A thick fog rolls in to the small coastal town of Antonio Bay, exactly 100 years after a conspiracy by its founders resulted in the deaths of all the men aboard the ship known as the Elizabeth Dane.
In celebration of Studio Canal’s brand new 4K restoration, John Carpenter’s The Fog has once again engulfed cinemas across the UK, presented in stunning 4K. While The Fog isn’t often the first film that springs to mind when thinking about the work of John Carpenter, it is most definitely one of his most under-appreciated movies.
It starts with a creepy camp-fire story told by an old sailor as a group of children surround him, aglow with the light of the fire. He tells them of the legend of the Elizabeth Dane - a ship that wrecked in the waters of their coastal town, killing everyone on-board. It is a delightfully creepy and old-school tale that sets the tone perfectly for a film that is less a terrifying horror movie and more a slow-burn, suspenseful ghost story that’s thick with atmosphere.
Jamie Lee Curtis teams up with Carpenter for the second time in her career, playing a character that is almost the polar opposite of Halloween’s sweet and innocent Laurie Strode. She plays Elizabeth Solley, a drifter hitch-hiking from town to town, trying to find her place in the world. She gets picked up by the always awesome Tom Atkins, playing a character called Nick Castle - a great little nod to the original actor who played Michael Myers. Elizabeth and Nick hit it off straight away and, before you know it, they’re in bed together! See? Elizabeth is a far cry from the timid Laurie Strode who was mortified to hear that somebody wanted to take her to her high school dance. Curtis and Atkins have great chemistry and all these years later, it’s just a lot of fun to watch these two icons of horror cinema bounce off of one another. But they aren’t the only horror icons here - Jamie Lee Curtis’ mother Janet Leigh also stars as Kathy Williams, the woman organising and overseeing Antonio Bay’s centennial celebrations along with her assistant Sandy, played by Halloween’s Nancy Kyes. Damn, The Fog really is a who’s who of horror cinema! The real standout here is Adrienne Barbeau, who plays Antonio Bay’s resident radio host, Stevie Wayne. While she never really gets to interact with the other characters, she still comes away as one of the best-rounded characters in the entire movie and perhaps the most useful, too. You see, once the titular fog descends upon the town, Stevie sits perched in her broadcasting station in the town’s lighthouse, warning those below of everything that’s happening. Even when she isn’t on screen, her presence is still felt as her voice flows from the speakers of a car radio or echoes through dingy bars. She’s a fantastic character who is also one of the most vulnerable, as she has to face the horrors of what the Fog brings all alone, secluded from the rest of the town and its people.
The titular Fog is a character unto itself and as soon as you see those thick, glowing clowns rolling in, your body immediately tightens, as if you’re preparing yourself for the terror that’s about to be unleashed. The Fog is carrying the vengeful spirits of the Elizabeth Dane crew, who are hell-bent on enacting violent revenge on the residents of Antonio Bay for a 100-year-old conspiracy. The spirits themselves are kept shrouded in darkness, mere silhouettes within the fog that engulfs them. When it comes to horror, Carpenter is a “less is more” type filmmaker, believing that oftentimes what we don't see is a lot scarier than what we do, and this technique works beautifully in The Fog. We see just enough of the vengeful spirits, without it ever spilling into eye-rolling overkill. In typical Carpenter fashion, as well as writing and directing, he also provides the score for The Fog and it is an expertly crafted and deeply ominous piece of work, serving as a perfect accompaniment to the horrors on screen. This is arguably one of Carpenter’s best scores.
John Carpenter’s The Fog is a wonderfully old-fashioned ghost story that’s rich in character and dripping with style. Still very early in his career at this point, John Carpenter was fast carving a name for himself within the genre and honing his skills as a master of suspense. The minimalist style on display in Halloween just two years earlier is carried over to The Fog, with Carpenter relying heavily on the use of light and shadows to crank up the suspense. The Fog plays almost like an ultra-scary episode of Scooby Doo, with a rag-tag group of people trying their best to solve the mystery of what is happening to their town. It is cool and intense and while perhaps not quite as memorable as some of his best work, The Fog is a fantastic entry into Carpenter’s overall filmography and a film that holds up exceptionally well.
The Fog (4K) is available now in a spectacular Collector’s Edition set from Studio Canal.