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The Fog

tn_fogFive minutes before midnight and the 100th anniversary of the founding of his coastal California town of Antonio Bay, John Houseman tells a ghost story to a group of kids gathered around a campfire. He claims the town was founded on gold stolen from a deliberately sunken pirate ship (like in the cool samurai movie GOYOKIN, or the Tom Laughlin western THE MASTER GUNFIGHTER), and the original owners will be coming back tonight for what’s theirs. This would be corny as a wraparound story, but it’s perfect as a prologue and a warning. We enjoy the art of oral storytelling and a brief pause before the movie marches into an atmospheric title sequence set to a great synth score that could only mean this is a John Carpenter film.

This is more of an ensemble than many Carpenter movies. I’d say the lead is Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau), local DJ who broadcasts out of a lighthouse she owns. She ties the other characters together because they hear her voice and music wherever they go. She plays mostly old timey jazz, which makes for a good soundtrack and also can sound eerie when echoing tinnily in an empty room.

Then you have Nick Castle (Tom Atkins), a local driving home late at night who picks up a young hitchhiker named Elizabeth (Jamie Lee Curtis). Think about this. Curtis as Laurie Strode, with her presumed virginity, was patient zero for the claim in SCREAM and other places that only a virgin can survive a horror movie. In this one her character gets picked up by an older stranger and is in bed with him within the hour. This is never implied to be a bad thing and they both survive and are heroic. Isn’t that what they call “sex positive”? And does a “sex positive” cancel out a “sex = death”? (I’m not good at math.)

Curtis’s real life mother Janet Leigh plays Kathy Williams, who is overseeing the centennial celebration, possibly a bad place to be tonight. Hal Holbrook plays a cowardly priest who discovers the town’s dark past in an ancestor’s journal and freaks out.

The supernatural threat lurches into the town slowly and steadily, like the relentless thumping heartbeat of Carpenter’s music. It starts with a montage of machines malfunctioning: alarms going off, gas pumps turning on, rows of cars turning on or pay phones ringing all at once. Eventually it arrives at people’s front doors. A glowing fog rolls in, there is a loud knock. If they answer then silhouetted figures step in and tear them apart with hooks. Slow, otherworldly build up to a quick, vicious burst of brutality.

mp_fogAfter HALLOWEEN became a huge hit, John Carpenter didn’t feel like directing the sequel. He stayed on as writer and producer but focused his attention on what in many ways is a very different type of horror tale. But THE FOG and HALLOWEEN actually do have similarities. Both take place in a small town that we know the name of, and who some of the authority figures are. Both take place on a specific date which is the anniversary of a long-ago infamous tragedy. The audience knows that a silent, faceless, murderous party involved in that event has returned for the occasion. There’s a gradual escalation of creepiness during the day and then most of the action takes place over one long night. There are characters who know what’s going on, but everybody thinks they’re crazy.

What’s more, Carpenter basically brought along the Halloween Players here. He’s got some of the same crew, including producer/co-writer Debra Hill and director of photography Dean Cundey. Tommy Lee Wallace, who edited, production designed and in some shots played Michael Myers for HALLOWEEN, returns as editor and production designer, plays a ghost and lends his name to George “Buck” Flower’s character. (He would go on to write and direct HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH.) The cast of course includes HALLOWEEN stars Jamie Lee Curtis (Laurie Strode), Charles Cyphers (Sheriff Brackett) and Nancy Loomis (Annie Brackett). Also you have Curtis’s mother Janet Leigh, who would have an appearance much later in H20, as well as Tom Atkins (who would later star in HALLOWEEN III) playing a character named after Nick Castle, who played Michael in part 1.

(Incidentally, Cyphers’s character is named after Carpenter’s DARK STAR collaborator/ALIEN writer/future RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD director Dan O’Bannon. I think that’s funny because it later became a corny cliche for the directors who grew up on this stuff to name their horror characters after horror legends like Carpenter, Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper. etc. Carpenter was able to get away with it because to him it was just his buddy from college.)

