Uncovering Curiosities: John Carpenter’s THE FOG

After taking a break from horror to make Elvis in 1979, John Carpenter returned to the genre with The Fog, an atmospheric ghost story set in the fictional Californian town of Antonio Bay. 

When The Fog starts rolling-in, so does the crew of the Elizabeth Dane, a ship which sank off the coast of Antonio Bay decades before. Jamie Lee Curtis reunites with her Halloween director, while Carpenter stalwarts Adrienne Barbeau and Tom Atkins also star in this well crafted chiller . 

Written by John Carpenter and producer Debra Hill after they were inspired by a visit to a foggy StoneHenge during UK publicity duties on Assault On Precinct 13, the 1980 film is an old fashioned ghost story which is very different from the slasher stylings of 1978’s slasher classic Halloween. It’s an atmospheric piece that owes a lot to the writings of H.P Lovecraft, along with a small town feel which is reminiscent of many Stephen King works. The film is loosely based on a true story which saw the inhabitants of Californian costal town shipwreck a ship in order to steal its gold.

The Fog has much to offer genre fans, including nods and winks to other horror films.Many of characters in the film are references to Carpenter’s previous work – Nick Castle (Michael Myers in Halloween and co-writer of Escape From New York), Dan O’Bannon (co-writer of Carpenter’s debut Dark Star and Alien) and Dr Phibes (named after the Vincent Price horror villain). There’s also a deep Hitchcockian feel to it and it shares many of the same locations as Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. The Hitchcock references continue with Psycho star Janet Leigh’s casting – who is also the mother of co-star Jamie Lee Curtis. Carpenter’s love of Howard Hawks ’s Rio Bravo and El Dorado is also present in the film’s siege finale (something which also occurs in Assault in Precinct 13 and Prince Of Darkness and Ghosts of Mars).

The filmmaking style used by Carpenter in the film is very different from the style he adopted for Halloween. That film had constant movement in its panaglide camera work. While both share the director’s trademark anamorphic scope, the movement in The Fog is more dream like and the action more visceral.

While The Fog may have aged more than most of Carpenter’s work. it is still vastly superior to the remake that was inflicted on us in 2005. Having said that it’s still as atmospheric and as eerie as hell.