The Fog Review

What John Carpenter sets out to create with The Fog is a blinding process of fear and misgivings. Those shuffling feet that rise from the fog are just one of many blunt elements to The Fog. As the camera hovers on the old ship captain and the bells chime for midnight, there is an uncanny resemblance to those classic notes of true horror. The Fog uses slow piano beats, a rising camera over fields overlooking beaches, and the effect is chilling. Truly, truly chilling. Carpenter was good at that. His heyday as a director saw him take on these styles often, but it is the growth he displays throughout this 1980s classic bit of horror that would steer him so well throughout such a productive decade.

One grand change is the implementation of sound and horror, working hand in hand to replicate some grim fantasy. Grand shots of beautiful surroundings are glum and fearful when the lights are dimmed and the music fades. It is the utilisation of props and camera trickery that make The Fog stand out. Shots that rely on mirrored views of darkened stores, the sudden burst of sound that comes to frighten Father Malone (Hal Holbrook). All of these moments feel far more layered than the average shock or replicant of horror. The wine shatters from his hand, the alcoholism scared straight. Carpenter relies almost entirely on visual chills for this introduction to the sleepy, beachside town of Antonio Bay.

But what is a terrifying town without its inhabitants? The Fog does not forget to include some of the finest actors of the horror genre. Jamie Lee Curtis, the aforementioned Holbrook and Janet Leigh are on hand for some of those slow-burning horrors. His jump scares are brief but clean and cut through with definitive style. The utilisation of a disc jockey on the radio in the early hours is an exceptional choice, one that makes its way into the narrative with exceptional results. Adrienne Barbeau elicits such an incredible offering with her role as Stevie Wayne. The sultry tones of a faux radio jockey are engaging and interesting. Their performance on the air is, obviously, different to how they act and react to people off of the air. It is that disparity that provides The Fog with its conception of two-faced characters, those with secrets to hide and the fear within them spills those hidden facts out.

“Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream,” wrote Edgar Allan Poe. It is odd that Carpenter would open with that quote. There is never a moment in The Fog that could displace the horrified reality these characters find themselves in. Perhaps they wish for a nightmare, but that would be wishful thinking on the part of the audience, and not at all narratively relevant to those in the audience. Either way, the levels of defiant horror and disgusting realisations from a terrified cast are entertaining and ominous. There is a satisfactory tone, the opening campfire horror stories elicit the classic formulation of spooky stories. Whispered around some isolated flame of hope, Carpenter enlists some fantastic horrors within The Fog, and displays his knack for horror so clearly, and so intensely.

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