Non Canon Review: The Fog (1980)

JUNE 13, 2008


OK, I have to apologize to the makers of the remake of The Fog. In my review for that film, I mocked the idea of having an unveiling ceremony at 9 o clock at night. Well, that’s the way it is staged in the original, something I had forgotten. Granted, there are still plenty of other things to mock about the remake, but that is not one of them.

I say forgotten, but I’m still going to consider this a non canon review, because I remembered the jist of the film, as well as certain particular scenes (like when our two groups finally meet together in the church), even though I hadn’t seen it in over 10 years (and on a TV broadcast at that). I also remembered that I thought it was pretty damn good and didn’t understand why lots of folks (Carpenter included) considered it a letdown. I mean, yeah, it’s no Halloween, but it’s a solid ghost movie, with a fast pace, great cast, a few scares, and a super hot looking Nancy Loomis. What’s not to love?

One thing I really dig about the movie is how it’s like 3 different short movies combined. You got Tom Atkins and Jamie Lee Curtis investigating an abandoned ship, Adrienne Barbeau at a lighthouse/radio station with only Charles Cyphers to talk to (not a bad gig really, Cyphers rules), and finally Hal Holbrook, Janet Leigh, and Ms. Loomis discovering horrible secrets about the town that they are about to honor (at 9 pm!). Eventually, the stories blend (though Barbeau never shares a scene with any of the above), and the excitement is ramped up in kind. In a way, it’s even more “fun” than Halloween – it’s not as well made, certainly, but it’s almost nonstop in terms of different locations, story development, etc. I’ve read that Halloween was intended to be a thrill ride; if so, it’s like the first 30 seconds of a roller coaster, where you are slowly going around, coming up, and then hurtling to the bottom, whereas The Fog is the rest of the ride, with lots of ups and downs, twists and turns, etc.

If there’s one real issue, it’s the lack of ghost action. They only need 6 folks to kill, and they get 3 right off the bat. With this sort of “limit” in place, they don’t have a lot to do, and I’d like to see them more. It’s not a slasher film, so seeing them stand around watching our characters wouldn’t do, but why not just up that limit to an even 10 and get another 4 kills out of the deal? Rob Bottin’s ghost designs are pretty damn good, but we barely get to see any of them.

The score is fantastic as well. Not that that’s a surprise with Carpenter, but it’s easily one of his best scores. There’s some similarities to the Halloween themes, but you get some repetition with every composer. Look at James Horner, ALL of his scores sound alike, and he’s just composing! Carpenter is also writing, directing, and even acting, in his most visible role ever (until Body Bags anyway) as Holbrook’s assistant.

I also like how ridiculously long the opening credits last. We’re like 10 minutes into the film and they are still rolling out at a glacial pace. It’s awesome.

The DVD (which I finally opened when I got home, some three years after purchasing it) has some nice extras. For starters: a better than usual commentary with Carpenter and Debra Hill. He still drones on about lighting and frequently narrates the action, but he discusses a lot about shooting locations, effects, and the troubled production (without really going into details – he mentions Charles Cyphers’ role was reduced due to the reshoots, but doesn’t really explain how). It would have been nice to have some of the cut material presented in the extras, but alas. We also get an old making of from the time the film was release (produced by Mick Garris!), as well as a new one with lots of folks giving new interviews (no Jamie Lee though – her interview portions are recycled from the 1980 one). There are also a handful of trailers and a standard blooper reel, plus some notes from Carpenter on the interior sleeve.

Speaking of sleeves – what’s with so many new DVDs not even having the damn things? They used to be as standard as the outer sleeve – if nothing else it would have the chapter menu printed for easy reference. But they are so rare nowadays it was actually odd to not only see the thing inside, but to see that it had content (MGM was always pretty good with that though). Goddamn lazy home video departments...

It may not be one of Carpenter’s best films (I’d put it at around #7), but it’s certainly one of his best “crowd” movies. Halloween and The Thing are so highly revered it’s almost blasphemous to chuckle during their occasional “weak” moments (I use the term very loosely), but with The Fog it’s OK, and thus it makes for a grand experience. Even Carpenter has come around to it, now regarding it as one of his better pictures as well. It couldn’t have been easy for anyone involved to follow up Halloween (half the cast, and pretty much the entire crew from that film is present here), and considering the production problems, its something of a minor classic in retrospect.

What say you?


  1. When I was younger I loved this movie. The whole Fog idea scared the shit out of me. How can you escape fog?? Plus that ghost has a hook. Not my preferred way to die.

  2. The Fog's pretty good, but it's not nearly as good as Carpenter's masterpiece, They Live.


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