Rating: 2.5 out of 5 (okay)
Nearing its 100th anniversary, the Californian coastal town of Antonia Bay is swept under a supernatural fog, whose lurking terror threatens to reveal bloody secrets long forgotten.
The enduring power of John Carpenter’s best films, from The Thing to Escape From New York stems from their complexity. From multiple narratives to social commentary, Carpenter’s best works remain fresh because they morph into something new with each viewing.
The Fog, by contrast to Carpenter’s classics, is ironically transparent. Directed, scored and partly written by Carpenter himself, The Fog is a shallow thriller which grasps at one idea and overextends that premise into a film. The fog itself, with its connotations of the unknown, could have built a brooding tale of suspense as Frank Darabont provided with 2008’s The Mist. Instead Carpenter focuses upon shipwrecked ghosts who badly mimic slasher horror villains as they butcher the townsfolk. The Fog’s often flat dialogue and variable acting is not compensated by tension or terror despite some decent build ups. John Carpenter strongly displays some of his best direction in the film; especially during the opening sequence where the random acts of ordinary objects create a delicious dread. Despite Carpenter’s visual brilliance, which like ancient alchemy can turn low budget ideas into Hollywood gold, The Fog never becomes an excellent film. The Fog’s biggest problem is that it is neither scary nor engrossing. The film never elicits strong emotional responses or leaves any intrigue in the viewer for a second watch.
Having now watched The Fog and The Prince of Darkness, two of Carpenter’s less remembered works, it is astonishing to see how Carpenter’s ideas have rippled across our zeitgeist. Even his weaker films have shaped or predicated films to come. The Prince of Darkness’ biblical distillation of horror preceded the 1990’s slew of apocalyptic films supping on Christian myth. From the eerie setting of the Silent Hill video games to Netflix’s Stranger Things, The Fog’s distinguishing feature of a town sealed up by something unnatural has been recycled repeatedly. Classic B Movie The Lost Boys borrowed and then developed The Fog’s underused theme of a town bound up by a secret. John Carpenter may at times falter, but his willingness to follow a unique vision has bequeathed a legacy both direct and subtle upon Western cinema.
Despite its flaws, The Fog is enjoyable for Carpenter fans and is a decent film to have in the background on a lazy Sunday.
By Saul Shimmin
For the trailer, see below: