The Fog (1980) – John Carpenter

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Though I think this review might be met with some contention, I have to come right out and make the argument that The Fog is not a very good horror movie, or even a good movie at all. A lot of people love it and consider it a classic but I found it derivative, lack-luster and ultimately disappointing. This movie had a lot of potential, but I think Carpenter tried to accomplish too much. He sacrificed the basics in an attempt to pull of something bigger. I think he was trying to recreate something like Halloween, his previous and arguably his best film.

The problem is that Halloween was simple. You can boil the whole movie down to two elements: baby sitters and butcher knives. The Fog has got a complex plot, too many characters, and too much back story. Lets take the characters for example. First of all this movie comes fully loaded with horror royalty: We’ve got Jamie Lee Curtis back when she was hot and didn’t need yogurt to take a shit, and Janet Lee, the girl in the shower from Psycho. But along with them is a whole slew of other main/secondary characters with their own back stories and it just becomes too much.

The whole movie is tied together by the true main character (I guess). She’s a late-night radio host and she’s on the air as the fog rolls in and strange thing start happening around this quiet coastal town. Just about the time the fog rolls in, so does Jamie Lee as a mysterious and mysteriously promiscuous hitchhiker. She thumbs for a ride and starts skanking it up with some dude. So they cut to the next scene and they are just in bed together enjoying a nice post-coital conversation about their hopes, dreams and aspirations, AND THEN dude casually asks her what her name is. She ends up following him around as he tries to get to the bottom of the mysterious deaths of some fishermen. As far as I can tell, her character is utterly pointless, distracting, but she’s the most well-developed, which takes away from time that could have been developing other characters.

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Anyway, the other characters listen to and call in to the radio show and our DJ heroine offers them sage advice in a sultry voice. So the plot goes on and on and gets pretty convoluted. I’m not going to bother trying to give you a synopsis because it would be pointless. There’s a sunken ship, a 100-year old murder plot, a drunken priest, some stolen gold, a lost journal, and a leaper colony. I’m not joking.

Beyond the plot, one of the other problems is how the movie works within the established ‘rules’ of horror.’ It follows some of them but ignores others. You know what I’m talking about. Don’t answer the door. Don’t run up the stairs. Don’t be unrealistically brave and cocky in the face of obvious danger. Don’t have sex. Don’t drink or do drugs. Don’t be a priest (especially in the 70’s, the Padres of the world had it rough in 70’s horror, think about it) You get the picture. So some of these rules apply in this film, then though others seem to be setting you up, there’s no payoff. The body count is not nearly high enough.

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The final thing I’ll talk about is the body count and the way it’s handled. Roughly half way through this debacle, things come to light which identify how many people are going to die. First of all, the number is not very high, and more importantly, at least half of them have already died. And we’ve got about 7 or 8 main-ish characters still standing so you know most of them will be fine. Anyway, lets get down to business.

  1. Is it scary: 4- Like I said before, this had a lot of potential but it wasn’t really scary. There were some parts that were a little creepy, but it really missed the mark.
  2. Originality: 5- I have to give some points here for the attempt at a complex and interesting story. And there is something to be said for the structure of having everything sort of come together and revolve around the radio broadcast.
  3. Blood: 1- and that’s because i’m being generous. During the unsatisfactory number of deaths, there was literally and precisely n0 blood. There was one shot of a slimy, maggot-infested zombie so I’ll be nice here.
  4. Believability: 6- Not only was the story over the top, but the acting and the way the characters interacted was tough to buy.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 7- This might have been the one thing this movie got right.  It was dark, gloomy, and really creepy to look at. There are figures coming out of the fog but you can’t really see them. Well done, but not really enough to save this one.

Final Score: 23/50

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