John Carpenter is an undisputed legend of horror films. He’s the father of so many iconic Halloween films such as one my favorites, The Thing, and the seminal classic Halloween whose famed killer has forever permeated pop culture. Instead of revising those two films, I wanted to see one that I hadn’t see before: The Fog. While it’s not my favorite of Carpenter’s films there are a handful of things the film gets right.
Taking place on the 100 year anniversary of the founding of Antonio Bay and the mysterious shipwreck of the Elizabeth Dane, The Fog is a ghostly revenge tale whose paranormal killers use the fog bank to conceal themselves as they attack the town to right past wrongs. The film is by no means flawless, but its most unbelievable aspect is easily that Elizabeth Solley (Jamie Lee Curtis) would sleep with a man twice her senior, Nick Castle (Tom Atkins). I mean, come on. Nevermind, that the ghosts appear able to open doors in one scene and in another seem to need an invitation in (perhaps that’s just convenient plot armor for Nick Castle), that random romance is unnecessary.
Still, The Fog makes some excellent choices. The opening scene where Mr. Machen (John Houseman) delivers an unsettling ghost story that foreshadows the paranormal events still to come is a fun way to kick off the film. What immediately follows is a series of odd events that build up some incredible tension until the first visit from these violent specters. That first image of those terrifying shadows in The Fog is outstanding but loses its terror the more the film goes on and those images of the ghosts in the fog become more and more commonplace. It’s true, the more you see of a thing, the number you become. It’s the fault of many horror films, for sure, and even The Fog is not immune. There are a few great moments along the way, including one chilling scene in a morgue that unsettled me even as I knew what was coming.
The monologues that pepper the film are one of its saving graces. Imagine if Jaws had a few monologues with the same intrigue as the one Robert Shaw delivers as he recounts what happened after the USS Indianapolis sank and the sharks came. Though not as long or harrowing, The Fog has some similarly strong monologues. For just a taste, here’s the opening ghost story I mentioned above.
Though its plot is mostly predictable, the film contains a few good scares that make it fun to watch and is overall still impressive. The cinematography and acting are worthwhile, especially with names like Adriene Barbeau, Janet Leigh, and Hal Holbrook, in addition to the aforementioned cast members. Its an overall really good time despite its somewhat disappointing finale. The build-up is maybe better than the payoff but when you consider the film is mostly set-up for the climax, you get two-thirds great film and one-third okay film.