It's five to midnight... there's still time for one more story. The small seaside town of Antonio Bay is celebrating its centenary, but at the stroke of midnight on that fateful day, strange things start to happen, like car alarms going off or clocks stopping. And as the day draws on, a bank of glowing fog creeps in from the sea, spelling doom for the town's inhabitants...
Nothing to do with the James Herbert novel, The Fog was written by director John Carpenter and producer Debra Hill. Basically a zombie movie dressed up as a ghost story, it features the return of a long dead leper colony whose ship was guided to destruction on the rocks off the coast of Antonio Bay - they are now looking for revenge on the descendants of the townsfolk who sent them to their death.
After revitalising genres with Halloween, and before that Dark Star and Assault on Precinct 13, Carpenter's next film looked like a disappointment, even ordinary, compared to those previous heights. It takes a long time for anything much to happen, and you find yourself way ahead of the characters as far as the story goes.
If the plot is unimaginative, compensation can be found in the handling. The eerie atmosphere is nicely sustained, what with that fog rolling into the town in menacing fashion (the budget for dry ice must have been astronomical), carrying the undead armed with hooks, swords and scythes. Dean Cundey's photography is superb, with picturesque landscapes and deep shadows creating a sense of a chilly smalltown under threat.
Carpenter cuts skillfully between his dependable cast, although Adrienne Barbeau, supposedly the star, doesn't do much but sit in her lighthouse radio station while broadcasting warnings - it's everyone else who does the hard work of figuring out how to beat the supernatural attackers. And why isn't she wearing headphones if she's a DJ? And why doesn't she play anything slightly recognisable? Anyway, The Fog is well enough made, but feels insubsantial and oddly bloodless. Music by Carpenter himself, as expected.
[The two-disk special edition DVD features an audio commentary by Carpenter and producer Debra Hill which goes into detail about how they basically had to shoot the film twice, two documentaries - one new and one vintage, amusing outtakes and more.]
Skillful American writer-director of supense movies, often in the science fiction or horror genres. Comedy Dark Star and thriller Assault on Precinct 13 were low budget favourites, but mega-hit Halloween kick-started the slasher boom and Carpenter never looked back.