An interesting thing about the making of THE FOG: most of its greatness was figured out in reshoots. When they assembled the first cut, according to Carpenter, “it sucked.” Initially people would go out into the fog and you wouldn’t see what happened to them, but that turned out not to be as scary as hoped. So Carpenter added the gory bits, like the closeups of the hooks. He also added the prologue with John Houseman. And the excellent montage of poltergeist activity with all the machines. And the attack of the fishermen on the boat, and the scene in the morgue, and Stevie fighting the ghosts on top of the lighthouse.

To think there was a version of the movie where you didn’t see those ghosts, standing there with their glowing eyes, their silence, lack of expression and relentless pursuit of goals following the tradition of Michael Myers and the gang in ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13… and maybe the beach ball alien guy in DARK STAR if you want to go all the way to the beginning, but that’s probly stretching it. These guys were classic John Carpenter characters and they were Plan B.

Yeah, I’m not surprised it didn’t work without all that stuff. And it’s interesting that he did something similar as producer of HALLOWEEN II around the same time.

Anyway, they ended up with a good story. Even before the ghosty shit happens it has a good after-midnight feel, people in different parts of the town after hours, lonely, listening to Stevie by herself in her lighthouse, or talking to her on the phone, reminding themselves that there are other people out there. And I like how Stevie feels a responsibility to the town, as the one with the vantage point to see the fog and the equipment to tell everyone about it. She thinks she won’t make it out alive, so she apologizes to her son. But she stays and watches where the fog goes and directs the people to safety over the airwaves.

Part of what makes it powerful is the sense of inherited guilt. They know that the ghost pirates have a point. They can put up a statue and have a celebration but they know their little town was founded on blood money. This is a story about a curse from something that happened 100 years ago, and the ghosts trying to avenge the six who conspired against them through their descendants. Notably, Father Malone stops the curse by learning the history of it, sharing it with others, returning what was stolen, and taking responsibility. He doesn’t deny his Fog Privilege, he doesn’t say it’s about Antonio Bay pride, he says okay, you’re right, here’s your gold that my ancestors stole, and I’m sorry.

Maybe there’s a lesson for all of us, whether we live on land stolen from indigenous people, or our people once owned slaves, or we’re in denial about a genocide, or whatever.

Then again, Father Malone ends up getting it. So I don’t know.

This is one of a handful of beloved Carpenter movies that never quite clicked with me. I can’t remember how long it’s been since I’ve seen it, if it was on DVD or VHS. Either way, seeing it on a hi-def TV makes a difference. When you watch the “Inside Horror” extra on the blu-ray and see the fuzzy, cropped clips that were used on TV, you can see what a huge difference it makes.

This is a movie that is primarily about mood and atmosphere. It’s about Carpenter’s music creating dread under Dean Cundey’s wide frames of glowing fog slowly rolling toward the shore. It’s about shots that look almost like painted covers for H.P. Lovecraft novels. And whether it’s that improved presentation or whether I’ve just gotten to the right point in my journey as a human being and/or horror fan, this is the viewing where I finally loved it. I finally was in the mood for a good ghost story. THE FOG is great.

Also “Antonio Bay” would be a good alias to use for checking into hotels and stuff.

Sincerely,

Mr. Antonio Bay
Seattle, Washington

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 28th, 2015 at 9:57 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

41 Responses to “The Fog”

  1. This and HALLOWEEN are perfect point and counterpoint for that old “What you see is always scarier than what you don’t” maxim. In reality, sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. I feel like a lot of directors go into a horror movie with this high-falutin’ ideal of making you use yor imagination “like Hitchcock” and then stick with it even when it’s not working. I like that Carpenter took a look at his footage, said “This didn’t work” and tried a new approach. He didn’t give up on his vision; he found a new vision that in this instance was more effective. There’s no hard and fast rule. You gotta be flexible and do what’s best for the movie.

