THE FOG (1979-color)
"There's something in the fog....."
Now, I'm going to assume we've all seen this film, but for the sake of the one or two people out there who haven't, I'll avoid major spoilers.
As a kid who liked science fiction movies, I felt let down by THE FOG because it was a ghost story and I really wanted to see a movie about a living, killer cloud-like creature that shrouds a small town (I still would, truth be told). As an adult, I can more appreciate the supernatural horror story John Carpenter has fashioned. Looking upon the film fresh from last night's viewing, THE FOG is a really good flick!
The tone is set right off the bat as we spy an old salt entertaining a group a kids with his campfire ghost stories. He relates the tale of the Elizabeth Dane as it has come to be known. (He does this the final five minutes before midnight, although the counter on the VCR betrays that this speech is actually less than three minutes long!) The accepted version of the story leaves out the leper angle, and the plot to kill the lepers before they can make a settlement only a mile from Antonio Bay.
One item is featured in both versions of the story, though, and that's the dense fog that mysteriously rolled in as the Elisabeth Dane was nearing shore.
The campfire tale concluded, the town's tower-clock strikes midnight. Over the next hour occur strange happenings. Bottles rattle, car alarms go off, windows shatter. At the local church, Father Malone (Hal Holbrook in a part intended for Christopher Lee) observes what appears to be a small earthquake. This dislodges one of the stones in the wall and exposes a century-old diary.
Most chilling, a small fishing boat at sea is caught in an unearthly fog, out of which appears the decayed -but walking- corpses from the shipwreck of the Elizabeth Dane!
Not happy after soaking for 100 years, they promptly slaughter the crew of the younger boat. When one of the bodies is found the next day, there is every indication it has been submerged in salt water for a month! The unearthly happenings of this night, however, are just a preview of the horrors to be unleashed upon Antonio Bay as it celebrates it's 100th birthday....
Again, I'm not going to spoil things for the small number out there who may not have seen the film, but it really is a terrific little horror movie. Director John Carpenter is in top form.
A lot of credit goes to a great cast that includes Tom Atkins (minus his mustache this time) and the previously mentioned Hal Holbrook, as well as screen legend Janet Leigh! Also along for the ride is Leigh's daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis (breakout star of Carpenter's earlier HALLOWEEN, who I admit is a fine actress, but her constant casting as a physically desirable woman confuses me no end, similar in a way to Karen Black), and Adrienne Barbeau. John Houseman even puts in some time.
The film is full of the usual Carpenter in-jokes. There's a doctor named Phibes, mention is made of Bodega Bay (locale of THE BIRDS, and later the early PUPPETMASTER movies), Atkin's character is named Nick Castle (Carpenter's ling-time friend who played "The Shape" in the film that really put Carpenter on the map, HALLOWEEN), Antonio Bay shares a lot of the same street names as Carpenter's home town, etc.
A great horror story, one I'm a bit upset I never paid the proper respect to before now. Well, living is learning. I can now fully recommend this certified classic.
Fortunately, the film is available on a MGM disk featuring a stunning transfer. I'll have to pick one up to go with my new VHS copy!