19 August 2022

52 for '22: THE FOG

MovieThe Fog (1980)
Method: Netflix DVD

We have a report of some leper ghosts who reportedly injured some bathers

Why Did I watch this?

I've been trying to catch up on some John Carpenter movies after realizing that I have been calling myself a fan but have never really seen any deep cuts. I maybe overdid it watching The Fog, Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) and Vampires (1998) in one month, but I'm making up for lost ground. The Fog's premise of creepy ghosts invading a quiet seaside town jumped out at me, and it was really just next on the queue.

What Did I know ahead of time?

I have the haziest, cloudiest, not sure another synonym, memory of the 2005 remake. I don't really know what that's about at all. I also did at one point read the plot, but had completely forgotten it by the time I pressed play in my all-in-one TV/DVD player. I knew that it had something to do with some kind of fog and was probably creepy. GO.

How Was It?

This is solid. There is an essential creepiness to the whole affair and although we get a decent explanation for why everything is going on, it still remains mysterious. We get the general just of things, we're all on board, time for some ghost murders.

The story is pretty simple, the town founders tricked a leper colony one hundred years ago to crash on the rocks by building a fire they thought was a lighthouse and now their swampy ghosts are back for revenge! They will kill six descendants of the six conspirators who lead them to their doom. Or something, I was really sleepy. It had shades of Pirates of the Caribbean movies, with cursed gold, gross undersea ghost people, and creepy fog. But it's better. IT'S BETTER.

I really dug Adrienna Barbeau as the midnight DJ. This was somehow her first film role! Her voice is perfect and that element has become such a throwback profession. Hubie Halloween (2020) tried to do that, but I'm going out on a limb to say they didn't stick the landing because they didn't commit to the old-timey premise. She essentially becomes trapped and can't do anything physically to help her save anyone, including her son, but she's able to use the radio to give a play by play on where that dastardly fog is traveling. And she never becomes a damsel in distress. It's all sorts of fun.

Jamie Lee Curtis shows up right on the heels of Halloween (1978) and she's never given all that much to do, but I also liked that old timey element of a hitchhiker who just drifts into a movie and is totally game for all the nonsense going on. We've probably never properly ranked Curtis as one of our all-time actors. Does she just do too many bad movies like every possible Halloween sequel and Christmas with the Kranks (2004)? Can we get a Curtis-saince with Knives Out (2019) and Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) showing just how far she can stretch? I guess I've always thought of her as a legend, but zero Academy Award nominations and really hardly any parts that deserved it. A Fish Called Wanda (1988) probably. True Lies (1994) and Freaky Friday (2003) for sure. Anyway, she's remarkably natural here, displaying a kind of effortless acting in a tiny role that made her stand out. Let's pair her up with something really great and get her a statue.

It is a weird movie because although it's all about the less than noble history of a town, we don't actually get to know too many of the townspeople. Our main entry points are people passing through, and we get less of a sense of a community than say, a Midnight Mass which recently showed us just what you can do with this kind of a small town story. We get the preacher character here as well, and notably, a woman, I dunno, mayor / town organizer or somebody who DOESN'T want to pretend that everything is fine and that sharks don't exist.

The effects are very 80s but they work for this story. It's never overdone and Carpenter is a master of keeping his ambitions in check, or at least exploring creative ways to fulfill them. The final image of red eyes glowing the darkness out of the fog of the church is haunting and awesome. The rolling fog is a little hokey but you get immersed enough that it works.

The Fog was really good. It could have maybe used a more cohesive worldbuilding and a protagonist to center the proceedings around, but it's a fun monster movie that uses all sorts of really classic elements to blend together a fun time.

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