Spoilers need to return the smoke machine by tomorrow.
Yes, we’re going back to take a look at one of John Carpenter‘s classics again. I feel this one is another that is highly underrated. True, nowadays it wouldn’t raise an eyebrow, but it’s got everything where it counts. I have the distinct notion that 80’s horror required your attention. You were either watching the movie or not. Nowadays, movies need to be slick and sophisticated to compete for your attention or just resort to adding a jump scare every second. This feature is a ghost story, plain and simple.
The Fog (1980) was directed by John Carpenter who wrote the screenplay with producer Debra Hill. Antonio Bay is celebrating 100 years of its foundation. We’re introduced to its history via Mr. Machen (John Houseman) who tells us the story of the ill fated voyage of the Elizabeth Dane, a boat that crashed upon the coast. Radio announcer Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau) does a midnight show where she plays music and occasionally does weather updates from her lighthouse-based station. She reports a strange fog coming in, and warns fishing boat The Sea Grass to be wary of it. Meanwhile, Nick Castle (Tom Atkins) picks up lone hitchhiker Elizabeth Solley (Jamie Lee Curtis) in a desolated dark road when they experience a strange phenomena. On the other side of town, Father Malone (Hal Holbrook) is startled when the stone wall of his office breaks and his grandfather’s diary appears. The next day, he calls over Kathy Williams (Janet Leigh) who oversees the centennial town celebrations, to let her know the diary reveals the awful truth about how the town was really founded.
The film starts early with the supernatural implications but restraints itself from bringing in the full blown gore until basically the final act of the story. It is tame for today’s standards and gore only appears rarely and briefly. That being said, the film knows to use the music and the surroundings as well as the literal fog itself to set up the ambience for a very straight forward ghost story. The body count is actually very low.
Does it hold up? I think nostalgia lovers will appreciate it, but jaded horror fans will find it very mild in scares. The lack of slicked up killings and/or gory special effects might disappoint modern audiences. That being said, it’s really well casted and balanced. Adrienne Barbeau is very believable as a radio announcer, but her role does keep her isolated from most of the cast. Jamie Lee Curtis is obviously the scream queen, with a little nod and a wink to her other roles when she mentions that bad things seem to happen when she’s near. It’s also a delight to have Janet Leigh share the screen with both Barbeau and Curtis.
Highly recommended for lovers of 80’s nostalgia, specially horror of that era. It’s very much a classic and a cult film where things move along very familiar developments. At its very core, it’s a ghost story told without any subversive elements, direct and to the point. The mystery of why the curse is what it is ends up as simply a tale of human greed and revenge. Strangely enough, it has no actual villain and no clearly-defined hero (Tom Atkins plays leading man Nick, but Barbeau is more strongly featured, albeit isolated). Worth a watch with 80’s nostalgia glasses.
That will do for now.