John Carpenter traded gore for atmospheric suspense in this 1980 film. Info
An atmospheric exercise in visual storytelling, The Fog (1980) is director John Carpenter’s attempt to adapt the old-fashioned ghost story to the era of the ultra-violent slasher. Carpenter and producer/co-writer Debra Hill followed up the success of their low-budget independent blockbuster Halloween with a stylistically different kind of horror film that echoed the films Carpenter loved as a child. As the town of Antonio Bay, California prepares for its centennial anniversary, a strange fog rolling in off the coast begins to cause strange disturbances and gruesome murders. The ghosts of a shipwrecked crew from a hundred years prior are enacting their revenge on the town, and a group of strangers have to band together to stop the undead killers. Carpenter builds tension by weaving together separate storylines using an ensemble cast that includes regulars Adrienne Barbeau, Jaimie Lee Curtis and Tom Atkins along with film icons Janet Leigh and Hal Holbrook.
With its lack of gore and old-fashioned narrative, The Fog was somewhat of a letdown for horror fans at the time, but has aged remarkably well thanks to its timeless creepiness. Packed with allusions to Hitchcock, EC Comics, Edgar Allen Poe, British horror and H.P. Lovecraft, The Fog is steeped in the gothic horror/suspense tradition. Working in widescreen Panavision for the first time, Carpenter and cinematographer Dean Cundey made full use of the format, making The Fog look like a much bigger budget film than it actually was. Filled with lush, foggy California landscapes and brilliant widescreen compositions, it’s truly a John Carpenter film that deserves to be seen in a theater. —Ian Adcock