Wednesday, October 12, 2016

31 Days of Horror- Day 12: The Fog (1980)

(dir. John Carpenter)

AVCO Embassy Pictures
*First time viewing

A coastal California town is sent into a panic when a mysterious fog rolls in, carrying with it the ghosts of vengeance-driven lepers.

Without belaying the point, The Fog was a bit of an endurance test in terms of my wakefulness. As someone who loves John Carpenter, I can easily say that this one won’t go into my favorites of his, but I also wouldn’t turn down the opportunity to watch it again. The story is stretched too thin, it’s ninety-minute runtime feeling perilously padded and its large cast of characters offering little impact individually to the proceedings, with the exception of Adrienne Barbeau. That being said, the film is fantastically directed, not just in hindsight of Carpenter’s legacy, but because even on its own it’s impeccably filmed. When we think of Carpenter now, often through the eyes of his successors, we often think about his soundtracks, his production designs, or his sparse but often effective narratives. But where Carpenter’s greatest strengths lie is in shot composition. I couldn’t really care less about the protagonists of this film, but nearly every shot is a masterpiece of mood and spatial relation. Filmed in widescreen, The Fog, feels more cinematic than most of Carpenter’s earlier work, and its neo-Gothic moodiness makes the film feel more like an example of 70s European horror than the 80s American horror The Fog would be lumped in with. Even when the film isn’t going for horror, and instead focuses on this idyllic coastal town, Carpenter frames everything with a sense of stylish purpose. A little boy stands hunched over the shoreline with the camera frames him against the sky, cutting out the ground to make it seem as if being he is engulfed by the heavens. The ghosts are kept as silhouettes, distant and unreachable, even after the protagonists believe they have them figured out. Whatever The Fog lacks in storytelling ability, Carpenter makes up for on a technical level.

Despite the story being a bit tedious for the most part, the climax works exceptionally well, as do the film’s themes of forgetfulness and forgiveness. Just because something is remembered and amends are attempted does not mean that the sins of the past are forgiven, and for a horror film steeped in America’s troubled history, it ends on pretty powerful note with striking imagery to match.

Scare Factor: 1/5 As Carpenter’s follow-up to Halloween, The Fog doesn’t achieve the same iconic status or chilling horror—something that surely led to the film’s mixed reaction upon release. But The Fog is a film that shows the growth of a filmmaker and makes it easier to see Carpenter’s progress from Halloween to The Thing. I don’t think The Fog is a must-see horror movie, but it is a must-see for anyone fascinated by Carpenter’s filmography.

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