    It’s like in writing workshops. When you bring in your story to the class, you’re not allowed to talk while the other students discuss it. The thinking is that you’re not gonna be there to defend yourself when the story gets read, so why should you be able to do it now? The point is, nobody cares what you had in mind when you set out. They only care about what’s on the page when you’re done. So you might have the loftiest of goals when formulating your storytelling strategy, but if that strategy doesn’t get you where you want to go, you gotta rethink your plan. Carpenter’s willingness to completely alter the goals of his film that late in the process show that wonderful sense of unpretentious pragmatism that I think is one of his main strengths as a filmmaker.

  2. I got that old maxim completely backward in my opinion. Should have gone back and rethought that.

  3. You hit it right on the head – this one is about mood and atmosphere and I loved it. I always think of those creepy people in the fog with their glowing eyes whenever I have to venture out in the fog.

  4. Interesting enough, Carpenter’s THE THING is another good example against the “Not showing it is scarier”-dogma*. Maybe even the best!

    *which I always thought was bullshit, invented and overused by snobistic critics who are quick to judge every movie with a certain amount of blood as disgusting trash.

  5. Yeah I’ve held a similar lack of appreciation for this one over the years. I thought it was mid-range Carpenter, not as good as VAMPIRES or ESCAPE FROM LA or HALLOWEEN or THEY LIVE, better than VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED. Dan O’Bannon co-wrote DEAD AND BURIED around the same time that THE FOG rolled into town, which shares a similar coastal setting but a different story about the sort-of-undead rising from the grave. It’s a lot creepier than THE FOG, and has a twist that would make Shymalan shit his pants.

  6. This was always one of my favorites from Carpenter along with PRINCE OF DARKNESS but I can’t think of too many people I’ve met who liked them. I love this because it was his take on the “urban legend supernatural tale becoming more than myth” horror subgenre. At that point he was knowing for more thematic sci fi and a classic slasher and instead of being put in a box he said “fuck this” and made an Elvis biopic and a ghost story back to back. That took some brass. The score to this is still one of my favorites and the movie has one of the best uses of John Houseman ever.

  7. The Original Paul

    October 28th, 2015 at 4:16 pm

    I’ve had this one on DVD for ages but never got around to watching it. I should remedy that.

    CJ – the odd thing about THE THING is that you never once see a “complete” transformation. You see Bennings being “got”, Garry being faced, and Windows being covered in Thing-bile – for no more than a few seconds each (although thanks to Carpenter’s excellent direction, it feels like a lot longer). But you never actually see someone’s clothes being torn through, you obviously don’t see Childs or Palmer get turned, and Fuchs’ death remains a mystery to the end. The vast majority of what we actually see of the Thing is the aftermath of its work. Honestly I think the most nightmarish of all the Thing attacks featured in that film (apart from Blair facing Garry, obviously) would be the first time we see it – the dogs at the start of the film. Because 1) animal cruelty is always traumatic for me, even on film, and 2) it’s the first time we get any kind of an indication as to why the Thing is so damn scary.

    So I’m not so sure that it breaks the “not showing the monster” dogma as much as you would suggest. There’s an awful lot left up to the imagination there. And the one part of that film which absolutely doesn’t work for me is when we see the Thing transform into a giant immobile easily-killable monster at the end. I think that’s the most we ever see of the Thing, apart from the dog sequence, and it’s also easily the least convincing part of the film.

    Other stuff:

    Once again I’ll point out that the only person who made the “virginity” claim in SCREAM was the village idiot. It’s not that movie’s fault that a lot of self-professed horror “fans”, who actually know little to nothing about the genre, have adopted Randy as some kind of post-modernist nerd icon. Claiming that SCREAM is saying that “all virgins survive” because Randy said it is like claiming that WALL STREET is saying that “greed is good” because Gordon Gecko said it. Randy consistently tries to be the know-it-all, and he’s consistently wrong. I’m not saying he’s meant to be unlikeable – he’s more like the loveable Cliff Clavin character – but as for him being some kind of font of horror movie lore… he’s just not. He’s wrong. All the time. For example: the boyfriend in PROM NIGHT was completely innocent, Laurie Strode was a surrogate mother figure, and the line from Aliens was not actually “Stay away from her you bitch!”

