Monday, October 3, 2016

31 Days of Horror #3 The Fog (1980) ***1/2

John Carpenter's The Fog gets better with viewing, don't ask me why, it's just one of those movies.  Released in 1980, two years after Carpenter's low budget hit Halloween invented the modern slasher film, The Fog was viewed as an underwhelming follow up. Instead, Carpenter crafted an atmospheric ghost story inspired by the works of Edgar Allen Poe.  

Set in idyllic Antonio Bay, the acting and direction feel organic. We meet a menagerie of characters who live on the island, many played by actors who appeared in Halloween, including the sultry late night DJ Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau), Father Malone (Hal Holbrook), a hitchhiker (Jamie Lee Curtis), local fisherman (Tom Atkins), and town historian (Janet Leigh).  Carpenter's decision to not to focus on a protagonist gives the film an amorphous point of view that totally works in its favor, few movies have more effectively used a radio station to drive the story.

The first ten minutes do a brilliant job in setting the tone with John Houseman relating a ghost story to a group of boy scouts and then cuts to various scenes throughout the town where everything goes haywire (Carpenter himself appears as a janitor). Electric lights flicker as the fog rolls in.  Father Malone discovers an old letter written by his grandfather and learns the prosperity and rich history of Antonio Bay rests on an ugly crime.

Vengeful spirits arriving to exact justice for the sins of the past is a theme straight out of the Gothic tradition.  Carpenter sets a unique tone that's rich with striking visuals and a subtle use of music that adds to the nocturnal look. The blending of reality with the fantastic never comes off as hokey, there's a smooth hypnotic quality.  Like in Halloween, we get a slice of American life encased in darkness.

So The Fog is a spine tingling campfire story.  A unique horror movie in look and tone with many memorable images and moments.  

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