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Fog, The (1980)
Movie Review by The Mortician

Fog, The (1980) Okay, I admit, I'm in a retro mood and John Carpenter's THE FOG was one of those movies I had such high hopes for back in the day, when it first came out. Of course, I was all of ten, twelve years old then, hoping for another HALLOWEEN. The excitement was in the air and it was a movie about supernatural things. Ghosts! Pirates! Zombies! REVENGE! When THE FOG came finally out (after the much ballyhooed reshoots that Carpenter did to AMP IT UP), reactions were mixed, and most fans were pretty disappointed. It just didn't...GRAB you like HALLOWEEN. A lot of it was the writing- you just didn't relate to the main characters and the story was convoluted at best. I've seen the movie probably a dozen times since 1980. I own the DVD. And you know what? I STILL don't understand the story. I've heard that opening monologue by John Houseman probably 500 times now (it's on the superior soundtrack score) and it's such a long and drawn out speech that I lose interest in what he's saying and cannot follow it! It just fails to make sense in my mind. I mean, yeah, in a nutshell, it's about a California coastal town having some kind of bizarre centennial type of celebration, and it turns out the town was founded on the gold stolen from these leper pirates that were lured into shore and drowned by the founding fathers. Or something like that. It's present day, and their ghosts are coming BACK FOR REVENGE amidst all this bright fog that covers the coast. Adrienne Barbeau plays a radio disc jockey spinning lame old band tunes in a lighthouse (!) when all this goes down, so she is able to "warn" folks when the "fog of bad aura" comes to town. Hal Holbrook plays a priest who is related to one of the founding fathers and has some of the gold contraband they stole (melted into a big gold cross, to make things more confusing!), so the final confrontation ends up in a big church. Which makes no sense---why would ghosts or zombies want their gold back? They certainly can't use it for anything. THEY'RE DEAD! And ARE THEY ghosts or zombies? They can't walk through walls, and before attacking folks, they seem to knock on the door forever, waiting to be let in to do their killing. (Maybe they're more like vampires?!?) I didn't understand that at all. Carpenter has said they ARE ghosts...but they act more like zombies. And why does Jamie Lee Curtis, a hot young 18-year-old hitchhiker who gets picked up by fugly forty-five-year-old Tom Atkins, jump right into bed with him? Then join him on his crusade to find a friend who was killed on a boat in the fog? And these two bozos end up being the "heroes." Janet Leigh plays a head town council member who wants to make sure the celebrations happen no matter what the evil fog does. I kept waiting for her to say, "Those beaches will be open!" as it was such an obvious nod to JAWS. The characters and the general storyline make no sense at all, that's the problem with THE FOG. One scene that is horribly laugh-out-loud is when Barbeau is on the air doing her radio show, yelling to her young son and his babysitter to "get away from the fog!"---when all the power is out. I guess she hoped they had a battery-operated radio on? And how can you "get away" from fog that slithers under doors and through windows? Anyway, I've concluded that true enjoyment from this film comes from the atmosphere and surrealistic nightmare nature of the proceedings more than anything that might make sense. Absorb the tremendous nighttime photography, the eerie and cool looking bright fog as it comes over the coastline and invades the town, the intense musical score that accompanies the evil, and the awesome-looking red-eyed pirate ghosts/spirits/zombies (whatever they are) as they commit their murderous deeds. Carpenter stages some pretty neat suspense scenes with the fog, that is a granted, and the movie looks and FEELS so '70's cool (even though it was released in '80) that you can't help but stay mesmerized by the cast of HALLOWEEN players (including ol' Annie and Sheriff Brackett) saying lines so similar to that previous classic that they blessed and being stalked by fog. There's a pretty cool confrontation on top of the lighthouse roof between Barbeau and some zombies in the fog, and their red eyes do look very wicked! I also got the occasional nightmarish chill watching scenes where the fog rolled in and caused havoc with pay phones (which seriously dates the movie!), cars, stores, and anything glass. There's a lot to this movie that really works, if you just sit back, ignore the logic, the stupid characters, and the nonsense dialogue and enjoy it like a surrealistic Dario Argento nightmare. THAT is how to best enjoy THE FOG. Absorb the mood of this very spooky fog moving into the town with something evil in it that cannot be escaped. It can take many forms, ghost-like or zombie-like, and even if you lock your doors, close your windows, and turn out the lights...it's gonna getcha! With that perspective, this is a very enjoyable film with a splendid soundtrack by Carpenter, which adds a new dimension of dread to the foggy stalking...But I can't help but think what a classic MASTERPIECE this would've been had the groundwork for a good screenplay with characters that you could actually relate to been a priority. Still, it's an excellent movie to watch once every coupla years and get a little "jolt" from! As you can see, I kind of have a love-hate relationship with this one...

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