ARROW IN THE HEAD REVIEWS

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The Fog (1980)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: John Carpenter

Starring:
Adrienne Barbeau/Stevie
Jamie Lee Curtis/Elizabeth
Tom Atkins/Nick
Hal Holbrook/Father Malone
7 10
PLOT-CRUNCH
On the day of Antonio Bay’s (a small fishing community) 100th birthday bash, a badass, glowing fog rolls into town with evil intentions. You see, hiding behind the thick white coating of the fog, is a horde of pissed off ghosts who crave vengeance like I quench Dutch girls. Fuck the blob...beware the Fog!
THE LOWDOWN
“There’s something in the Fog!”-- Stevie

"The Fog" was John Carpenter’s horror follow up to the highly successful "Halloween", and although not as accomplished as its predecessor, it still showcased enough old school qualities and high class to make it a cloud of smoke worth getting lost in. The film kicks off with some groggy dude telling a ghost story to a bunch of kiddies around a campfire. That intro is a perfect hint to the “timeless” feel of the movie to come. While watching the bulk of "The Fog", I felt like Carpenter was telling ME a “classic” ghost story around a campfire. We also had booze, stewardesses and back-flipping clowns around that same campfire, but that’s my own neuroses getting in there.

I believe that Carpenter fans will get more strokes out of this sweet tale than the average viewers. All the classic Carpenter spices are here and at their most potent. We get yet another classic Carpenter score...the music here is beyond the shite, IT’S THE SHITE, SHITE! We’re also blessed with a bang-on penchant towards gradual buildup that perfectly captures the momentum of each scene. And last but not least, we also get JC’s knack at tackling the scares with simple tactics, nothing fancy, just the basics. That made the horror tricks quite effective treats.

A note on that aspect: It’s funny how when you go back to these older films, you realize just how much simplicity can be so frightening. I got more chills in seeing a piece of wood dripping water or hearing a mysterious knock on a door than most of the hi-tech stuff that I digest on-screen these days. But hey, that’s just me or the helium talking. Back to our regular scheduled programming.

Now sure, the characters in this piece are nothing special on paper, but the charismatic actors playing them elevated the roles to a higher level and in consequence, allowed me to give a rat’s ass about their fate. You can’t go wrong with Adrienne Barbeau, Janet Leigh, Tom “I can’t get enough of that dude” Atkins and Jamie Lee “I don’t show my breasts in horror films but I will in Trading Places” Curtis. The other BIG star of this show was, without a doubt, the Fog itself. Carpenter sure knows how to slap around his smoke machine and that blue-ish glare he gave the evil cloud really had me lapping it all up like Linda Blair at a Pea Soup buffet. Wait till you see the shady fog peer from behind a hill as it heads for its target, crawl under a door to sneak in, or subtly chase a car through the streets. WOW! Props to Carpenter for pulling it off!

I do have a few qualms with the film though. First off, I didn’t like how most of the characters caught on so fast as to what was going down. Not only that, but they accepted the possibility of a “ghost invasion” way too easily. Is everybody a Mulder fan in this movie? Come on! Where are the skeptics? The Scully fanboys? That faintly tarnished the characters’ credibility for me. But my main pet peeve with the film really had to do with my expectations. Taking into account that the film is mostly an hour and 10 minutes of build up, I was hoping, praying, nay...DEMANDING a strong payoff. I wanted to see those pissed off ghosts crash that town party and clean house. Alas, that didn’t happen and the film took a more intimidate “Night of the Living Dead” approach to its ending.

But when the end credits rolled, "The Fog" was still a tasty, restrained yet spooky joyride. If it wasn’t its old fashioned vibe, its gorgeous cinematography, its drop dead gorgeous locations or its "pop goes the weasel" boo scares seducing me, it was its slew of eerie moments, its gripping atmosphere and the token Carpenter “sour-note” last frame. This flick will most likely put the less impatient viewers to sleep, but will certainly please the seasoned horror fan who on occasion likes to take it slow on the genre hump. Get the marshmallows and the “Jim Bean” ready...it's campfire story time!
GORE
Although we do get some folks getting stabbed with a various array of sharp objects, the film’s emphasis isn’t on the red stuff, so if you’re looking for gore, look in your mailbox instead.
ACTING
Adrienne Barbeau (Stevie) is at her most charismatic here, nailing the part like a champ. Jamie Lee Curtis (Elizabeth) does what she has to do with what she’s given and looks particularly hot here. I can watch Tom Atkins (Nick) peel potatoes and be entertained, so imagine how I feel when I see the dude act. The man is just "on"! Actually, in every film he’s been in, he’s on. Hal Holbrook (Father Malone) underplays it, good move padre. Nancy Kyes (Sandy) aka Nancy Loomis didn’t convince me at all. Was she throwing away her lines or was it just me? The original “Scream Queen” Janet Leigh (Kathy) gives an engaging and classy performance. I love the gal!
T & A
We get a scrumptious, sexy shot of that yummy looking fog. YEAH!
DIRECTING
Today’s films sometimes go as far as 15 frames per second, so it's always refreshing for me to see a film that takes its time, that weaves its web around our brain, that builds atmosphere and a strong sense of foreboding. Carpenter achieves all that here. He also knows how to set up his scare sequences and use sound/silence to his advantage. Good work my Master!
SOUNDTRACK
Another simple yet creepy John Carpenter score graces our ears. The score brought so much more to the images that I for one adored it with every bone in my pants.
DVD FEATURES
Distributor: MGM/UA Video - Release Date: August 27, 2002

IMAGE: The Widescreen anamorphic - 2.35:1 transfer is very sharp, I did pick up on some grain here and there, but overall it satisfied me. We also get the option of watching the film in Full Screen (Standard) - 1.33:1 mode.

