The Fog (1980)

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John Carpenter directs Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis and Tom Atkins in this supernatural horror about a town cursed by murderous ghost pirates.

If you wanted to introduce a young teen to horror as a genre then The Fog is a brilliant gateway film. There’s a few jump scares, some spooky imagery and mild gore but nothing particularly more shocking than you might find in an Indiana Jones adventure. Carpenter is most interested here in atmosphere. The town is consumed by both the visual effect of the fog but also the unavoidable retribution of a century old curse. The humanoid monsters within the mist are gloopy silhouettes with glowing red eyes… blanks for us to fill the details of our worst fear into. He loves the visuals play of bright light on smoky darkness. This is the Pink Flloyd concert of creepy stories. Edgar Allen Poe with a dry ice machine. And we get one of his trademark doom laden, echoey electronics scores… urgent yet mournful. As a plot it ends very abruptly. The characters are serviceable (Jamie Lee Curtis feels wasted but Adrienne Barbeau’s lone DJ trapped in a lighthouse impresses). It essentially is a series of random set pieces bound by the visual idea of murky curse consuming a town. Yet there are vivid flourishes that raise The Fog’s mythic stature above more explicit and popular genre works of its era. The prologue where John Houseman sits us around the campfire like children and tells us a spook story (exposition for the threat to come) is a marvel of hammy acting, comic book storytelling and affection to a more subtle mode of horror. Like the best scary tales, the details of The Fog drift away from you post-watch and you are left without abiding memories of what just happened yet know someone just relentlessly tried to scare the dickens out of you.

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