A weather-beaten old fisherman tells an ancient tale of betrayal and death to fascinated children as they huddle together by their campfire. As a piece of driftwood in a child’s hand glows with spectral light an eerie fog envelops the bay, and from it’s midst emerge dripping demonic victims of a century old shipwreck…seeking revenge against a small California coastal town. – (Source)
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 70% (Critics) / 64% (Audience)
MetaScore: 52 – Mixed or average reviews
Directed By: John Carpenter
Written By: John Carpenter and Debra Hill
Starring: Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh and Tom Atkins
Studio: AVCO Embassy Pictures
Adrienne Barbeau’s DJ (and voice of the movie) Stevie was the best character in this entire movie and one of my favorite horror movie heroine’s period. She was the cohesive unit that held this movie together for me from the smooth tone of her voice while doing the DJ thing to her figuring out there was something wrong with the fog to her turning into a fearful mom to finally her struggling to survive when her lighthouse studio got engulfed by the fog. It is amazing that aside from a few phone call scenes and the scenes with her son she interacted with no other characters and spent nearly the entirety of the movie alone on a single set.
I also loved the look of the film. The way Carpenter used darkness/shadows and space to frame scenes in a way that controlled how the levels of tension would go up and down. And of course the music was great. Nobody can make a synthesizer sound as ominous as John Carpenter.
Aside from Barbeau’s Stevie none of the other characters had any meat to them. It was a cast full of good actors (including Carpenter vet Jamie Lee Curtis and genre stalwart Tom Atkins in one of the most unconvincing couplings in movie history) stuck with shallow characters who it was hard to really give a flip about.
The final act of the movie was bit of a rushed mess with the fog rolling in fast and furious and the primary characters in the movie all finding themselves gathered in a single setting for the final showdown that ultimately ended with a fizzle. It was so underwhelming that the tacked on scene right before the credits felt like something that was done because everyone involved realized how meh the movie had ended.
The fog itself was a much better villain than the spectral pirates that came out of it. I am not sure whether it was the shoddy design or what but those ghost pirates not very intimidating and came off as pretty corny.
I don’t know if it was budget or what but the fact that there was so much time spent setting up the big town celebration yet the movie never used that as a backdrop for terror and chaos as this viewer was expecting. The way the movie was isolated to just the few primary character sand the rest of the town was barely acknowledged at all was a major weakness in the film for me.
Final Verdict: A fine enough ghost tale that delivers enough of an air of eeriness for horror fans to enjoy it but just feels inadequate to a diehard fan of John Carpenter’s oeuvre mainly because the Carpenter movies that came right before and directly after THE FOG were just so good.