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JOHN CARPENTER'S UNDERRATED GHOST STORY OF 'THE FOG'

The Fog autographed DVD Year: 1980

Depending how you look at it, John Carpenter's THE FOG is a zombie flick since the titular weather-pattern wraiths move in a slow, nightmarish pace. And within that mobile-moving, misty shroud are what you'd get from a good old fashion ghost story, which this is John Carpenter's homage version of...

Literally starting with old timer John Houseman spinning a campfire legend to kids while setting the plot in motion about their small seaport town, founded on a deception that a ship of lepers was accidentally destroyed by nature — with enough gold to get the town's proverbial ball rolling...

And now in the 100-year Centennial Celebration, the wraiths, brandishing giant hooks, blades and resembling demonic fisherman with obscured hoods and lighted eyes, are after exactly six people — their own unlucky number now unlucky for the surprisingly low body-count in what's also Carpenter's mellow "drinking movie" of sorts...

Starring Adrianne Barbeau, the director's then-wife, as a sultry-voiced deejay of mellow jazz, and otherwise providing a sort of strategic Roman Chorus for the fog's momentum, alerting both the characters where it's headed and the audience where the characters should go because of it... while Carpenter's HALLOWEEN ingenue Jamie Lee Curtis falls (way too quickly and unrealistically) head-over-heels for an older-man, and one of the director's regulars, tough guy actor Tom Atkins; both he and Curtis investigate his best friend's disappearance on a fishing boat leading to a cool "ghost ship" scenario... the duo provides an added bonus to alleviate Barbeau from having to work too hard...

Jamie Lee Curtis in THE FOG Rating: ****1/2

Different than HALLOWEEN and similar to THE THING and PRINCE OF DARKNESS, this is more of an ensemble, and, just as he would later on, Carpenter juggles his characters nicely...

And unlike most main female characters of this genre, the voluptuous brunette Barbeau is definitely no cliché uptight novice: well into her thirties, she has a curious young son who, while they are separated, gives Atkins and Curtis someone to protect along with an actual urgency and purpose leading to a narrowed-down third act. But it's the town's basement-dwelling priest, played with sublime ambiguity by Hal Holbrook, who steals the show while telling half of it...

Meanwhile, added to the mix is Jamie Lee's mom, legendary PSYCHO starlet Janet Leigh who, alongside another HALLOWEEN ingenue and Carpenter regular Nancy Loomis, provide a second duo to follow towards a particular location — where everyone winds up except the lighthouse-trapped Barbeau... And the split-second surprise-ending is one of the greatest ever in this solid, vastly underrated, personal favorite Carpenter vehicle that, compared to his more celebrated films surrounding, seemed to roll under the pop culture horror movie radar: A cult film's cult film, if you will.  

 

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