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Thursday, October 10, 2013

31 Days of Scream-O-Ween! - The Fog

By Adam Ruhl

If you’re under a certain age you may only know The Fog from the abysmal 2005 remake. Surprise, the real The Fog is a 1980 classic horror film from John Carpenter. This film has been hard to come by until Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition of The Fog finally brought it to Blu-ray. It is one of the finest collector’s editions they’ve put out, chock full of extras and some very choice interviews. The sticker on the front of the slip cover declares the movie “John Carpenter’s classic” and this is an important qualification. While it has become a valued member of Carpenter’s body of work and it is enjoyable to watch time and again; The Fog is far from a masterpiece and Carpenter’s sophomore horror effort after Halloween exists as something of a wonderful failure.


The Fog

The Film:
The town of Antonio Bay is celebrating its hundredth anniversary, unaware that some of the town’s founders took part in murder to fund their colony. In 1880 a group of lepers offered the founders gold to be able to set up a colony a few miles away. Not wanting lepers nearby, but still wanting the money, they took the gold and used a false signal to cause the leper ship to crash into the rocks and sink.

Now in 1980 we follow groups of people in Antonio Bay as they prepare for the centennial celebration. Jamie Lee Curtis plays a hitchhiker who is picked up by a local played by Tom Atkins. Hal Holbrook plays a priest who discovers his ancestor’s diary confessing to the murders.  Janet Leigh (Jamie Lee Curtis’ mother and Psycho star) plays the organizer of the town’s celebration with Nancy Loomis (Who starred with Jamie Lee in Halloween) as her assistant. Adrienne Barbeau does an amazing job as DJ Stevie Wayne, broadcasting a smooth jazz station out of a lighthouse up on a cliff.
As night falls a mysterious fog rolls in from the ocean. The townsfolk soon realize there is something in the fog; ghosts of the murdered lepers come back for revenge. The lead ghost is played by Rob Bottin (the effects artist of The Howling, another great Scream Factory release) though the ghosts look more like pirates than lepers (ghost pirate lepers?).The result is a pretty decent ghost story with amazing visuals and great performances, but the total package never quite fully comes together. The characters never share a scene until near the very end (Adrienne is sequestered in the light house for almost the entire film). The ghost’s backstory is vague and they never speak, relying on the diary to tell the audience what’s going on in a couple bursts of exposition.

John Carpenter reshot a large portion of the movie to add more gore and scares and it shows. There are jarring moments when something incredibly violent suddenly occurs and doesn’t relate to other elements of the movie. Finding his horror soup too thin he kept throwing scenes in to try and thicken it up and only served to disrupt the flow of the film. There’s also a long prologue with John Houseman telling a ghost story that only seems to be there to bump up the run time of the film.

However, even though it’s very rough at points and shows its warts, The Fog endures the test of time. I attribute this to two elements; first that John Carpenter is an immensely entertaining visual director who gives us something fun to watch even if he himself doesn’t seem one hundred percent sure where it’s going. Second is Adrienne Barbeau stealing this show; she is locked in a lighthouse for the whole movie and the film shines brightest when she’s on screen. She’s passionate, she’s sultry, she can fight a ghost, and she brings a much needed spark of warmth to the movie with one of horrors most unforgettable characters.

The Disc:
The film looks great; this is how you want to see your 1980’s horror films. Rich darks, full grain film, and a crisp John Carpenter score in DTS. Previous DVD releases are vastly inferior; this Blu-ray edition is the one to add to the collection.
The John Carpenter commentary is not super. He seems to only talk about where each shot was filmed, Debra Hill had more production tid-bits to offer (Check out Carpenters commentary on Scream Factory’s They Live instead). The new commentary with Adrienne Barbeau, Tom Atkins, and Tommy Lee Wallace is a lot of fun with the three of them reminiscing on the filming and re-filming of The Fog. Also don’t miss the interview with Jamie Lee Curtis; she sheds a great deal of light on the circumstances around the filming of The Fog.

The Features:
  • Audio Commentary with Director John Carpenter and Producer Debra Hill
  • New Audio Commentary with Actors Adrienne Barbeau, Tom Atkins, and production designer Tommy Lee Wallace
  • My Time with Terror with Jamie Lee Curtis
  • Dean of Darkness with Dean Cundey
  • Fear on Film: Inside The Fog
  • Tales from the Mist: Inside The Fog
  • The Fog: Storyboard to Film
  • Horror’s Hallowed Grounds
  • Storyboards
  • Special Effects Tests
  • TV Spots
  • Outtakes
  • Photo Galleries
  • Theatrical Trailers

The Specs:
  • 1080p Hi-Def widescreen 2.35:1
  • DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • English-only Audio & Subtitles
  • Original Release: 1980
  • Runtime: 90 minutes
  • Rated R

Final Grades:
Story: C- / Muddled at best. Watch it, enjoy it, just don’t press the plot too hard
Presentation quality: A / Wonderful transfer with colors fully restored.
Scare factor: B / A few jumps, won’t scare everyone.
Gore Factor: A / Amongst the reshot footage is some almost Saws level shots.
Repeat view-ability: A / I’ve seen this movie over 100 times.  

Add The Fog to your collection, click HERE!

Checking out yesterday's Scream Factory review, The Vampire Lovers!

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