    Vern, I don’t want to keep ragging on at you about the same thing over and over, but I keep pointing out that this:

    …the claim in SCREAM and other places that only a virgin can survive a horror movie…

    …is a complete misrepresentation of SCREAM. The movie didn’t say this. Randy, the loveable Cliff Clavin / cruel caricature of ignorant horror movie fans, said this. The movie even has its heroine have sex and survive – once again pointing out that Randy is wrong – and you still maintain this! I realise that this is not as “important” a distinction as saying, for example, that STARSHIP TROOPERS supports fascism, or that THE WOLF OF WALL STREET supports sociopathic capitalist greed, or something. But it’s still really annoying to see the same old lie trotted out time and time again!

    On the point of names:

    One of the earliest examples I can think of of this horror naming convention was a main character in JAWS being named “Hooper”. Nothing to do with Tobe Hooper, as the book by Peter Benchley came out before Tobe Hooper was even famous. It got me thinking though: did the accidental naming of a character after a soon-to-be-famous horror director in JAWS start the trend of naming characters Loomis, Carpenter, etc?

  8. Paul – You are supposed to accept Randy’s rules as an accurate summation of horror formula, because the killers use them as their guidelines and point out that they can kill Sidney because she lost her virginity. The virginity claim is also repeated in BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON, a movie I did not like so that was the start of my annoyance with people saying that. But people have since given me examples (that I can’t remember) of movies where it did apply. At any rate, the sex = death trope (whether or not it is related to virginity) is something that was accidentally started by HALLOWEEN and that’s why I brought it up here.

  9. Paul, but basically THE THING is a damn scary movie, that, while it milks every delicious drop of dread and suspense, wouldn’t be half as scary without its gory parts. Otherwise it would be just a movie about some grumpy people, reacting to sounds and disappearing off screen. Basically the finale, stretched out to 100 minutes.

  10. I love The Fog but I love that there was one guy out there that thought Escape From LA was better.

  11. The Original Paul

    October 28th, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    CJ – no argument from me on that one.

    Vern – the killers don’t kill Sydney. And I remember the virginity thing being a major plot point in BEHIND THE MASK. I’m just pointing out that it’s unfair to keep applying that same criticism to SCREAM when it specifially goes out of its way to disprove the “sex = death” trope by 1) putting it in the mouth of a character who’s explicitly portrayed as an annoying pseudo-know-it-all who’s consistently wrong, and 2) having the main character have sex and survive the movie.

    Again, it’s the Gordon Gecko thing. Just because some yuppies might have taken him to heart as some kind of a folk hero, doesn’t mean he was ever actually intended as such.

  12. Has anybody seen Cherry Falls which is about a killer specifically targeting virgins?

  13. The Original Paul

    October 28th, 2015 at 6:02 pm

    And honestly I’m a little tired of having this same argument, over and over… it honestly is starting to feel like arguing with that guy who thinks STARSHIP TROOPERS promotes fascism or something. Except in this case it’s even clearer that that’s not what’s going on.

    If your reading of SCREAM is that it’s suggesting that the “sex = death” cliche is correct, then you are wrong. Straight out. No ambiguity. The main character has sex, then survives. Even if you accept Randy as some kind of horror movie savant (which he is clearly not intended to be, since, again, just about everything he says about horror movie “lore” is wrong), he’s still clearly wrong about this one thing. I just don’t see any alternative way of reading the film that fits what actually happens in it.

    BEHIND THE MASK may have taken this cliche at face value. Doesn’t mean we have to assume that SCREAM did as well.

    Ok I’m done.

