Tuesday, September 03, 2013

The Fog - Scream Factory Blu-ray Review

Director: John Carpenter
Writer: John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Stars: Hal Holbrook, Tom Atkins, Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Buck Flower
Year: 1980
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Studio: Scream Factory
Region: A

The Fog was Carpenter's second shot at Horror after the amazing success of Halloween. John shot the film in 1980, right between his Elvis film with Kurt Russell and Escape From New York with Kurt Russell. The plot is your pretty standard ghost revenge story; a small coastal town called Antonio Bay  feels the wrath of a curse in the form of a deadly fog that brings forth the ghosts of vengeful leprous mariners who were murdered there exactly 100 years earlier. The town priest, whose great grandfather was directly responsible for the mariner's deaths must find a way to stop them before the entire town is doomed.

I've been a horror fan for as long as I can remember, but I seemed to have stuck strictly to the Freddy and Jason stuff that was so abundantly popular when I was a kid. A lot of great stuff was being released when I was a young horror fan, but I missed so much of it the first time around. The Fog was one of these movies. I  first saw The Fog roughly a decade ago, shortly after the August 26, 2003 MGM DVD release - which, by the way, was an absolutely ridiculous day for MGM horror releases; The Brood, Burnt Offerings, Comedy of Terrors/The Raven, Countess Dracula/The Vampire Lovers, The Ghoul, Ghoulies, Haunted Palace/Tower of London, The Howling, I, Madman, Poltergeist 2/Poltergeist 3, Raw Meat, Squirm, Tomb of Ligeia, and Troll/Troll 2 all came out on that same day. I think I spent like $130 that day.

On my first viewing of The Fog I was underwhelmed, and frankly a bit bored with the whole thing. I didn't hate it, but I did end up selling off my copy a year or two later only to be tempted by $3 copies of the DVD at every Big Lots I've gone to in the past 5 years. I don't know what happened between me and The Fog in the past 10 years, but I enjoyed it a great deal more on this second viewing. Everything really clicked with me this time, from the very first words of the opening campfire ghost tale I was hooked. It's highly atmospheric and while not outright frightening it's very still a very spooky film. There are also some really great performances from Tom Atkins, Hal Holbrook and Carpenter's then-wife Adrienne Barbeau which are complimented by Dean Cundey's eerie cinematography and Carpenter's haunting score - nevermind Halloween, this is John's best music. 
The Fog has gone from being a film I had little regard for to being one of my favorites from Carpenter, right behind The Thing and Big Trouble in Little China. It's a  great underrated film about maritime specters that I highly recommended. This would be a great film to break out this Halloween, and I also think this would be a good film for younger horror fans in the 10-12 age range who aren't quite ready for the hard stuff yet.


Jamie Lee's Elizabeth Solley is a complete 180 from Laurie Strode, she's a bit of a slut in this one, jumping into the sack with Tom "Thrill Me" Atkins very shortly after he picks her up while hitchhiking. Don't expect any Trading Places style action from Jamie though, slutty or not she remains covered up throughout the film. Also nothing from Adrienne, Nancy Loomis or Jamie's mom Janet.

The leprous ghost mariners are pretty menacing despite the fact that you never really get a good clear look at any of them. They're just seen as eerie silhouettes in the fog for the most part. Despite the fact that Caprenter was asked to add more violence to the film, The Fog is actually very dry blood and guts wise. A man has a sword run through him and several people are murdered to death with hooks, though there is very little, if any actual blood shown during any of the deaths. Like Halloween The Fog is not concerned with drenching the screen with buckets of blood and gore, it's more about atmosphere and evoking a sense of dread.

Things to watch for:
Ancient Mariners
George "I wrote Bikini Car Wash" Flower
The first of two hitchhiker performances by Jamie Lee.
Tom Atkins and Janet Leigh walk into a bar...

The Disc:
The transfer is mostly fantastic, the footage of the fog blanketing the ocean looks pretty rough, but when the rest of the film looks as good as it does I can forgive that.

So, so many features are included on the disc. So many, in fact, that it would take another 8 or 9 paragraphs to run down all of the features, so I'm going to just list them all below. Commentary with Tom Atkins? Yes, please.

Bonus Features:

  • New HD transfer of the film supervised by Director of Photography Dean Cundey
  • Exclusive interview with Actress Jamie Lee Curtis discussing The Fog and covering her legendary early 80s “Scream Queen” career.
  • Audio commentary featuring Actress Adrienne Barbeau, Actor Tom Atkins and Production Designer Tommy Lee Wallace
  • Retrospective interview with Director of Photography Dean Cundey about his many legendary collaborations with John Carpenter
  • Horror’s Hallowed Grounds – A Look At The Film’s Locations with host Sean Clark

    Extras from the MGM prior release include:
  • Tales From The Mist: Inside The Fog Featurette
  • Fear On Film: Inside The Fog Featurette
  • The Fog: Storyboard To Film Featurette
  • Outtakes
  • Theatrical Trailers & TV Spots
  • Photo Gallery and Storyboards
  • Audio Commentary With Writer/Director John Carpenter And Writer/Producer Debra Hill

  • Final Thoughts
    While low on the gory goods, The Fog is a very entertaining and atmospheric ghost story from one of the all time masters of horror. The top notch transfer, bounty of extras and excellent cover art - both the new Osbourn painting and the classic poster art on the flip side make The Fog one of Scream's finest and most comprehensive packages to date.

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