"John Carpenter's The Fog (1980)"
Shout Factory Blu-Ray Review
Starring Adrienne Barbeau, Jaime Lee Curtis,
Tom Atkins, Hal Holbrook
Directed By John Carpenter
COLOR/1980/1 HOUR 29 MINUTES
RATED R For Violence and Strong Language
Aspect Ratio: 2:35.1 1080p
Writer/Director John Carpenter was a somewhat accomplished director early on with two early films that have since become cult classics in "Dark Star" and "Assault On Precinct 13", (the latter being one of my favorite action films and easily one of my favorites amongst many of his great films) and then 1978 rolled around and Carpenter made horror movie history as he redefined the genre with his unforgettable thriller "Halloween", which became an instant classic and was a blockbuster hit that no one foresaw. Soon after, Carpenter pretty much had carte' blanche to write, produce or direct any film he saw fit. The next project following the success of "Halloween", was "The Fog", which was pretty much intended to be a ghost story more so with its' thrills intended in the supernatural than blood and guts for the most part. The film was a problamatic experience for the young director in that the studio, Avco/Embassy was not happy with the results of his original shoot on "The Fog" as the felt that it wasn't scary enough. So Carpenter and his partner, Debra Hill went back and revamped the screenplay and started to reshoot alot of material to beef up the film into a pure horror film in the vain of his breakout hit.
The newly "retooled" Fog was everything that the studio had wanted and sure enough it turned to be even more successful than "Halloween" The film starts out good old campfire tale being told by an elderly man Mr. Munchak (Oscar Winner John Houseman, "The Paper Chase") (which is an added prologue which was part of the film's reshoots) to a group of young boys which leads into the film itself as the Fishing town of Antonio Bay on the California coast which is celebrating its' Centennial. While the townsfolk prepare to celebrate, the victims of a heinous crime that the town's founding fathers committed over 100 years ago start to rise from the sea to claim retribution. Under the shrowd and cover of the "Fog", these evil spirits carry out their vicious attacks as they search for what is rightly theirs: a golden treasure. Trying to survive the attacks are a DJ Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau, "Escape From New York"), who's broadcasting from a scenic lighthouse with a young son Andy, who may have discovered a clue as to why this fog has arrived, a kindly trucker Castle (Tom Atkins, "Night Of The Creeps"), who picks up comely hitchhiker Elizabeth Solley (Jamie Lee Curtis, "Halloween"), and town doyenne Kathy Williams (Janet Leigh, "Psycho" and real life mother of Jaime), the force behind the centennial celebration. However, it is Father Malone (Hal Holbrook, "The Firm") that might hold the key to the truth about the town's history and real reason why the town is being terrorized.
The film is a visual spectical that isn't as memorable as one would think, but the horror/shock factor is clearly there after 200,000 were spent on reshoots that were needed to make the film, "terrifying". Carpenter was clearly going for the ghost story approach instead of blood and guts one and it clearly didn't go over very well with the studio and not to mention that the film was very short in its' original state. The actors do the best job possible to make the story work and that's where it clearly succeeds with Barbeau and Curtis really playing off the scare factor perfectly. It also really helps that they're both very attractive and who wouldn't want to watch a damsel in distress or in this case, damsels. The supporting players are also very good with Holbrook playing the fatherly priest with an air of secrets with mystery and a little bit of sleeze. The problems with the film lay sole in it's storyline which has its' heart in the right place, but it doesn't quite work out the way it should because of the holes in its' plotline such as to why and who these "fog ghosts" are really after. We do figure out later on the real reason they are there, but the payoff just leaves you a little dumbfounded and makes you go WTF?. Carpenter's movies had always had issue and while some really have worked perfectly like in "They Live", Assault On Precinct 13", "Escape From New York" and "Halloween". However in films such as "Prince of Darkness" and "In The Mouth Of Madness" for example, the payoff doesn't quite work and just falls flat on its face. I do enjoy Carpenter's laid back style and that's why I can easily over come alot of I don't about most of his films.
Shout Factory's newly remastered Blu-Ray release features a sparkling new transfer that was supervised by the film's Director of Photography Dean Cundey, who's had a legendary career filming everything from "Back To The Future" to "Jurassic Park" amongst the blockbusters he's filmed over his memorable career. This print really looks light years better than the solid MGM DVD and topped it twice over and Cundey's supervision makes a huge difference. The 2:35:1 aspect ratio is one that Carpenter's films have always employed with great use and always fills up the screen with great visuals and his film's marvellous sets are always showcased and deservedly so. Look at "The Thing", "Starman" and "Big Trouble In Little China" as examples. The sound quality on this release is also very solid with good clarity in the voices and music courtesy of Carpenter himself who has scored almost every film he's directed with the exceptions of "The Thing", "The Ward", "Memoirs of An Invisible Man" and "Starman". The score is very effective and moody and it does what it's supposed to do which is pump the atmosphere and scares much like his unforgettable "Halloween" score.
This Special Collector's Edition aside from the new transfer features a nice crop of Special Features for which were on MGM's solid DVD are ported over along with some new ones. These include:
Audio Commentary with Writer/Director John Carpenter and Writer/Producer Debra Hill. This previously released commentary featured on the original MGM DVD is excellent with tons of background information and a very laid back tone between Carpenter and Hill, who were a couple until shortly before The Fog started filming. One of Carpenter's better commentaries, but doesn't surpass the brilliant ones he did for "Escape From New York" and "The Thing".
New Audio Commentary with Actors Adrienne Barbeau, Tom Atkins and Production Designer Tommy Lee Wallace: is a much more raucous affair than the relatively low key Carpenter-Hill outing. The trio is obviously having a lot of fun revisiting this film from so long ago. Not too informative much like Carpenter and Hill's, but the more entertaining and engaging of the two.
My Time with Terror with Jamie Lee Curtis: One of the new featurettes included on this disc is an unusually honest and candid conversation with the actress, where she discusses the emotional situation of working with Carpenter and Hill, who had just recently broken up, along with Barbeau, who was Carpenter's new main squeeze.
Dean of Darkness with Dean Cundey: is an excellent sit down with the film's cinematographer, who talks about how frame positioning can evoke certain reactions, as well as his background and career.
Fear on Film: Inside The Fog: A vintage featurette which includes an interview with Carpenter featured on the MGM disc.
Tales from the Mist: Inside The Fog: is another one of the vintage featurettes from the MGM disc, including more interviews featuring more with Adrienne Barbeau.
The Fog: Storyboard to Film: Another one of the featurettes ported over from the MGM disc.
Horror's Hallowed Grounds: A Look at the Film's Locations: A nice, fun and funny tour hosted by Sean Clark showcasing where the film was shot and reshot in 1979.
Outtakes: Sourced from old video and are in pretty rough shape. What do you expect from a young technology in 1980!
Special Effects Tests, Theatrical Trailers, TV Spots, Photo Gallery,Storyboards: All ported over from the MGM release as well.
ABC Sunday Night Movie Promo: This is a hidden EASTER EGG. Look for the gravestones.
"The Fog" isn't a perfect film and is flawed in every single way possible, but as a horror film, it is very effective for what it is. A good, old fashioned ghost story that is designed to scare you in every way it can. After "Halloween", most fans were disappointed with this film since Carpenter had set the bar so high for the genre after that success, but still was a box office success and now has become a cult classic. There is alot to like about the film such as the production design, Carpenter's direction and Barbeau and Curtis who you really want to root for. Shout Factory has done this film proud and the ghosts off the Antonio Bay will be thrilled about it 100 years and a few decades later.