Director: John Carpenter

USA - 1980

   Hoff!   

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It begins, more or less, with the unmistakable tones of John Houseman telling a story, setting up all that occurred a hundred years before and everything that is about to take place in the sleepy coastal town of Antonio Bay. The archetypes are all present- past betrayal by the institutions of authority, whispered legends that drift through the generations of fishermen and clergy, and bloodthirsty revenge both from beyond the grave and from under the majestic ocean. 

There really isn't much logic to the storyline of John Carpenter's 1979 masterwork The Fog, merely that old standby of truly visceral and enduring horror - dream logic (see also Suspiria and The Keep). Take, for instance, the bravura opening sequence (after the John Houseman prelude) when The Fog begins to winnow through the deserted streets of Antonio Bay. Electrical fields shift, alarms go off, dogs bark, and things spin off their axis as that freaky thick fog advances through the empty streets. This sequence displays perfectly Carpenter's mastery of the Panavision frame (a skill which seems to have deserted him post-1987) and does so much in terms of atmosphere that it boggles the mind that the film is able to sustain that kind of dread for as long as it does. The Fog itself is a marvel of film editing, expressing inexorable menace even as it is just the handiwork of gifted special effects guys. 

Radio DJ Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau) and her son, along with society matron Kathy Williams (Janet Leigh), her surly assistant Sandy (played by Nancy Loomis from Halloween, you remember, the one who wasn't Jamie Lee or P.J. Soles), fisherman Nick Castle (Tom Atkins- later of Halloween III), buxom hitchhiker/artist Liz (Jamie Lee Curtis, who is at least playing a hitchhiker in the late seventies, which means she's in bed with the first person who picks her up less than five minutes after she's introduced), and drunk priest Father Malone (Hal Holbrook), are bearing witness to the wrath of the leprous denizens of the sunken ship the Elizabeth Dane. You heard me right; we have zombie lepers back from a watery grave. They've got a spooky ghost ship, lots of hooks, swords, other instruments of impaling, and a hunger for blood. 

In addition to that, there's also a town centenary afoot, and there's nothing that'll spoil a town centenary like unearthly zombie vengeance. The characters are all running around (most not even meeting each other until the last ten minutes of the film) trying not to be killed, and it all adds together to make up an odd little marvel of modern horror. 

Supposedly there's a Special Edition DVD coming out in the U.S. later this year, and we can rightfully hope so. But for now, The Fog can wait, spilling around the corner when you least expect it, unclear narrative and maggotty corpses ready to be deployed. The story can always be told, even (shudder) panned-and-scanned for TNT, of what rose out of the Pacific and rained havoc on Antonio Bay.

 

 

 

-- Copyright 2002 by Jason Shawhan

 

 

 

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