The Fog (1980)

Directed by: John Carpenter
Distributed by: AVCO Embassy Pictures

Written by Nick McCann


It wouldn’t be spooky season without John Carpenter. An artist ahead of his time, titles like “The Thing,” “They Live,” and “In The Mouth Of Madness” initially met with disdain have gone on to gain affection after being reevaluated following their initial release. With a catalog of gems though, some are bound to get buried. Such is the case with “The Fog,” coming out in the shadow of the groundbreaking “Halloween.” “The Fog” embraces the supernatural with a story that evokes the feeling of sitting around a campfire and listening to a nightmare-inducing tale. The atmosphere is one of Carpenter’s finest. You can feel a dreary uneasiness from the opening monologue.

There’s an immense cast of both Carpenter regulars and late-era talent. Adrienne Barbeau deserves a great deal of praise. As radio DJ Stevie Wayne, she’s believable in every capacity ranging from a sultry radio broadcaster to a desperate survivor. I’d dare call her one of the most underappreciated final girls in cinema, holding fast in toughness despite her trapped position. Tom Atkins, alongside Jamie Lee Curtis, make for a capable pair with delightful chemistry and a quirky framework. Janet Leigh and Hal Holbrook do effortless work as well with limited screen time. Even small side characters go a long way in giving character to the setting and being likable themselves.

This also has to be one of Carpenter’s best-looking movies. Dean Cundey on camera maximizes the Panavision photography to full effect with wide shots of the coastal sprawl. The visual aesthetic calls to mind earlier classics like “The Birds” or even “Jaws” with its nautical motif. Lest we forget that it wouldn’t be a Carpenter movie without his music. The synth score is haunting as ever. When things are quiet, it builds an innocent yet dreadful mood. As the suspense heightens, the electronic sounds ratchet up delivering an oppressive mood that conjures fear. That’s on top of a nice sound mix too, which is interestingly muted and minimal as if an actual fog permeates the surroundings of the viewer.

“The Fog” is a simple film. What it lacks in the instant recognition or complexity of Carpenter’s other works it makes up for with its committed and straightforward approach. The cast is solid, its visuals look nice for its low budget and it maintains a palpable sense of eeriness for its duration.

“The Fog” Trailer

You can connect with Nick on his Facebook and Letterboxd.

Leave a Reply