraft’s short stories of the supernatural or an underseen science-fiction/horror film from the 1950s, "The Crawling Eye" (a/k/a "The Trollenberg Terror"). Carpenter, unsurprisingly, has cited both as influences on "The Fog."

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=3001&reviewer=402
originally posted: 08/31/05 15:15:53
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User Comments

2/21/17 morris campbell good atmospheric chiller forget the remake 4 stars
7/15/13 robsy99 Flawed in some aspects, but strong in others. a great movie for fans of simplistic horror. 3 stars
3/17/12 Silkworm Great atmospheric yarn 5 stars
11/10/11 Josie Cotton is a goddess A well-made chiller! 4 stars
8/24/10 Joseph The movie is spooky, suspenceful, and had very solid acting from all of the stars 5 stars
7/06/10 art ROB ZOMBIE SHOULD remake this NONSENSE! 1 stars
1/12/10 TravisN Not my favorite Carpenter flick... but still pretty damn eerie and entertaining. 4 stars
1/06/10 art IT"S SO PATHETIC!,JUST LIKE THAT halloween!,john carpenter can't direct period! 1 stars
11/01/09 art ANOTHER SILLY MOVIE FROM john carpenter! 1 stars
8/11/09 art A VERY SPOOKY MOVIE! 3 stars
3/10/08 Jayme Isaacs I Loved This Movie Really Scary 5 stars
10/30/07 Rick Short I love this movie. It is fun, a great story and the actors are much better than the remake. 5 stars
6/02/07 al smith incredible atmosphere and music carpenter is a god 5 stars
2/18/07 David Pollastrini scary 5 stars
1/31/07 William Goss Carpenter nails the atmosphere of his slow-starting ghost story. 4 stars
10/04/06 K.Sear This is how he decides to follow up "Halloween"? 1 stars
2/11/06 Josh Standlee Sorry people, John Carpenter is a horror master, but this is really shitty. 1 stars
12/05/05 cody a sweet supernatural revenge ghost story with good effects and with jamie lee 3 stars
11/05/05 PAG Very underrated horror film. Much better than the remake. 4 stars
10/28/05 Jolly Terrific and atmospheric. You CARE about the characters. 5 stars
10/21/05 ShadowFace5 It was sacry from 1980 to 1989. 3 stars
10/15/05 Andy Great scary Movie 5 stars
9/19/05 David Fowler Brilliant. Carpenter's best next to Halloween. ATMOSPHERE TO BURN! GREAT PERFORMANCES! 5 stars
8/17/05 Indrid Cold Well done for a horror movie of its era, but it's not scary or even entertaining. 3 stars
6/24/05 AJAX627 no one better than JC - oldschool mood scares 5 stars
2/22/05 Jeff Anderson A well made, stylish & creepy masterpiece from John Carpenter. His music's AWESOME TOO!!!!! 5 stars
10/15/04 Don Eckert Great Old Fashioned Ghost Story. 5 stars
10/09/04 merky once again its carpenters excellent music score that makes a good movie a great movie 5 stars
7/16/04 aman deep singh exasperating movie that ties you to your seats 5 stars
1/31/04 ANDY BRILL 5 stars
1/28/04 American Slasher Goddess Atmospheric and scary. Another good one from Carpenter. 4 stars
12/13/03 darkofnight Yikes! Carpenter's "masterpiece" is horribly executed, paced, and acted. A real bummer. 1 stars
11/27/03 John tense, moody, creepy but somehow also cosy...a pleasant chill 5 stars
9/18/03 Samuel Justus not very scary at all... 3 stars
7/30/03 Jake This movie stands out so much more than other lame ass horror films like, Poltergeist. lol 5 stars
5/22/03 mr. Pink Some beautiful imagery can't make up for a stupid story and lazy performances, save Barbeau 3 stars
1/04/03 Jack Sommersby Carpneter's worst. underwritten, slow and downright dull. 1 stars
12/07/02 BAM GREAT 5 stars
11/25/02 Kyle Watchable horror flick, nothing more. 3 stars
8/31/02 Arapaho48 Atmospheric and suspenseful, a stylistic triumph with a great mood-enhancing musical score. 5 stars
6/21/02 Jeff Barton Super little horror film. Well constructed stuff. 5 stars
6/19/02 Charles Tatum Scary, except for the laughable Holbrook 4 stars
5/19/02 DAN RUTHERFORD Very similar to the classic 'Halloween' in scare effects, and now a classic its self. 5 stars
4/30/02 Ed Baxter This is a Great Movie!! Extremely atmospheric and attractive film. Creepy too. 5 stars
4/02/02 Rockitman007 I wouldnt call it scary, but it sure is creepy as hell......Bring on a Silent Hill movie 5 stars
1/19/02 Magnum Craphole Zombies kind enough to knock on their victim's door? Carpenter went to comedy with this. 1 stars
12/28/01 Jake If The Fog is not a good horror movie, name one that is! It was made in '79! the music rox! 5 stars
12/06/01 Matthew Bartley As a horror director, Carpenter on top of his game is unmatchable 5 stars
12/03/01 Monster W. Kung Frankly, it's not that good. Atmospheric, but also bad acting and uninteresting plot. 3 stars
11/28/01 Cookie Cutter Lame and childish, not to mention unscary. 1 stars
9/09/01 Stevie A very underrated movie. Very creepy. 4 stars
8/06/01 E-Funk KNOCK-KNOCK-KNOCK...Pure Carpenter, awesome movie. 5 stars
7/03/01 Bear Great spin on a classic ghost story 4 stars
6/09/01 Serial_Monk_the_Jawbreaker This movie scared the hell out of me when I first saw it. And I first saw it at age 18! 5 stars
4/03/01 Andrew Carden It tries and tries but never gets scary. 3 stars
4/01/01 Jesse L John Carpenter rules all horror even with bad actresses 5 stars
3/20/01 gothfreak too damn gay and phony 1 stars
3/19/01 Mandi Totally spooky and down right cool 5 stars
3/13/01 Jake Spooky and just plain cool. 5 stars
9/09/00 Jogi Morris My all-time-favourite Carpenter movie 5 stars
4/15/00 Mike this movie is so underrated! it is really creepy with the best ending shot ever!!! 5 stars
4/10/00 Matthew Bartley Scary as hell 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  08-Feb-1980 (R)
  DVD: 04-Oct-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  02-Feb-1981




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