  14. The Original Paul

    October 28th, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    Sternshein – I have a lot of love for that film actually. I think it’s very underrated for what it is (bearing in mind its fairly modest ambitions).

  15. Sure, in SCREAM, sex does not = death because the film is intended to be a subversion of the tropes of the the slasher movie. Which clearly means that the screenwriter believes that, in the rest of the genre, it does. It wouldn’t be much of a subversion if he was subverting something that he didn’t believe actually existed.

  16. Wait, not everyone loves ESCAPE FROM LA? What a mixed up world….

  17. Paul – Have you seen the uncut version of Cherry Falls?

    Poeface – You’re the only one who loves Escape from LA, I’m positive on that one :)

  18. I love ESCAPE FROM LA. ESCAPE FROM NY is way cooler, but it kind of drags in the middle. LA is ridiculous fun all the way through. And it has the more satisfying ending. I mean, our hero basically shuts down the world.

  19. any of you guys see the remake with the kid from smallville? It’s…uh… not great.

  20. You like it too? I recently watched it. Let me rephrase, I tried to recently watch it and could only get half way until I gave up. It’s horribly directed, not interesting, badly acted, the special effects are atrocious, the rock songs are embarrassing. The score is still rad though.

  21. Now here is a real John Carpenter classic. Two foxy ladies (Jamie Lee Curtis AND Adrienne Barbeau?!), a great ghost story, Hal Holbrook to make shit look serious, and this atmosphere that you feel on the coast sometimes – you are alone out there. This isn’t the city or the burbs, or even the country where you can keep running. The water is like a wall that you hit and can’t run anymore.

    My sister saw this at a sleepover in the early 80s when she was a teenager and then told me the story afterwards. I wouldn’t see it until a few years later but I remembered the pirate ghosts part and I just ate this movie up. Maybe I was predestined to love it, but it’s in my Carpenter Top Five.

    And ESCAPE FROM LA?! I saw that at the Milwaukee premiere where they were giving out fake snake tattoos. Bought the soundtrack in Atlanta two weeks before (96 Olympics baby!) and was super pumped because I loved ESACAPE FROM NEW YORK and couldn’t wait for a sequel. Even brought a French girl as a date who was a movie buff and I had told her about my Carpenter love. I had a Cinefantastique issue where they talk about Bruce Campbell (as the Surgeon General of Beverly Hills, hahahohohaha) and Steve Buscemi being in the movie, Kurt Russell worked on the script himself, it was one of his all time favorite roles, yadda yadda yadda…

    And what a fucking stinker, what a horrible cinematic experience. Just a remake with Stacy Keach instead of Lee Van Cleef, Cliff Robertson instead of Donald Pleasance, some jackass with a beret instead of Duke A Number One Isaac “Theme From Shaft” Muthafuckin Hayes, anyway you know what I’m trying to say.

    Watched it on video drinking Canadian Hunter about a year and a half later and enjoyed it. Played well on TV, it seemed like a parody of the original instead of a sequel, then it worked for me.

    Oh, and in SCREAM, Kevin Williamson’s script specifically tackles the virgin trope after Sidney gets it on with Johnny Depp’s stunt double, so Paul, I see what you’re trying to say, but HALLOWEEN Laurie, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET Nancy, FRIDAY THE 13TH Alice, TEXAS CHAINSAW Sally – no sexy time no death. It’s a trope. Showing your snoobs was a one way ticket to slasher death in those films.

  22. I am aware of LA’s rep as a lesser Carpenter, but I don’t agree with it. It landed smack in the middle of the 90’s, at the height of the morbid serial-killer movie fascination thanks to SILENCE OF THE 7EVEN, and when the Sundance kids were making movies backwards and everyone thought they were as cool as QT thought he was, and when cgi was taking off with JURASSIC PARK and MEN IN BLACK.

