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THE FOG

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, John Houseman, Janet Leigh, Hal Holbrook
Director:  John Carpenter
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Mono
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1, Pan & Scan 1.33:1
Studio:  MGM
Features:  See Review
Length:  90 Minutes
Release Date:  August 27, 2002

“This town is cursed…we’re all cursed…”

Film ***

John Carpenter is a director who knows how to scare, and he proved it solidly by following up his wildly successful Halloween, a movie about an unstoppable serial killer, with The Fog, a good old fashioned ghost story and revenge tale.  The fact that it’s not quite as good as Halloween is hardly a critique…you could say that about most horror films.

The Fog saw Carpenter re-team with producer and writing partner Debra Hill, who both earned the chance to make more movies on the success of the film that would become forever synonymous with the holiday it was named after.  Wanting to scare audiences even more, but not wanting to repeat their formula, they turned their attention to telling a tale of the supernatural.

The story takes place in a little coastal town called Antonio Bay, which is about to celebrate its 100 anniversary.  As the clock strikes midnight on that historic date, a strange, luminous fog rolls close to land, seemingly defying the wind, and leaving a fishing boat’s passengers inexplicably dead.

The solution to the mystery is revealed in the form of an ancient diary discovered in a church.  It turns out, the founding of the town was not a festive occasion at all.  It originated with a terrible murder, in which a rich but sick man and some of his companions were killed by conspirators who used a firelight to wreck their boat in the fog.  The sick man’s money was used to establish Antonio Bay.  Now, a century later, there’s something in the fog that’s come back to exact revenge.

This is a simple tale told with vigor and style.  Carpenter is a man who has used special effects to great advantage over the course of his career, but he also knows how to create terror with a few simple strokes.  A little blast from a fog machine, a few well placed lights, and voila…something menacing is afoot.

The cast is fine for what is expected of them…the most notable aspect is the appearance of mother and daughter scream queens Jamie Lee Curtis and Janet Leigh in the same film.  Adrienne Barbeau is fine as the disc jockey in the lighthouse who ends up with a great view of the fog and what it does.  Hal Holbrook offers a nice turn as the priest who discovers the truth.  None of the roles are particularly deep or demanding, but Carpenter’s professionals are able to deliver what is expected of them and service the fright factor.

With the success of The Fog and Halloween, John Carpenter’s place was secure in horror history.  He would go on to make a string of sleek and scary pictures…some great, like The Thing, some not so great, like They Live, but as with his earlier films, he proved himself a director with imagination and a willingness to take chances in order to entertain his audience, for better or worse.

The Fog is definitely one for the better.

Video ***

This is a quality anamorphic offering from MGM…not perfect, but still impressive given how much of the movie takes place in low-light settings.  To maintain a watchable definition through it all is an achievement.  There is some softness here and there, but surprisingly little grain despite the blackness and the good definition.  The print is in generally fine shape, colors come across well, and detail level is as good as can be hoped for.  A fine effort overall.

Audio **1/2

Though the disc offers an enhanced 5.1 soundtrack in addition to the original mono, it’s not a particularly noteworthy mix…I don’t think the subwoofer kicked in until the final stretch, and I think it may have been the same for the rear stage…if it was active, I didn’t really notice it until then.  Dialogue is clean and clear, and dynamic range is fair.  For a film of its age, this is a better than serviceable offering, but nothing spectacular.

Features ****

Nothing hazy about the extras package, which includes a solid commentary track by Carpenter and Hill, which is an enjoyable and interesting listen.  Even better is a brand new half hour documentary on the fog, which includes interviews with them, plus cast members Barbeau and Curtis and other crew members.  There is an original 1980 short featurette as well, which is enjoyable…amazing how young they all look in it!  Rounding out are an outtake reel (good for a chuckle or two), storyboards, a gallery of trailers and TV spots, and at least one hidden Easter egg that’s easy to find, and grants you a couple of minutes of behind-the-scenes footage showing how the fog was produced.  All in all, an excellent collection of extras.

Summary:

What you don’t see won’t hurt you, and as such, it won’t hurt you to see The Fog, especially if you’re a horror fan or a lover of the original Halloween.  John Carpenter’s follow-up film is not as revolutionary, but still an entertaining and scary enough yarn to make it worth a look…especially with this quality DVD offering from MGM.