Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Through a Fog Darkly

Interrupting my Hammer-fest for some classic John Carpenter. The Fog from 1980, a film I haven't seen since the early days of VHS rentals, and there was the DVD in a cheap bin at the London Forbidden Planet on free comic book day. How could I resist?

Carpenter's first three movies were Dark Star, Assault on Precinct 13 and then Halloween which are all classics in their own rights. Following up the huge success of the night Michael Myers came home he turned to a creepy revenge ghost story with this tale of a strange fog enveloping a Californian coastal town and the return of the crew of a ship the townsfolk lured to its doom 100 years ago. Cult favourite actors Tom Atkins, Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis and Janet Leigh all find themselves trapped in tight spots with rotting, zombie sailors breaking through doors and windows.

There's plenty of slow build up as Carpenter develops the tension in what seems like a typical Stephen King version of small town America. Various bits and pieces go bump in the night before Adrienne Barbeau's disc jockey realises what is going on and starts to broadcast a warning about the fog. Meanwhile the rest of the cast retreat from the fog and the watery walkers and seek refuge in priest Hal Holbrook's church for the final reveal about what the sailors want and the battle to keep them out at all cost. Strangely the events of the final night all happen rather quickly and there aren't as many deliberate jumps and frights as in Halloween. This is a more atmospheric piece that recalls a classic ghost story in a tone that is set by veteran actor John Houseman's opening camp-site retelling of the legend of the lost ship.

It's all quite creepy and although it never hits the heights of his first three films it's not too bad and the special effects have stood up quite well over the last 35 years. Of course it has a nice piece of John Carpenter electronic music for the theme and the cast are all pretty good. It's nice to see Napoleon Wilson himself, Darwin Joston, showing up briefly as Dr Phibes (the name is another nice reference). Like all films from the 1980s it has been remade recently, I haven't seen it but the reports are not good. If the original shows up somewhere then check it out and if you treat it like a ghost story rather than a slasher horror then it will be pretty entertaining. Three dripping zombie stars.

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