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Lost in ‘Fog’: DVD Review

Observer Scene | Wednesday, November 2, 2005

John Carpenter was the master of 80s horror. Examples of his dominance are films as “Prince of Darkness” and “The Thing,” both masterpieces in their respective genres within the horror industry.

But those horror movies were simply additions to an already strong base in horror. His debut film in the genre, “Halloween,” launched a successful series and established Carpenter’s throne in the genre. His follow-up film, “The Fog,” cemented his role as a horror maestro.

Representing his second collaboration with the still young Jamie Lee Curtis, “The Fog” was a suspenseful tale of revenge from beyond the grave. In the film, a northern California fishing town is visited by a particularly thick, unsettling fog. As the plot unfolds, however, it reveals that the fog is hiding malevolent beings, ghosts from a leper colony the town was built upon over 100 years ago. They were wronged many years ago, and every hundred years they return to take their revenge.

Much of the fright the movie contains is from drawn out suspense. Carpenter uses music and shot composition expertly to create a forbidding, ominous atmosphere.

The prevalence of the aforementioned fog also creates a sense of claustrophobia for the audience, as it can never be sure what is hidden just out of view. The audience will find itself asking, “was that a shadow, or was that a ghost?”

The ghosts in the movie aren’t the standard Hollywood version either. These ghosts can be particularly gruesome, as they are more akin to zombies that actual ghosts. Instead of the glowing apparitions that are expected from Hollywood ghosts, the audience receives dripping, leprous moving corpses.

Location helps the atmosphere. All of the settings have an ominous feel to them, even without being covered in fog. The fog-drenched old church, the lighthouse and the coastline itself all lend to a creepy, unsettling atmosphere. They are so effective, they should almost be considered characters within the film unto themselves.

All of the principal actors within the film do a commendable job of conveying the situation. Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh and John Houseman, all performed convincingly, a trait that can often be lacking in horror films. It’s also interesting to watch Curtis and Leigh act on the same screen, being mother and daughter.

Hal Holbrook does a particularly well-done performance in his role as the frightened priest Father Malone. He realizes too late what is happening to his town, and becomes the proverbial captain of the sinking ship. Carpenter would go on to create a similar role to Father Malone in the “Prince of Darkness.”

Of course, by modern standards the movie hasn’t stood well the test of time. The dated clothing may be enough to turn some people off, as well as the now cliché special effects and scare techniques. What was once considered shocking has become diluted over the years through repetition, dulling much of the movie’s impact.

However, newcomers to the realm of horror will find plenty to like within the film. The blood is non-existent, something that many people appreciate when watching a movie. The scares are also not too cheap, as they are mostly drawn out through suspense.

Horror film buffs would also do well to watch “The Fog,” as it has played an obvious influence on modern horror. It was such an influential movie in its time that over twenty years later, a remake was created.

But there’s simply no beating the original when it comes to scares.