by Peter Nielsen
Let’s start this review by stating a fact! I am a HUGE John Carpenter fan and have been all my life. I remember watching bits and pieces of Halloween as a kid and being absolutely terrified, but the first one I actually watched was Escape from New York and that was it! I was hooked! And to this date Escape from New York remains one of my all-time favorite movies.
I have since then devoured every movie he’s directed and liked them all. Well, maybe not Ghosts of Mars so much, but that one has to be a mistake, right? Just look at this impressive list… Assault on Precinct 13, The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China, Prince of Darkness, They Live, In the Mouth of Madness and the two I’ve already mentioned earlier…
I’m sure that at least some of you will nod approvingly with a smile on your face. I’ve even caught the TV-movie Someone’s Watching Me at one point and seem to remember it to be pretty decent, but this week I’ve chosen to review The Fog.
This is an old fashioned ghost story that basically holds you in its unrelenting grip from the get-go. John Houseman (Rollerball, Three Days of the Condor) as Mr. Machen sets it up beautifully with his chilling opening monologue and the following 20-25 minutes slowly builds up the tension for things to come. After that first half hour I’m usually already on the edge of my seat with the popcorn-bowl forgotten on the table.
The small Californian fishing town Antonio Bay is getting ready to celebrate its 100 year birthday, which of course will be filled with festivities and the town’s councilwoman Kathy Williams is working hard to get everything organized. She’s played by Janet Leigh whom you’ll recognize from classics such as Touch of Evil and Psycho for instance.
Her real-life daughter Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween, Prom Night, Trading Places) plays the hitchhiker Elizabeth who gets picked up by Nick, portrayed by another genre favorite… Namely Tom Atkins (sans moustache) and they strike up a little love-affair. You’ve seen Mr. Atkins in Escape from New York, Halloween 3: Season of the Witch perhaps, and also in Night of the Creeps, which incidentally will be discussed in an upcoming episode of the Forgotten Flix Podcast.
I like Nick and Elisabeth ‘cause they seem to be down to earth and easy going people and their relationship doesn’t seem forced in any way, it’s not even dwelled upon much. It sort of just happens, you know? All the characters are actually very likeable, come to think of it, because it’s not a person who’s the menace here. It’s the fog… or rather what’s in the fog.
Ok, let’s go back in time for just a moment. Just long enough to tell the back story at least. One hundred years ago a wealthy man named Blake wanted to establish a leper-colony a few miles outside of Antonio Bay, which was little more than a settlement at the time. He was bringing his gold and men on the ship Elizabeth Dane, but some of the townsfolk got disgusted and greedy and decided to sink the ship and steal the gold, thus being able to turn the settlement into a township and also build the church.
We learn this from a journal that Father Malone unearths from one of the church-walls. His great grandfather was one of the six conspirators of the plan which lead to the death of Blake and his leprosy-ridden crew. So in essence the 100th year anniversary is celebrating thieves and murderers. This discovery of course both shocks and saddens Father Malone. He is played by the great Hal Holbrook from such diverse movies as Magnum Force and Fletch Lives to name just two.
So when the fog rolls in off the coast of Antonio Bay, Blake and his crew returns to exact revenge on the town, and they do so indiscriminately and brutally. It is a scary sight, seeing this fog, with a weird pulsating light emanating from it, gliding through the streets and over the hills as if it was a living entity. And then… dead men reach out of it with hooks and swords! I mean c’mon… As if the fog wasn’t enough!
Hang on for a sec, I just need to compose myself here… ok, that’s better!
Let’s go to the lighthouse, shall we? This is where we’ll find the husky-voiced DJ/radio-hostess Stevie Wayne, who keeps the townsfolk company at night and all through the witching hour. She plays soft jazz and big band music and… well, easy listening kind of music, which just suits this setting perfectly, in my opinion.
She’s also the one who keeps everyone updated to what’s happening in town, reading the local weather-reports and shipping news and whatnot! She’s played by the lovely Adrienne Barbeau whom you’ll most probably know from The Cannonball Run, Swamp Thing or Escape from New York perhaps.
On this particular 21st of April she’ll be the one trying to warn people, since she has the best view-point and can follow the fog’s progress through town. This gets especially frantic as she desperately tries to get in touch with her young son who’s at home with the babysitter as the fog creeps closer…
This is one of my favorite horror movies, one that can actually still give me the chills, even after multiple viewings. I recommend everyone who’s only seen that abomination they call a remake from 2005, to please check this one out instead. I promise you won’t be disappointed! And for those of you who’ve seen neither, you’ll now know which one to watch!
That’s it for me this week! I’ll leave with a little thank you note to Mr. Carpenter for making me soil my underwear every time the fog rolls in.
Until next time my friends…