THE FOG begins with a group of children sitting on the beach, watching a watch. The watch is snapped shut and the owner of the timepiece, Mr. Machen, tells the children a ghost story. The story serves as exposition for the film, telling the kids - and us - what is about to happen to the small coastal town of Antonio Bay, and why. I don't like exposition, but this is one of the better ways of using it.
From then on, and throughout the opening credits, we witness unusual things happening in the town of Antonio Bay. They are freaky things. Unusual things, but not so scary that it sends folks running in terror into the streets. It is just enough to set them on edge. While these things happen, we hear the radio voice of Stevie Ray Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau: ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, THE THING, CREEPSHOW, DUE OCCHI DIOBOLICI, UNHOLY) jazz station host and owner, as she talks to all the night owls of the area.
Then we see kindly Father Malone (Hal Holbrook: RITUALS, CREEPSHOW, THE UNHOLY, WAKING THE DEAD), a drunkard who takes advantage of his caretaker and sends him on his way. But once alone, odd things are still happening, and in this case, reveals the start of a mystery.*
This all draws us in, and we wonder what will happen next.
What happens next is that a guy drives a truck along an old road at night and comes across a hitchhiker. Now what have we told people about picking up hitchhiking girls all alone at night, in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere? But this hitchhiker is Elizabeth Solley and she looks like Jaime Lee Curtis (HALLOWEEN, PROM NIGHT, TERROR TRAIN, ROAD GAMES, HALLOWEEN II, HALLOWEEN III, HALLOWEEN H2O, VIRUS, THE TAILOR OF PANAMA, HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION). So truck driving Nick Castle (Tom Atkins: THE NINTH CONFIGURATION, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, HALLOWEEN III, CREEPSHOW, NIGHT OF THE CREEPS, MANIAC COP, DUE OCCHI DIOBOLICI) picks her up and quite swiftly, hell breaks loose in his truck. Elizabeth doesn't seem to be the reason, so he takes her home and they play Hide the Salami.
Finally comes the day and things settle down. Only now people slowly start to understand the night before. Usually I say, Merry Mishaps occur, but in this case, we have Merry Outcomes. Screaming ensues.
Like Mr. Machen said, a curse is coming to Antonio Bay, but it's worse than anyone realizes. The curse is none other than the ghosts cum zombies of a shipwreck from a hundred years before. Bent on revenge, they are coming to take their murderous will out on the people of Antonio Bay and no one is safe.
Kindly Father Malone holds the answer. But in this case, knowing the answer will not solve the problem.
And folks need to solve this problem because the 100th anniversary of Antonio Bay will be celebrated tonight. All the folks of the town will gather together out of civic pride and give reverence and respect to the people who founded and enriched Antonio Bay. That's a lot of potential victims!
By all accounts, including Director John Carpenter's own admission (read it here), the original cut of THE FOG was a disaster. It was so bad, in fact, that John actually considered packing it up and walking away from directing forever. That sounds familiar, in fact, to how James Cameron felt about his work directing PIRANHA II. What is it about having the initials J.C. and coming back from the brink?
When all the editing was done, THE FOG was crap. It wasn't scary, it was heavy handed, even its own creators hated it. What to do? They largely remade the entire film in just one month. What happened then? Was it a better movie? Well, when I was a kid watching THE FOG in theaters, I had no appreciation for it. It was no HALLOWEEN, let me tell you, and after just seeing SCANNERS, the scary-gore bar (as opposed to boring gore alone) had been raised.
How do I feel now, all these years later, watching the DVD release?
On the plus side, the special effects still stand after all this time. In fact, the fog effects, made on the cheap, look far better than modern attempts at fog using computer effects.
The acting and dialogue is also done quite well.
The problem now is as it was then, a lot of scary things that could happen, don't happen. Instead we are treated to cheap sudden sound effects that, while they do surprise you, aren't scary. In one scene for example, real estate agent, Kathy Williams is looking for Kindly Father Malone. Malone is apparently sitting in the shadows watching her. Then, with a thunderous blast of wood breaking, he leaps out of the shadows, grabs Kathy, and says, "Oh I'm sorry! I didn't mean to scare you."
Only in the final fifteen or so minutes of the film, does everything come together and the movie actually gets scary for real. The curse makes itself known and THE FOG ends well. But MAN, Director John Carpenter really drags us through a lot of cheap "boo" gags to get to that point. And it's those boo gags, scares without content or sense, that get so tiresome. This movie could be a great remake one day. But for this effort, I give THE FOG 2 Shriek Girls.
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