- Movie Rating -

The Fog (1980)

| February 1, 1980

John Carpenter’s films are something akin to a bag of cheeseburgers.  They’re tasty, filling and contain no nutritional value.  At best, you get something savory and delicious, like Halloween.  At worst, you get something empty and unsatisfying like The Fog.

The Fog uses basically the same stalk and slash method as Halloween in which an unsuspecting victim opens a door or waits too long to run and ends up getting the deep six.  The difference is that Halloween was crafty, Carpenter ratcheted up the tension so you had time to really get involved and, yes, even scared for the poor hapless babysitter who was about the become the killer’s next victim.  The Fog, I’m afraid, isn’t that clever.  Scene after scene deals with an unsuspecting person who not only takes too long to figure out what’s going on, but tries our patience.

Take, for example, a scene in which a radio D.J. (Adrienne Barbeau) is on the phone, desperately trying to warn her friend (Charles Cyphers) about a dangerous fog that seems to have sinister machinations (bear with me).  He thinks, perhaps, that she’s been popping pills.  The lights go out.  He hears noises outside.  He puts the phone down.  Someone bangs on the door.  He thinks someone is playing joke on him.  He threatens whoever is out there.  The D.J. warns him to stay away from the door.  He opens the door.  He walks out into the fog.  A long, silent pause.  Whammo!

The pacing of this scene is interminable.  We know that the guy is going to get it, but Carpenter drags the scene out so long that we get frustrated.  This happens over and over and over.  A disbelieving victim is lured into a trap long after their mental caution flag should have gone up.

But even still, the basic premise of The Fog isn’t that scary.  The faceless stalker in Halloween has a quiet menace.  He was a guy in a mask with a knife who could slip out of a closet and kill you at any moment.  Here the villains are contained within a green, glowing fog and it’s just not that scary.  That film was at least grounded in some reality.  Here, it’s based on campfire folklore: a hundred years ago there was a shipwreck and the citizenry murdered the remaining sailors who vowed to return as murderous ghosts a century later.

Of course, this isn’t the dumbest idea in movie history, but it’s not all that scary either.  Scares need to happen suddenly, but since the ghosts are preceded by a sinister fog bank, we already know that they’re coming and that takes the edge off.  It lightens the scare factor and so we spend far too long waiting for the inevitable.  Carpenter has the pieces of a good idea here but the execution needed far more work to make for a plausible thriller.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1980) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized