Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The Fog (1980 film)

Directed and scored by John Carpenter and written by Carpenter and Debra Hill, The Fog is the story of a mysterious fog that surrounds a small town in California as it relates to a group of ghosts from a shipwreck that happened a hundred years ago. The film is a ghost story where a group of people in this small town deal with the phenomenon and try to survive this attack from ghosts. Starring Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Atkins, Janet Leigh, and Hal Holbrook. The Fog is an eerie yet ominous film from John Carpenter.

The film is set in a coastal small town in California where a shipwreck occurred exactly 100 years ago as its ghosts have come back from the dead through a fog to seek vengeance on the town and the descendants that had wronged them. Set entirely in the span of a day, the film begins with a man (John Houseman) telling this story about a shipwreck that occurred a hundred years ago where the town’s priest Father Malone (Hal Holbrook) discovers the shocking secret about the founding of the town and why this fog is emerging. Meanwhile, locals deal with some of the strange things occur as a radio disc-jockey witnesses the fog as she tries to protect her son who had found an old piece of wood that belonged to the ship.

The screenplay by John Carpenter and Debra Hill is told from multiple perspectives as it follows not just Father Malone and the DJ Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau) but also characters such as the town centennial organizer Kathy Williams (Janet Leigh), a resident in Nick Castle (Tom Atkins), and a hitchhiker named Elizabeth (Jamie Lee Curtis). Each of them would have their own encounters with the fog while Williams would also discover some shocking secrets about the town with Father Malone and her assistant Sandy (Nancy Kyes) which only causes a lot of dread and disillusionment from Father Malone. Nick and Elizabeth’s encounters with dead bodies and the fog has them realize something is up as they constantly listen to Stevie’s radio program as she is in danger as well as her son Andy (Ty Mitchell). Much of it would play into these people trying to survive this mysterious fog and the ghosts that would emerge from the fog.

Carpenter’s direction starts off with this very quaint and intimate scene set in a campfire about the story of this ship as it would set the tone for what is to come. Even as it’s followed by a sequence where strange things are happening as car alarms go out, glass breaking unexpectedly, and all sorts of crazy things. Much of Carpenter’s direction involve a lot of intimate yet sublime medium shots to play into the suspense where Nick and Elizabeth try to figure out what is going on in relation to a fishing boat that went missing. There’s also some unique wide shots where Carpenter takes great stock into the look of the locations in coastal Northern California to play into something that feels like a small town but one that has a lot of history.

The direction also include some very eerie scenes where the ghosts emerging of the fog would come into play as they’re targeting whoever they encounter including the descendants of the people that had wronged them. Though the killings aren’t as gruesome as what is expected in horror films, the impact of it is still quite intense. Adding to the atmosphere of the film’s suspense is Carpenter’s score as its mixture of drone-heavy synthesizers and melancholic piano riffs play into the sense of dread and terror. Notably in its climax which involves its characters fighting off the ghosts as well as find a way to atone for the sins of their descendants. Overall, Carpenter creates a very scary yet powerful film about ghosts seeking vengeance over their deaths.

Cinematographer Dean Cundey does amazing work with the film‘s cinematography to set a mood for the much of the scenes set at night with its lighting along with photographic effects to showcase the power of the fog. Editors Charles Bornstein and Tommy Lee Wallace do excellent work with the editing to create some unique rhythmic cuts to play into the film‘s suspense and terror in the most unexpected ways. Production designer Tommy Lee Wallace and art director Craig Stearns do fantastic work with the look of the small town as well as the lighthouse radio tower that Stevie works at and the church where Father Malone stays at.

Costume designers Stephen Loomis and Bill Whitten do nice work with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual with the exception of the more refined clothing of Kathy Williams. Sound editors Gregg Barbanell and Ron Horwitz, with sound designer William L. Stevenson, do brilliant work with the film‘s sound from the way the wind carries out through the air as well as the way sounds carry in the film such as the sequence of car alarms going out early in the film.

The film’s superb cast includes some notable small roles from Charles Cyphers as the weatherman Dan, James Canning as the fishing boat captain Dick Baxter, Nancy Kyes as Williams’ assistant Sandy, Ty Mitchell as Stevie’s son Andy, and John Houseman in a terrific performance as Mr. Machen who would tell the children the ghost story in the beginning of the film. Hal Holbrook is excellent as Father Malone as a priest who would uncover the secret about his town’s birth as he becomes uneasy with his discovery. Tom Atkins is fantastic as Nick as a local resident who leads the investigation over the disappearance of a fishing boat.

Janet Leigh is amazing as Kathy Wilson as this organizer who learns about the secrets of her town’s birth as she does whatever to keep it a secret while being uneasy in letting the festival continue as she also worries about her husband’s disappearance. Jamie Lee Curtis is brilliant as Elizabeth as this young hitchhiker who believes she is bad luck as the fog arrives just as she had arrived to the town as she tries to deal with the situations. Finally, there’s Adrienne Barbeau in a remarkable performance as Stevie as this radio disc jockey who watches over the town as she sees the fog as she would report it through her radio program as her voice is crucial to the suspense and drama that occurs in the film.
The Fog is a tremendously terrifying and astonishing film from John Carpenter. Armed with a great cast, a chilling score, and a cool premise that is perfect for any ghost-based horror film. It is definitely one of the key films in the horror genre that manages to do more than what is often expected in horror as it has enough elements that would appeal to non-horror film audiences. In the end, The Fog is a rich yet exhilarating film from John Carpenter.

John Carpenter Films: Dark Star - Assault on Precinct 13 - Halloween - Someone’s Watching Me! - Elvis - Escape from New York - The Thing - Christine - Starman - Big Trouble in Little China - Prince of Darkness - They Live - Memoirs of an Invisible Man - Body Bags - In the Mouth of Madness - Village of the Damned - Escape from L.A. - Vampires - Ghosts of Mars - The Ward

The Auteurs #60: John Carpenter Pt. 1 - Pt. 2

© thevoid99 2014


Luke said...

This is one of my all time favorite films not just from Carpenter but in general. The radio bit where Barbeau picks up the voice that says "damn them all" is creepy as hell.

thevoid99 said...

That was creepy. Truly one of the finest films in horror.