The Fog (1980)
Directed by John Carpenter
Written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill
Jamie Lee Curtis
We all probably know what the story entails in The Fog, but to review it briefly, The town of Antonio Bay is cursed due to the founding father’s destruction of Captain Blake’s ship, the death of his people, and stealing his gold which is invested in the town. On the 100th year anniversary, the spirits of Blake and his crew come back for revenge and to take back what is rightfully theirs, the crew’s gold which was melted and fashioned into a giant gold cross.
This is a great ghost story movie that begins with creepy poltergeist occurrences piercing a quiet night and builds to a crescendo of horrific deaths at the hands of the dead spirits. The mood and atmosphere are top notch in this film. Carpenter took a queue from the EC Horror Comics of the 50’s and fashioned it into a classic ghost tale of American Gothic Horror.
One of the creepiest scenes to me is the attack on the fishing boat, when the fishermen come up from below and see stoic figures standing in the fog on the bow of the ship.
The mystery of what these shadowy figures look like, the lack of details, makes it scarier then fully shown ghost images. Quite often the only thing in clear view are the hooks that these ghouls are holding in their shriveled hands. The whole sequence with Mrs. Kobritz, the babysitter at the house was tense, a prime example of Carpenter’s mastery of suspense.
Carpenter once again crafts a wonderful score for the film including the creepy main theme. You can hear it below in the video. I had purchased the film soundtrack and play it often during our Halloween activities.
What most people don’t realize about the film are the multitude of references and homage’s to other horror icons in it. I point out a few in the Fun Facts.
Tom Atkins’ character mentions Bodega Bay, which was the setting of The Birds (1963).
On the radio, a search for the lost fishing boat is mentioned – the radio voice names, Waitely Point and Arkham Reef as points being searched. Both are frequently used titles, (one a name, the other a place) in stories by H.P. Lovecraft.
Carpenter and Hill were inspired to write this after a trip to Stonehenge and seeing the ancient ruin shadowed in thick fog. Another strong influence on the story was The Trollenberg Terror (1958).
When water from the ships nameplate spills on the cassette deck at the radio station, the tape says, “like an albatross around the neck,” a quote from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
The coroner in the film is named Dr. Phibes, an obvious nod to the Vincent Price films, The Abominable Dr. Phibes and Dr. Phibes Returns.
The part of Father Malone was originally offered to Christopher Lee, but he was unable to clear his schedule for the shoot.
This film brought mother and daughter horror stars together in a film, Janet Leigh (Psycho) and Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween). Both owe much of their success to the popularity of the horror films they had stared in.
Carpenter’s Main Theme for The Fog:
This ‘Making of The Fog’ video is about a half hour long:
Great review of an atmospheric movie.
Thanks, there wasn’t too much to be said that hadn’t been said already but I mentioned a few of my fave scenes. The movie does have a few hokey lines and typical 80’s cliches’, but I still love to watch it 🙂
The opening campfire scene always gives me chills and really sets the tone for the movie.
Houseman’s voice is mesmerizing in that scene. Makes you want to hire him to come over your house and read ghost stories on Halloween, lol.
Totally agree, he just has that wise voice with a hint of menace that really makes you listen to the chilling story.
I’m surprised more horror movies didn’t use that approach, it just seems so natural to set up the back story for a ghost story film.
A lot of horror films today could certainly benefit from this approach, it just adds such an eerie impact.
Great movie! Great work! Great pic of Barbeau!!!!
The pic of Barbeau is from Cannonball Run (obviously). Worthy of the ‘Golden Globes’ award for the year!
I’ll cast a vote!
Love this movie! And being your usual astute self, you noted the EC Comics homage. Creepy, good fun – I just watched this the other night with my sons (aged 11 and 13 – target demographic?). Fun review to read – thanks!
So many 1970’s-80’s (heck, even 90’s!) horror films simply don’t stand the test of time, becoming swiftly dated when we watch them today. It’s not just the fashions, music, hairstyles and cars. There’s something else, something missing, even if I can’t always put my finger on it. And after all, some just plain suck. But Carpenter’s The Fog holds up so well. It’s ‘coastal-resort-Gothic’, I think…but whatever it really is, I adore this flick and thanks to this post and review, am adding it to my Halloween-month watch list for sure.
I think a classic ghost story usually transcends its era. It almost seems as if this was a great novel that was later filmed. It does have a few 80’s cliches’ here and there, like the arms coming thru the windows, but it always feels like its own story and not derivative of something else.
One of my favorites. Well done!
Love this movie, and love Adrienne Barbeau. Great stuff!
It’s been ages since I have seen this movie but I do love a good ghost story . Nah I’ll just watch it to see Adrienne Barbeau again. Great review. I love that you discribed that we dont see full details of the ghosts. I agree that does make it more scary
Would sharks with an appetite for humans added something to this movie or would that’ve been too much?
I little too much, that’s what we have Sharknado for 🙂
Has Carpenter never made a “Jaws style” movie, that you know of? That would be great with his music! I really only know of his “Halloween Theme” so correct me if that’s not exemplary for his other scores. …he did direct and score “Halloween” didn’t he…? …ok, go ahead, shoot me…
Amazing review dude. John Carpenter is a living legend who should not be retired. I mean, he deserves it. But my selfish ass still wants him making movies…
I liked reading your review. In my opinion, you hit on all of the reasons that make this particular Carpenter film a great ghost story. I agree with you, that by not showing the ghosts in full form, but rather keeping them mostly hidden in the shadows, notched up the tension, and made it a more effective film. The scene with the babysitter was a particularly excellent part of the movie, that during my first watching, way back when, had me on the edge of my seat.
Thank you for sharing the trivia information you did. I found it very
informative, and learned a few things I had either never known or had simply forgotten.
As an aside, I have always loved the original poster for the film, and need to get a copy from eBay, one of these days.