SOUND: The English (Dolby Digital 5.1) sound serves the film well, especially when it came to the solid score, the dialogue is in MONO though but it didn’t hurt my viewing pleasure.

EXTRAS:

SIDE ONE:

Commentary (full length): The always animated John Carpenter and the charming Debra Hill come in to give us MUCHO info on the production, the inspiration that gave birth to The Fog and their intentions in what they wanted to accomplish with the film. We also get comments on everything from the actors, the lighting, technical information galore and trivia in regards to specific scenes. Any filmmaker wannabees should listen to this track since John gives us lots of technical info. This is a very good commentary, it rarely stops rolling and the chemistry between Hill and Carpenter makes it such a more pleasant listen.

SIDE TWO:

Documentaries:

Tales from the Mist: Inside The Fog (~ 28 minutes): In this documentary shot especially for this DVD, JC and company talk about how the surprise success of Halloween lead them to The Fog. Cast and crew also come in to talk about the film, the inspirations (EC Comics and a true story!), Edgar Allan Poe (why the quote) and Lovecraft. Debra and JC do most of the talking and I don’t know about you guys, but I can listen to them talk for hours. I actually viewed this segment AFTER the old documentary and it was funny to see Jamie Lee basically repeating the same damn things she said years ago (in the old documentary). Talk about set responses! There’s a lot of stuff in here that I didn’t even touch upon, so rest assured that The Fog fans will get their just dessert while watching this feature. GREAT STUFF!

Fear on film: Inside The Fog (~ 8 minutes): In this documentary that was shot after The Fog came out, JC and Debra Hill come in to talk about the flick, their love for the horror genre and their intentions in regards to the film. Janet Leigh also steps up to explain her views of fear on screen. Adrienne Barbeau talks about how she hooked up with JC. They were actually married when The Fog was being shot and Jamie Lee also comes in to talk about the makes of a horror films, how she doesn’t like them (what???) and her relationship with her mom Janet Leigh. This feature kept me engaged the whole way.

Outtakes (~ 4 minutes): This amusing collage of flubbed takes is all about fun times! We get a lot of the word “shit” when actors mess up. Funny.

Storyboards to film companion (~ 2 minutes): Here, we to see scenes rolling as they are being compared to their respective storyboards at the same time. From a film buff point of view, it’s always groovy to compare the initial intention and what wound up on the screen. I always dig this type of extra.

Advertising gallery: We get 3 Trailers for the film, 3 TV Spots, Original Posters and Film Memorabilia. This extra is pretty much what you’d expect it to be, I grooved with the Trailers and TV Spots but found the memorabilia section to be weak.

Photo Gallery: Two options: one is to take the “Film Stills” path or the “Behind the scenes” path. We get lots of rare pics in this feature and the Behind the Scenes section in particular was very satisfying from a fan POV.

The Fog fans rejoice! The DVD has arrived and it's packed and filled with quality! You go MGM! Sure, the same info gets repeated a lot throughout the various features but it's still a gnarly, informative, fanboy pleasing time. This one is worth the $$$!
BOTTOM LINE
A couple of other horror works popped into my head while watching The Fog: I picked up on a bit of "Jaws" (the town party), "Prince of Darkness" (same buildup) “Night of the Living Dead (the finale) and anything by Stephen King (the setting). That’s all A-class horror stuff yo! Now sure The Fog is fairly slow paced (although never boring) and the payoff didn’t live up to my expectations, but when the check cleared there was an old school charisma to the film, a refreshing simplicity and a wooing “brrr” atmosphere that kept me in the game. If you crave a more “classic” type of horror, enter this Fog!
BULL'S EYE
John Carpenter has an unaccredited cameo in the opening of the film as father Malone’s assistant.

John Carpenter named some of his side characters with the same names of people he’s worked with in the past. A few examples include Nick Castle, Dan O'Bannon and Tommy Wallace.

Adrienne Barbeau was married to John Carpenter from 1979 to 1984.
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10:46PM on 12/01/2009
just got done watching this in HD off HDNET Movies and man, this movie kicks all sorts of ass. Scared the shit out of me at the drive in when i was 9, but now I can appreciate the cinematography and the score and the subtle direction. Might be in the minority here, but I think it's better than "Halloween."
just got done watching this in HD off HDNET Movies and man, this movie kicks all sorts of ass. Scared the shit out of me at the drive in when i was 9, but now I can appreciate the cinematography and the score and the subtle direction. Might be in the minority here, but I think it's better than "Halloween."
Your Reply:



2:07AM on 12/12/2008

Loved it

John Carpenter can do more menace with smoke machines and lights than any of these modern directors can do with massive budgets.

The ghosts had their logic in the number killed. It made it more tense because you knew that some people would survive, the tension came from just who would manage to escape and who would die.
John Carpenter can do more menace with smoke machines and lights than any of these modern directors can do with massive budgets.

The ghosts had their logic in the number killed. It made it more tense because you knew that some people would survive, the tension came from just who would manage to escape and who would die.
Your Reply:



11:48AM on 10/09/2008

A classic

I rank this up with The Thing and Halloween as a horror classic by Carpenter. Such a spooky, classy horror flick.
I rank this up with The Thing and Halloween as a horror classic by Carpenter. Such a spooky, classy horror flick.
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