Film Reviews The Fog

Published on April 24th, 2013 | by Michaela Buckley

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‘A Hazy Mess’ – Film Review of John Carpenter’s ‘The Fog’

The Fog is a 1980 horror film directed by John Carpenter, set in a seaside town called Antonio Bay that is celebrating it’s centennial when some funky stuff starts going down.

Still in the throes of his 1978 Halloween hit, Carpenter delivers the Fog initially in a slasher horror style, with moody introduction to main character, Stevie Wayne, host of her own independent radio show that plays smooth sultry songs, delivered with seductive voice over for the town’s residents , passing drivers and anyone else who likes a good late night lovin’. She is played by Adrienne Barbeau, who is known as a bit of a scream Queen and later married director John Carpenter.

As all directors who fancy their actresses do, the first 5 or 10 minutes of the film covers unimportant side and incidental characters remarking how they “Would like to meet her” and would happily break up with their wives or possibly cheat on them to be with her. You know, I was always told that if you have something valuable you should make sure you shouldn’t tempt people with it by getting it out all the time (oo-er) and talking about it. As if we need to be told that Adrienne Barbeau is supremely bangable, like we might not. I s’pose that’s why Carpenter and Barbeau aren’t together anymore.

Adrienne Barbeau

“I’m Stevie Wayne and if you don’t have anything to do right now, I’ll be here, playing music, all through the witching hour. Even if you do have something to do, keep me turned on for a while and I’ll try my best to do the same for you.”

As the story goes, when the town was being founded there were some folks who wanted to create a leper colony nearby, other folks weren’t happy and so lured them and their ship onto some rocks and used the plunderings to establish modern Antonio Bay. Now it’s approaching the centenary celebrations weird stuff is happening around the town.
Basically it’s another revenge ghost story.

You see I already have a few issues with this film’s premise, for a start, 100 years is a pitifully short time to be having “age-old” style ghost stories such as this, and what’s more, in 1880 (as that’s 100 years before the film’s release date) there weren’t much in the way of galleon-esque ships, piratey people OR colonising happening, because that’s all stuff that happened in the 1600’s and that’s at the tail end of it.
Secondly, they “lured” them onto the rocks by building a fire, creating a false beacon. How stupid. What were they doing out at sea, when they had already established contact on shore? They had to have had contact because otherwise the “lurers” of this situation couldn’t have known about the lepers and their intentions. Why weren’t they on shore and how did they forget where the rocks were?
Another thing while we’re at it, if the year was 1880 what was there if there wasn’t a town yet and why were the founders there if they hadn’t yet done any founding? It’s all pretty shaky. This supernatural horror isn’t believable!

Anyway, there’s a poorly executed dual narrative with a hitchhiker played by Jamie Lee Curtis (who was in Carpenter’s Halloween) which doesn’t work as there has to be something interesting happening between stories for you to remain immersed while there is a shift.
She also looks like she is about 16 and then she starts sleeping with a man who looks like he’s about 50. It’s really weird because the film doesn’t attempt to comment on it at all, it’s especially interesting as she was so chaste in Halloween and she’s quite the opposite here. Jamie Lee Curtis’ real life mother is also in the film, Janet Leigh, who is the lady in the shower in Psycho. I guess screaming and getting naked runs in the family.

Ghost: Knock knock! Old Granny: Who's there? Ghost: Plot device for endangerment of child.

Ghost: Knock knock!
Old Granny: Who’s there?
Ghost: Plot device for endangerment of child.

When “The Fog” finally hits, already all of the characters have uninhibitively succumbed to the idea of mysterious goings on, despite not much actually happening of any note and begin lull into a dazed hysteria. The threat of “The Fog” and what is in it, is… well… it’s not, to be honest. It’s not a threat at all. For a start, it’s clear that there is just people in the fog. People with lame weapons that use those to kill. If the film had convicted itself to the slasher style, this might have been rather effective, but instead, it opts for a zombie style approach, except with characters too bloody idiotic to keep windows closed or even to remain seated when the “threat” literally knocks on the door. One of the characters OPENS IT. But I suppose that is the threat.
People’s deficiency.
Perhaps this film is in fact showcasing and highlighting the scariest thing about man, his infinite stupidity. If that is the case then this is probably the scariest film ever. The enemies are hardly formidable. They’re slow and easy to escape from, I would say a walking pace would do it.
The film also forces the ghosties into frankly hilarious situations like crawling up a roof and the characters are left in about as much confusion as we are.

There is a priest bloke who looks frighteningly similar to a certain author, and has a real air of self importance, thinking he is the key to everything, so when the ghosts go you are left trying detect the immense disappointment in his face as he realises he’s not actually very integral at all.

Left, Janet Leigh. Right, Edgar Allen Poe.

Left, Janet Leigh. Right, Edgar Allen Poe.

The plot is really weak, it even manages to outstay it’s welcome at only 89 minutes and in the end just amounts to “Pirates be wanting their gold”. Despite being done by Carpenter the music is dull and monotonous, a bit like the wooden acting, which feels as though we’re watching the script rehearsal and not the final product, none of the actors make it their own or deliver with any conviction. If the story, premise or characters were more interesting it wouldn’t be quite as painful, but instead we have to rely on Barbeau’s smooth voice to get us anywhere.

What makes it so disappointing, is that Carpenter usually has so much unseen depth (like fog-HA!) and scope, he creates realistic characters against a force to reckon with. But The Fog feels so insular and suffocating. He usually uses every aspect of storytelling and filmmaking to bring the danger to life. There is so much potential with the Fog, he could have used better lighting and more uses of the fog itself, he has the supernatural license to!

This film suffers an identity crisis and lack of refinement in development, too much build up, too many cuts away from the action and not enough impending danger leaves it all a bit… cloudy.

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