“Something-as-yet unseen festers at sea…” In Profile: The Fog (1980)

Still from STUDIOCANAL's restored, 4K classic THE FOG (1980)

Never have John Carpenter’s revenant killers loomed quite so handsomely out of the fog as in this new 4K restoration from STUDIOCANAL, finds fanboy Mike Pinnington…

“That celebration tonight is a travesty – we’re honouring murderers.”

John Carpenter’s The Fog (1980) opens with a traditional tale of the spectre of evil rearing its head at midnight, told by a salty seadog to a credulous bunch of school-kids around a beachside campfire. The set up is faultless; “come closer”, beckons the film’s now iconic director Carpenter, “you’re not going to want to miss this”.

Full disclosure, before we tread further down the page: I buy it hook, line and sinker, every time (my latest viewing, let’s say, is not my first). I’ve always loved The Fog, set in the hours leading up to the sleepy town of Antonio Bay’s centenary celebrations. It’s in these witching hours that things will start to go very wrong. The town has a deep, very dark secret, as its origins – built on a foundation of murder – have been hidden before the first bricks were laid.

“For all the jump scares and grizzly supernatural murder, it does a great job of conjuring the cosiness of a seemingly close-knit community”

But juxtaposed with portentous happenings, Carpenter invites us to get to know – even love – Antonio Bay and its residents. For all the jump scares, grizzly supernatural murder and warnings of wronged beings coming back to right man’s wrongs (emerging out of the titular fog to wreak revenge), it does a great job of conjuring the cosiness of a seemingly close-knit community. Although we know pretty early on that something-as-yet unseen festers at sea, this is a town where everybody seems to rub along with everybody else. This feeling is achieved in no small part by late night radio host and station owner, KAB’s Stevie Wayne, who has just moved from Chicago to Antonio Bay with her young son, Andrew.

Poster for STUDIOCANAL's restored, 4K classic THE FOG (1980)

In many ways, it is Wayne who anchors the film, from her vantage point in the old lighthouse where she broadcasts her show. Wayne can see much of the town, and checks in with the weather man to give tips to her listeners – playing a crucial role in the early morning horror as a result. Toward the film’s climax, even as she fears for her son’s safety as the fog looms toward their home, she can’t leave. It’s her duty to keep as many of her fellow citizens as safe as she can, reporting the movements of the miasma out of which revenant killers loom. Warning the ships at sea, tuned into her show, who haven’t yet met with its terrible vengeance, to “look across the water, into the darkness. Look for the fog”.

“I’ll always have a soft spot for The Fog, and those dulcet tones of Stevie Wayne”

Wayne is played by Carpenter’s then-wife Adrienne Barbeau, and is just one of a few notable casting decisions: Jaime Lee Curtis, star of Halloween, returns as a hitchhiker (and is subject to an interesting twist of genre convention, which I won’t expand on here owing to entering spoiler territory). Curtis’ Elizabeth Solley hooks up with Tom Atkins’ Nick Castle (whose namesake is another Carpenter perennial). She’s also joined by her real-life mum, and Hollywood royalty, Janet Leigh.

Of course, many would cite Halloween as their favourite of this director’s oeuvre, while there will always be those who would argue that The Thing, Assault on Precinct 13, Escape from New York or They Live represents his greatest work. Others will argue that Dark Star, co-written with Dan O’Bannon, should not be overlooked. Great movies all, but I’ll always have a soft spot for The Fog, and those dulcet tones of Stevie Wayne; lulling me to sleep as I hear the familiar, yet constant and slightly foreboding, fog horns.

Mike Pinnington

See The Fog, alongside a clutch of fellow Carpenter classics – They Live, Escape from New York and Prince of Darkness – in its new 4k restoration from STUDIOCANAL, all approved by the films’ cinematographers, Gary B. Kibbe and Dean Cundey

At UK cinemas from Friday 26 October 2018, tickets here

View at home with a bonus disc worth of special features 

See the new trailer here

Win one of the brand new posters, capturing that Carpenter magic, here

Posted on 23/10/2018 by thedoublenegative