The Fog

Year: 1980
Production Co: AVCO Embassy Pictures
Director: John Carpenter
Writer: John Carpenter/Debra Hill
Cast: Adrienne Barbeau, Tom Atkins, Jamie Lee Curtis, Hal Holbrook, Janet Leigh, John Houseman

This is John Carpenter without any expectations around him. Unless you were an extreme horror geek in the late 70s you only knew him from Halloween , and if you hadn't lost your mind over that like the rest of the horror world had you might have gone into this movie not knowing what to expect and being very pleasantly surprised if you did so, like I was.

It's only nowadays with such a legacy behind Carpenter that you're expecting certain tropes or motifs we all know from his career, and none of the ones I've ever identified with him are there. It's a moody, effective, neat little ghost story with an unshakable sense of place and a real atmosphere.

100 years ago, the founders of the picturesque town on Antonio Bay California scuttled a ship offshore containing a trove of treasure and a crew sick with leprosy, killing the men so they didn't bring the dread disease ashore and stealing the treasure to fund the settlement.

And so with the centenary approaching, strange things start happening at midnight. Power goes on and off. Glass cracks and shatters for no reason. An ominous, silent fog drifts into town from the bay, enveloping everything and containing something terrible.

The characters trying to make sense of it are genre icon Tom Atkins as young Nick, genre icon Jamie Lee Curtis as the hitcher he picks up and who becomes his love interest, Hal Holbrook as the local priest who finds evidence of the town's terrible secret founding in the walls of his church, another genre icon in Janet Leigh as the fussy alderwoman trying to organise the centenary celebrations, and yet another genre icon Adrienne Barbeau as radio DJ and lighthouse keeper Stevie, who's smooth, sexy tones keep Antonio bay residents company in the small hours.

The happenings become stranger and eventually more deadly, figures emergining from the fog every time it descends on the town, and when the truth about it emerges (both to you and the characters), it's a race aginst time before more bodies pile up.

Ghost stories set in single, enclosed places are always good becaue they heighten the sense of isolation, and in this film, like few others, cutting to different characters and what they're facing in the moment does so even more, especially as they're physically cut off from each other when the fog arrives.

You have real sense of the geography of the place and the moods of the locations, and the animated/miniature long shots of the fog rolling across the water towards the town are the stuff of movie magic, no matter how obsolete the effects are these days. It gave me a similar feeling to Kong descending into his volcano-strewn landscape or the T-rex appearing through the electric wires in Jurassic Park.

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