Viking Night: The Fog
By Bruce Hall
February 14, 2012
The movie is called The Fog, but it's not a retrospective on the horrors of trench warfare, or a Lindsay Lohan biopic. It's literally a movie about the weather, which might not sound exciting...but what if I told you it was EVIL weather?
Yeah, there you go. Now you're interested. More specifically, The Fog is an early John Carpenter film, somewhat forgettably shoehorned in between Halloween and Escape From New York. It wasn't quite as big a hit - or as good - as Halloween, but it succeeds in comparison simply by being more ambitious and not falling flat on its face in the attempt. It wasn't nearly as memorable - or as slick and sexy as Escape, but still does a better job of achieving its goals.
Carpenter excels at making claustrophobic, ultra low budget films that don't look quite as cheap and constrained as they are, and The Fog gets the nod here because despite being somewhat less watchable than the films it's sandwiched between, in many ways it does more with less in ways Halloween didn't need to, and Escape never really attempted.
The Fog benefits most of all from the tried and true conceit that sometimes what we fear most is what we can't see. It's an old fashioned campfire yarn that literally starts out that way, with a grizzled old sailor weaving a tale of horror and woe around a beach side blaze to an audience of rapt youngsters. The calendar is about to mark the hundred year anniversary of the seafront town of Antonio Bay. The year the town was founded, a terrible shipwreck occurred under suspicious circumstances. Legend has it that precisely one century later; a terrible curse would descend upon the unsuspecting town as a result.
It's an effective opening, especially since the clock happens to strike midnight right as the old codger wraps things up. Oddly, the dude comes dangerously close to spoiling the whole plot right here. But effective storytelling is often more in the delivery than the content, and the scene makes for an effective bookend to what ultimately is nothing more than the sort of crap story your Scout Leader would make you listen to over s'mores after a long day of basket weaving and square knots.
As if to prove this, The Fog proceeds to introduce us to some of the cast as strange things start happening around town right at the stroke of midnight. Lights flash, windows break, televisions flicker; anything and everything that isn’t nailed down becomes a prop designed to telegraph what we now all know is coming. As all this is going on, Father Malone (Hal Holbrook) is a Catholic priest (because in horror movies, for some reason, evil has no interest in Protestants) who stumbles across a hundred year old journal written by his grandfather (who was also a Catholic priest, which raises questions, but...never mind...), describing all the unholy details the old sailor left out.