COLUMN: John Carpenter’s “The Fog” is a dated yet charming look at older era of horror


Drew Coffey

Drew Coffey, Columnist

John Carpenter’s “The Fog” was released in 1980 and stars Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Atkins, Adrienne Barbeau, and Janet Leigh. It tells the story of the small town of Antonio Bay being attacked by a mysterious fog that rolls through the area hosting murderous, ghostly beings within it.

As mysterious deaths begin to occur out at sea and within the town, the residents begin to question the reason behind the menacing fog.

As the film starts, it is easy to notice the strong similarities between this film and Carpenter’s iconic film made only two years prior, “Halloween.”

Like “Halloween,” it has an eerie piano melody to open the film, Carpenter’s well-known camera movements to display the point of view of a character, and even several of the actors from the 1978 horror classic, most notably Jamie Lee Curtis.

So obviously, this movie seems to be plucked from the same tree in John Carpenter’s filmmaking arsenal. But while “Halloween” displays a general, universal fear in the form of knife wielding Michael Myers, the same cannot be said for “The Fog.”

It is extremely hard to feel the same dread and rising fear in this film when compared to “Halloween.” While we got to see Michael Myers’ actions throughout the story to build up the suspense of the final act, this film does not display the same level of suspense consistently.

This film feels like a movie stalling its runtime until the final act because of the technical and financial limitations of the time. But how does this film stand when not compared to “Halloween”?

Unfortunately, there is little to help this film stand apart from the other horror films coming out around this time. We are treated to several jump scares and characters that we barely feel a connection with by the end meshing “The Fog” into a bloated collection of old, dated horror films from the 1970’s and 1980’s.

However, what this film succeeds in is various instances of authentically creepy moments.

For example, at the end of the movie the ghosts within the fog arrive in the church where the protagonists are hiding. The shot of them tucked away ominously in the shadows is highly effective in freaking the viewer out.

The design of the ghosts that attack the town residents, while hidden for most of the film, exhibits John Carpenter’s charm when it comes to filming horrific beings.

The various shots of the fog swallowing the town with its presence is also an effective way of instilling fear and suspense into the story.

Notably, the film does a competent job of revealing the reason for the fog and the gruesome occurrences of the story. It gives a more personal and justifiable reason for the events in the film to take place.

In the end, John Carpenter’s “The Fog” is an at times hair-raising film that suffers from the technical limitations of the time along with a lack of uniqueness hindering it from standing out from other horror films.

Drew Coffey is a freshman television and video production major. He can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].