Friday, 22 March 2013

Horror Review: The Fog (1980)

While celebrating its centenary birthday, a small Californian coastal town is visited by a ghostly fog containing an army of murderous spirits who take revenge for a terrible injustice.

With the huge success Of Carpenters previous film "Halloween" there was a-lot of pressure on him to pull it all off again, only this time he was given a bigger budget. 

We are taken to the small sea town of Antonio Bay, a Californian fishing town. Built 100 years ago over an old leper colony, it's about to celebrate it's milestone but as we see, not all goes to plan. The towns setting makes for some beautiful imagery and with Carpenters Trademark camera work it really makes for great viewing.

The film also has a great cast with the likes of Jamie Lee Curtis, her mother Janet Leigh and Hal Holbrook but as great as they all are, the best performance of the film is Adrienne Barbeau. The fact that apart from two scenes all of her scenes were by herself with no on-screen interaction with any other characters was just amazing. She grabs your attention and despite no no on-screen interaction with anyone she never gets boring.

The writing team of Carpenter and Hill is one of the most under-rated, not just in the Horror genre but in all of film. They can construct such a great story and keep you interested from beginning to end, they certainly never have any filler in their scripts and that is very much evident in this release.

I like to think of this film as a Hammer Horror styled film done in Carpenters vision. Carpenter himself stated two inspirations for the film, both of which are related to Great Britain. The first was the British film The Crawling Eye which dealt with monsters hiding in the clouds. He also stated that he and his co-writer/producer, Debra Hill, were inspired by a trip to Stonehenge, the ancient monument in South West England, which was covered in fog during their visit so that makes a-lot of sense.

"The Fog" may not have aged well but it's still makes for fantastic viewing. I do recommend you pick this version over the 2005 remake, that was just AWFUL.

If you want to see "The Fog" trailer then just click on the video below:

Miscellaneous facts about the film:

The band mentioned on the radio near the beginning is "The Coupe DeVilles", which features director John Carpenter.

Bennett, the character, played by John Carpenter, is named after Carpenter's friend Bennett Tramer. They went to USC (University of Southern California) together. A Ben Tramer was also mentioned in "Halloween"

Dr. Phibes, the name of the coroner played by Darwin Joston, is an in-joke reference to Dr. Anton Phibes, the character played by Vincent Price in the horror film The Abominable Dr. Phibes and its sequel Dr. Phibes Rises Again.

After a rough cut editing the movie appeared to be much too short for a theatrical release (about 80 minutes), John Carpenter subsequently added the prologue with the Old Captain telling ghost stories to fascinated children by a campfire.

Although this was essentially a low budget independent film, John Carpenter chose to shoot the movie in anamorphic widescreen Panavision. This decision gave the film a grander feel for the viewer so it didn't seem like a low budget horror film.

Bennett, Father Malone's assistant at the beginning of the film, was played by John Carpenter but was uncredited.

Blake, the lead ghost, was played by makeup specialist Rob Bottin. When Bottin asked for the job, John Carpenter asked him to "stand up". Bottin then expected Carpenter to say, "...and get out!" When Carpenter saw that Bottin was a very large man, which was needed for the Blake character, he was hired.

Adrienne Barbeau and Jamie Lee Curtis, the leads, do not appear together in any scenes.

The Edgar Allan Poe quote at the beginning of the film is the final two lines of his poem "A Dream Within a Dream".

The role of Father Malone was originally offered to Christopher Lee who believed the character to be the 'father of the community'. However Lee proved unavailable and Hal Holbrook was eventually cast.

Kurt Russell was offered a role.

While driving to the lighthouse, Stevie flips around the radio dial, and a broadcast confirming a search for the ship The Sea Grass is heard. The voice mentions "a sweep south of Waitely Point and Arkham Reef". Both Arkham Reef and the surname "Waitely" are references to writer H.P. Lovecraft, as he used both repeatedly in his stories. Carpenter is an admitted Lovecraft fan.

As Stevie calls out the progress of the fog through town over the radio, she mentions Russelville road and Smallhouse road. These are two prominent streets in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where John Carpenter spent time growing up.

At one point during the movie, Tom Atkins' character mentions Bodega Bay. That is the scene of another horror movie, The Birds. When Tippi Hedren's character pulls into town, all hell starts to happen. In this movie, when Jamie Lee Curtis' character pulls into town, all hell starts to break loose.

John Houseman's opening monologue, which is supposed to transpire over a course of five minutes (from 11:55 to 12:00 midnight) is, in fact, only 2 minutes and 25 seconds long from the moment he mentions it is 11:55 to the moment the bells ring in the background, signaling midnight. It has been incorrectly noted in the past that this opening monologue is exactly five minutes long.

When Father Malone first discovers the journal he glances at the title page, then flips to an open page of text that is partially blocked, and seen only for a split second. The visible portion reads (with spelling errors): "[something something] my college education to work writing dumb shit in this fucking movies props, Being one. It's time to bring in the the words guide or the big tits, tatoos and shaved beavers. I know horny [blocked]s would go [blocked] some of that".

The sword that Blake carries is a Pattern 1796 Light Cavalry Sabre with an iron scabbard, produced between 1796 and 1821. Designed by Brigade Major John Le Marchant and Birmingham sword cutler Henry Osborn.

The journal's last page that Father Malone (Hal Holbrook) read when he finds it in the wall says: "April 30 - Midnight 'til one belong to the dead. Good Lord deliver us". It's a reference for Walpurgis Night, a pagan feast which happens in the night between April 30 and May 1.

The quote "like an albatross around the neck" can be heard on the record cassette in the lighthouse where Stevie Lane (Adrienne Barbeau) works, just before that a wooden piece with the word "Dane" explodes when the quote "6 Must Die" appears magically written in it. The quote about the albatross belongs to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, created by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and published in 1798.

At 42.40 when Kathy is speaking to Father Malone she says "...I'm going to call Dr Satan and ask him to just drop by..."

Characters Nick Castle, Dan O'Bannon, Tommy Wallace are all named after Carpenter's real-life collaborators from his previous films. Mrs Kobritz was named after Richard Kobritz, Carpenter's producer on Someone's Watching Me!.

Adrienne Barbeau's last line, "...look for the fog...", echoes the last line from The Thing from Another World, "Watch the skies." John Carpenter later remade that film as The Thing.

Extensive re-shoots were done after the first screening when director and studio executives decided that the movie wasn't scary enough. Additional scenes shot include close-ups of death scenes (specifically stab wounds), the scene with Jamie Lee Curtis and the walking corpse in the morgue, and the finale with Adrienne Barbeau on top of the lighthouse.

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