    Then old-school Carpenter drops in with this one, like a wobbly hanglider, with his as-always irony-free approach (though still with social satire and an anti-establishment stance symbolized in Snake, validated by Peter Fonda surfing a tsunami), and says fuck all y’all, I’m doing it my way, with scale models, matte sets, rear-projection, Pam Grier, Steve Buscemi, and Bruce Campbell in freak mode.

    I remember seeing it in an empty cinema attended by me and two other guys, who were my mates. One of my mates was indifferent, the other hated it (he was my Original Paul friend – throughout the film he kept saying No. Just no.) and I loved it. I don’t think I was even aware there was a sequel to NEW YORK until we checked the papers – oh shit, Snake is back!

  23. No, Ben, it’s not great. In fact, it is just so, so awful. The scene they tried to recreate where Tom Atkins picks up Jamie Lee Curtis when she’s hitchhiking and they have sexy talk, only in this one he doesn’t recognize she’s his girlfriend who’s come back to town was so painful to watch. It was also one of those movies that perfectly illustrates what’s wrong with a lot of modern movie making. The original cast had talent and charisma and were interesting. The new cast was pretty.

  24. Majestyk beat me to it, Paul. SCREAM explains various slasher movie tropes and then tries to upend them. Sydney doesn’t like horror movies and breaks free of their formulas.

    I don’t know what to tell you, bud. Jamie Lee Curtis has come to represent the beginning of that trope, so I think it’s cool that she was the opposite in THE FOG. If you don’t want to argue about it then stop starting arguments about it.

  25. Maggie–

    I was think about this when I revisited BUFFY recently. It’s interesting to compare the average level of attractiveness on screen in that show to a modern high school drama like, for example, PRETTY LITTLE LIARS. It’s remarkable how many normal looking kids populate the back and mid-grounds in BUFFY, whereas in PLL almost everyone looks like a model. It’s almost like people used to go to film schools and look for actors who were really good looking, but now they go to modeling agencies and look for people who can act a bit.

  26. Sternshein, was the unrated cut ever released? It went straight to cable here. Basic, so they couldn’t show anything.

  27. Vern, I was the same. Blu-ray sealed the deal for me.

  28. This is relevant to what Majestyk said earlier:

    “People say things like, “The rule is that you never show the devil.” I’ve heard that. An actress lectured me on that once. But if you have a good-looking devil, and it looks convincing—well, yes, you show it! You kidding? It’ll scare the shit out of the audience. If you have a stupid devil, then you don’t show it.”

    We picked John Carpenter’s brain about horror, Halloween, and video games

    John Carpenter’s low-budget, precision-made slasher Halloween is one of the cornerstones of the modern horror film. A massive hit upon its initial release in 1978, the movie spawned a franchise and scores of imitators, and put Carpenter on the path to becoming an above-the-title household name. Car

  29. The Original Paul

    October 29th, 2015 at 4:03 am

    SCREAM isn’t “subverting” horror movie tropes because they’re supposed to be accurate. It’s explicitly (through the character of Randy) making fun of horror movie “geeks” who talk about the “rules” but actually have very little knowledge of horror movies. The whole point is that these geeks are wrong. And so is Randy.

    Along with HALLOWEEN, he mentions PROM NIGHT, ALIENS, THE HOWLING… all of which have sexually-experienced heroines. The girls from PROM NIGHT and THE HOWLING have boyfriends, ALIENS’ Ripley is a mother. And Laurie Strode’s arc is specifically that of the child-to-surrogate-mother-figure, so while Randy’s description of her as a virgin might be technically “accurate” (I don’t think it’s ever confirmed but it’s certainly inferrable), it misses the entire point of the character. Do you think any of that is a coincidence?

    And to whoever brought up FRIDAY 13th – the heroine is at the camp because she’s recovering from a bad relationship. Again, sexually-experienced.

    SCREAM isn’t saying that the “virgin” trope is accurate. It’s making fun of people who DO say things like that. If you don’t get that, then sorry, you don’t understand the film.

    Man, I now know how Mouth felt when talking about SUCKER PUNCH.

