31 Screams in October, Vol. 2, #13: The Fog (1980)

Posted: October 13, 2015 in Movie Review
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Fog (1980)

Director: John Carpenter

Starring: Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Atkins, John Houseman, Janet Leigh, Hal Holbrook

See if you’ve heard this one before: A quiet, peaceful town gathers together for a big celebration when all hell breaks loose. People start dying, apparently the victims of silent, slow-moving ghosts. This continues until somebody realizes, “Hey…. we might actually have something these guys want!” The stolen property is then returned and the ghosts leave, but not before finalizing their vengeance upon those who wrong them. Sounds like a pretty standard ghost story to me. That’s pretty much what you’ve got here, and “The Fog” would be just another throwaway supernatural flick (a horror sub-genre which I grow more and more tired of as time goes on) if it weren’t for the group of professionals who helped put it together.

The town in question is Antonio Bay, located somewhere in Northern California. The date is April 21st, 1980, exactly one-hundred years to the day that the town was first formed. That day is also remembered as being synonymous with the destruction of a clipper ship named the Elizabeth Dane, which carried a crew composed of lepers. Not surprisingly, the fog that rolls into town…. against the wind, no less…. carries within it an old and beaten up clipper ship. The fog catches up with a smaller, modern-day fishing vessel and ghosts emerge from within to quickly dispatch the boat’s three crewmen in gruesome fashion.

At that same time, we are introduced to our other main characters as they each notice peculiar things going on around town. Adrienne Barbeau stars as radio DJ/watchtower operator Stevie Wayne. Stevie gets her weather reports (and presumably other favors) from Dan O’Bannon (Charles Cyphers). Nick Castle (an obvious homage to the actor/director of the same name), as played by Tom Atkins, has the honor of ferrying hitchhiker Elizabeth (Jamie Lee Curtis) back to his house just as the craziness begins and blows out all the windows in his truck on the way home. Janet Leigh and Nancy Loomis also star as Kathy Williams and her assistant, Sandy, respectively.

Father Malone, played by Hal Holbrook, has made a horrifying discovery inside his church. A brick is knocked loose at midnight, revealing behind it a diary written by Malone’s grandfather 100 years earlier. The diary details the events that came to pass which led to the birth of Antonio Bay. The only trouble is that what is written in the diary contradicts what is written in the town’s history books, as no mention was ever made of the fact that the lepers from the clipper ship had originally tried to bargain with the colonists at Antonio Bay for a piece of land to call their own, offering a hefty sum in gold coins as payment. The colonists balked at the idea of living so close to a leper colony, opting instead to lure the lepers to their own annihilation and take the gold, anyway.

Because it was six of the original colonists who made this fateful decision, the vengeful ghosts now intend to take six lives for a sort of balance. With the men on the boat, they already had three. The fourth comes on the second night, when the ghosts pay Dan a visit. He answers the door like an idiot, despite pleas over the phone from Stevie. The fifth victim is the babysitter for Stevie’s son, Andy. The boy, whom had earlier discovered a wooden board with the word “Dane” on it, nearly becomes Victim #6 before Nick and Elizabeth get him out of the house just in time. Stevie, after pleading over the radio for Andy’s safety, is herself attacked and chased up to the roof of the watchtower. Meanwhile, all the surviving main characters retreat to the church, where Father Malone figures out just in the nick of time that the big gold Holy Cross inside the church is made from the melted-down gold coins the townspeople stole from the lepers, and of which Malone’s grandfather was the keeper. When the ghosts barge into the church, Father Malone offers the cross and himself to satisfy them. They take the cross but leave Father Malone alive and bewildered. “Why not me?” he asks. Father Malone should have kept his mouth shut, because the ghosts later return and behead him, thus claiming their sixth and final victim.

By no means is “The Fog” as suspenseful as John Carpenter’s first entry in the horror genre…. but few films could make such a claim over 1978’s “Halloween.” “The Fog” is also not terribly original. In spite of this, John Carpenter holds your attention throughout the film, especially with the soundtrack (which, as he usually does for his movies, he composed). Many cast members from “Halloween” return for this one, and Carpenter himself has a cameo appearance…. Early on, he has a scene (as Bennett) with Hal Holbrook. As reliable as Holbrook is, the real strength in the cast, in my opinion, comes from Adrienne Barbeau. Usually saddled with the tough chick or nagging wife role, here she is allowed to be vulnerable. Her position as a single mother who is unable to protect either herself or her son as she is stuck inside the watchtower (both out of self-preservation and a sense of duty to warn everyone else in town about the fog) makes her stand out as the most sympathetic character. Without Barbeau and the eerie soundtrack by John Carpenter, this movie, a modern horror cult classic, would have long ago faded away like a dissipating cloud.

  1. vinnieh says:

    I love this movie. That opening scene around the campfire is chillingly done and so eerie.

  2. Sylvia Williams says:

    Well done!!! I have seen this one, and I do totally agree with your critique. I especially enjoy the use of several older stars, Holbrook and Leigh. Was this the only time Janet and Jamie Lee worked together?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s