John Carpenter in Review: The Fog (1980)
Plot: A thick fog descends on an old fishing town containing vengeful ghosts.
Antonio Bay, CA is about to celebrate their centennial when a list of ominous things start happening around the fishing town. TV sets and radios are turning on by themselves. All the pay phones start ringing at the same time. Inanimate objects are moving on their own. One of those objects is a stone in the church office of Father Malone, Antonio Bay’s resident alcoholic preacher man. What he uncovers behind the stone is his grandfather’s old diary which includes the tragic story of how their town came together. Soon after, a phantom clipper ship hidden in a dense fog appears off the coast with a murderous crew. This supernatural presence has a deep connection to the tragic story that Father Malone is reading. These kinds of stories always seem like they start on those early settlements on the Northeast coast. The town even looks more like something from New England than California.
The Fog is an incredibly atmospheric horror flick that takes the technical expertise of Halloween and adds more obvious supernatural elements. Carpenter pick and chooses what to show and what not to show opting that more is less. It is impressive the way they seem to have complete control over the actual fog giving it an other-worldy, sentient feel.
The cast leaves something to be desired. There are a few supporting cast members who are strictly utility or comedic actors who do their job perfectly fine, but some of the protagonists are very dull, especially Jamie Lee Curtis. She is especially disappointing considering her fantastic performance in Halloween. She is hitch-hiking to town when local guy, Nick, picks her up. The two start up a quick romance that feels completely disingenuous. They are unfortunately our main protagonists.
Adrienne Barbeau is the shining light. Her character is definitively ’80s cool chick with an attitude who can compartmentalize her life as a mother and her life as a sexy radio voice. She brings some real genuine terror to her worry for her child and her own safety while staying exceedingly entertaining reading the weather and traffic with her artificially raspy voice. The only problem is Carpenter confines her to her lighthouse broadcasting studio instead of out in the serious action.
The Fog is a strong yet flawed 80s horror flick. It carries with it a great mythology and fantastic enemy that no off-balance cast could possibly ruin.