  30. The Original Paul

    October 29th, 2015 at 4:32 am

    Anyway, I’m going to try and watch THE FOG and give an opinion on that one. Hopefully it goes better than WAR OF THE WORLDS.

  31. Sure, Randy is supposed to be the representative of the horror establishment being brought down a peg. But don’t you get that it doesn’t work if the script doesn’t want you to believe that Randy is an accurate representation of what most other horror movies are like? The script’s thesis is “This is how these other movies do it but that’s not how I’m doing it because I’m so fucking clever.” Which, in retrospect, is not that fucking clever, but skilled direction and a likable cast can put over just about anything. Check out Williamson’s other horror movies to see exactly how much he actually knows about the genre. He’s not satirizing Randy; he IS fucking Randy: a know-it-all loudmouth who thinks he knows all the angles but is really just an arrogant dilettante. He’s not saying “Horror movies have always been so much more than these rules,” he’s saying, “Horror has always been about these rules until I got here and BLEW YOUR FUCKING MIND, MAN.”

    I still like those movies, but Williamson’s weak-sauce master thesis has almost nothing to do with it.

  32. I always thought the opening storytelling thing was boring as a kid but seeing it more recently, it was better than I remembered. Still, it’s a pretty gutsy way to open a film because it’s just some dude telling a story (not the most action packed way to open a film by modern standards). These days, I actually think The Fog is one of Carpenter’s best films overall.

  33. One of my all-time favorites from Carpenter’s golden period. This is the film that taught me that atmosphere and mood were everything in a decent horror film.

    The prologue with Houseman is just wonderful stuff: and amazing to note that it as the product of studio interference. The same thing would happen a few a years later with BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA. But that’s Carpenter – two small scenes, knocked out quick, both fantastic. He was just on fire back then.

    I might be misremembering but wasn’t THE FOG seen as a letdown back on its release? A little like PRINCE OF DARKNESS – which I still think is a seriously underloved and misunderstood film.

    (Small world time: just told someone I work with that Janet Leigh’s character shares her name and she told me her grandmother worked for her for while!)

  34. One thing I’ve come to really appreciated about John Carpenter is his ability to create a ninety minute film that still feels as if it has scope. His movies are paired down to their essence. But at the same time, you get a sense that there’s this wider world out there. Part of this comes from the fact that his characters are well defined by their actions, and he finds backstory unnecessary. We get a sense that these people have lives outside of these ninety minutes, but Carpenter doesn’t want to bore us with the details.

    Compare Carpenter’s to-the-point characterization with something like Gravity (a film I liked). In a modern film you have to give the main character some sort of tragedy as if being trapped in Earth’s orbit isn’t harrowing enough. Even in The Thing, my favorite Carpenter flick, each character seems like a whole person, but we know very little about them outside of what happens on screen.

    Also, I’ve really dug his new album. He appears to be more interested in making music than movies these days, which I’m fine with. The man has done so much. He should be allowed to follow his muse.

  35. Paul, I have been discussing SCREAM with people for approaching 20 years and you are the only person I’ve ever heard of who interpreted that “the entire point of Randy” is to be wrong about horror tropes. It’s fine for you to have your own reading of it, but you are arguing that 99% of the millions who have seen SCREAM “don’t understand the film.” And I don’t think the movie, the sequels or the other works of Williamson support your interpretation at all. Randy represents horror fans and Williamson’s ideas about the genre. I don’t think there’s anything to support that he’s “making fun of horror movie geeks.” In fact the script introduces Randy as “A witty jokester who elevates geek to coolness.” And if you do any reading on the subject you’ll quickly find that he is widely accepted as the audience surrogate and fan favorite character. This is why people were upset that he was killed in part 2. Search for interviews with Kevin Williamson and you’ll mostly find him answering questions about why he wouldn’t bring back Randy in the later sequels (despite fan petitions).

    And I want to reiterate that you started this argument. I was not even discussing SCREAM, just making an incidental reference to a fact agreed upon by most everybody else. If you don’t like arguing about it then good, let’s talk about THE FOG.

  36. Vern–

    Don’t you think Paul has a point though that is hard to square with the more conventional reading? Forget the virgin thing for just a moment. Isn’t it a sort of Randy trademark to say think which superficially seem true/accurate but on further reflection are false? Now don’t you think it would be weird for the script to constantly undermine his authority only to treat this one thesis of his about virgins as true and almost a law?

  37. Phillip – What’s an example of what you’re talking about? As Majestyk pointed out, the premise of SCREAM is that these are “the rules” that other horror movies follow, which the killers are trying to inflict on the “real world” of SCREAM. When Sidney survives despite “the rules” that’s her victory, it doesn’t mean the tropes are erased from the history of horror cinema. Most of what he says accurately describes existing cliches of slasher movies (for example that kills are foreshadowed by lines like “I’ll be right back”) and the virgin thing, though I disagree with its specifics, comes from Laurie and other Final Girls usually being the character who is more buttoned down and not into partying. This was explored in Men Women and Chainsaws and also many readings of ’80s slasher movies as right wing morality plays.

  38. I watched THE FOG about 3 years back and really enjoyed it, just an all around good, atmospheric ghost story with a great main theme, I’m looking forward to checking it out on blu ray.

    Also watched ESCAPE FROM LA that same year, it’s pretty good but flawed, it starts off well but by the time we get to Snake surfing with Peter Fonda and hang gliding into Disney Land it gets pretty bad, but then thankfully it sticks the landing perfectly, making it an inconsistent but decent movie.

    I also liked it’s odd blending of 80’s action movie and mid 90’s culture.

  39. AnimalRamirez1976

    October 30th, 2015 at 5:14 pm

    They should show this movie to students in Filmmaking 101. The composition, staging and storytelling are 100% clear and economical. You can tell the kid is a major character in the opening scene from the way he is framed (for example). Overall, however, I’d say the movie is just pretty good. It may be that the characters were too vanilla (except Nancy Loomis, who has a very small part), and the villains are still too little scene to have a memorable personality. I think a screening back-to-back of the original cut and this one would probably also be instructive for students.

  40. Hey Paul, I think I was being kind of a jerk in my response to you. I was frustrated with your frustration. But I don’t want to be that kind of host. Your passion is appreciated even when I can’t figure out what you’re on about. So I hope you’ll accept my apologies.

  41. Thanks Broddie, your name-dropping of PRINCE OF DARKNESS got me into a rewatch last night. (btw isn’t it great that you can think of four or five great Carpenter films that you love, then you check your dvd collection and discover there’s at least three or four other good to great ones you’d forgotten about? I was tossing up between watching POD, IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS and STARMAN.)

    And yeah there’s a couple things to love in this one. I like the concept of the Man Of Faith (Pleasence) and the Man Of Science (Wong) coming together to deal with the swirling supernatural green thing in the glass cage. It’s got a good heavy synth score, not memorable like the ESCAPE’s or HALLOWEEN, or even VAMPIRES with it’s grungy guitar riff, but it certainly kept the mood of building dread throughout.

    It was basically an End Of The World scenario played out in the one location. It reminded me of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (and CABIN FEVER to a lesser degree with the icky flesh decomposing stuff) with the group fending off their colleagues who became possessed by ?? I got no idea what they got possessed by. The green stuff, the devil? I thought it was a good move not to show the Father Of Satan who was trying to break through to this world in order to begin Armageddon. There were only glimpses through the mirror of a beastly arm. BTW does Satan have a father? And who would that be? Technically it would be God, because Satan was the artist formerly known as Lucifer before he got drop-kicked out the pearly gate.

    I thought it was funny that they made Alice Cooper front and center of the poster, when he’s only in about half a dozen scenes and doesn’t have any speaking lines. It was good casting though, since he played a “street schizo” and he gets one of the best kills in the movie.

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