The Fog

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For other uses, see The Fog (disambiguation).
The Fog
The fog 1980 movie poster.jpg
Original theatrical poster
Directed by John Carpenter
Produced by Debra Hill
Written by John Carpenter
Debra Hill

Adrienne Barbeau
Jamie Lee Curtis
Tom Atkins
John Houseman
Janet Leigh

Hal Holbrook
Music by John Carpenter
Cinematography Dean Cundey
Edited by Charles Bornstein
Tommy Lee Wallace
Distributed by AVCO Embassy Pictures
Release dates
  • February 8, 1980 (1980-02-08)
Running time
89 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1 million[1]
Box office $21.3 million (domestic)[2]

"The Fog" is a 1980 American independent horror film directed by John Carpenter, who also co-wrote the screenplay and created the music for the film. It stars Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Atkins, Janet Leigh and Hal Holbrook. It tells the story of a strange, glowing fog that sweeps in over a small coastal town in California, bringing with it the vengeful ghosts of mariners who were killed in a shipwreck exactly 100 years prior.

The Fog was M. Carpenter's first theatrical film after the success of his 1978 horror film Halloween, which also starred Jamie Lee Curtis. In spite of mixed reviews, the film was a commercial success. A remake of the film was made in 2005.


As the Californian coastal town of Antonio Bay is about to celebrate its centennial April 21st, 1980, many strange things occur. Local priest Father Malone (Hal Holbrook) is in his church when a piece of stone falls from the wall, revealing a cavity. Inside is an old journal, his grandfather's diary from a century ago. It reveals that, in 1880; six of the founders of Antonio Bay (including Malone's grandfather) deliberately sank and plundered a clipper ship named the Elizabeth Dane. Blake, a wealthy man with leprosy who wanted to establish a colony near Antonio Bay, owned the ship. Gold from the ship was used to build Antonio Bay and its church. Three local anglers are out at sea when a fog envelops their trawler. The Elizabeth Dane carrying the vengeful ghosts of Blake and his crew pulls alongside their trawler. The ghosts kill the three anglers. Nick Castle (Tom Atkins) is driving home and picks up a young hitchhiker named Elizabeth Solley (Jamie Lee Curtis). As they drive towards town, all the truck's windows inexplicably shatter.

The following morning, local radio DJ Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau) is given a piece of driftwood inscribed with the word "DANE" that was found on the beach by her young son Andy. Intrigued, Stevie takes it with her to the lighthouse where she broadcasts her radio show. She sets the wood down next to a tape player that is playing, but the wood inexplicably begins to seep water causing the tape player to short out. A mysterious man's voice emerges from the tape player swearing revenge, and the words "6 must die" appear on the wood before it bursts into flames. Stevie quickly extinguishes the fire, but then sees that the wood once again reads "DANE" and the tape player begins working normally again.

After locating the missing trawler, Nick and Elizabeth find the corpse of Dick Baxter with his eyes gouged out. The other two anglers are missing. City council member Kathy Williams (Janet Leigh) is wife of one of the missing anglers. While Elizabeth is alone in the autopsy room, Baxter's corpse rises from the autopsy table and approaches her. As Elizabeth screams, Nick and Dr. Phibes rush back into the room where they see the corpse lifeless again on the floor, appearing to have scratched the number "3" onto the floor with a scalpel. Baxter was the third victim to die. That evening, the town's celebrations begin. Local weatherman Dan calls Stevie at the radio station to tell her that another fog bank has appeared and is moving towards town. As they are talking, the fog gathers outside the weather station and Dan hears a knock at the door. He answers it and is murdered by the phantoms as Stevie listens with sickening apprehension. As Stevie proceeds with her radio show, the haze starts moving inland also, kills the town's telephone and power lines. Using a back-up generator, Stevie begs her listeners to go to her house and save her son when she sees the fog closing in from her lighthouse vantage point. At Stevie's home, the ghosts kill her son’s babysitter, Mrs. Kobritz, as the fog envelops the house. The ghosts then pursue Andy, but Nick arrives just in time to rescue him.

Stevie advises everyone to go to the church. Once inside, Nick, Elizabeth, and Andy and Father Malone take asylum in a little back room as the mist starts to show up outside. Inside the room, they locate a buried gold cross which is made from the stolen gold. As the ghosts begin their attack, Malone takes the gold cross out into the chapel. Knowing he is a relative of one of the schemers, Malone defies Blake and offers him himself to spare others. Back at the lighthouse, more ghosts attack Stevie, trapping her on the roof. Inside the church, Blake seizes the gold cross, which begins to glow. Nick pulls Malone away from the cross only seconds before it disappears in a blinding flash of light along with all the ghosts. The ghosts at the lighthouse also disappear, and the fog vanishes. Later that night, Malone is alone in the church pondering why Blake did not kill him and thus take six lives. The fog then reappears inside the church along with the ghosts, and Blake decapitates Malone.




Point Reyes Lighthouse, where many of Adrienne Barbeau's scenes were shot.

John Carpenter has stated that the inspiration for the story was partly drawn from the British film The Trollenberg Terror (1958), which dealt with monsters hiding in the clouds. He has also said that he was inspired by a visit to Stonehenge with his co-writer/producer (and then-girlfriend), Debra Hill. While in England promoting Assault on Precinct 13, Carpenter and Hill visited the site in the late afternoon one day and saw an eerie fog in the distance. In the DVD audio commentary for the film, Carpenter noted that the story of the deliberate wreckage of a ship and its subsequent plundering was based on an actual event that took place in the 19th century near Goleta, California[1]:116 (this event was portrayed more directly in the 1975 Tom Laughlin film, The Master Gunfighter). The premise also bears strong resemblances to the John Greenleaf Whittier poem The Wreck of the Palatine which appeared in The Atlantic Monthly in 1867, about the wreck of the ship Princess Augusta in 1738, at Block Island, within Rhode Island.

The Fog was part of a two-picture deal with AVCO-Embassy, along with Escape from New York (1981), and was shot on a reported budget of $1 million.[1]:115 Although this was essentially a low-budget independent film, Carpenter chose to shoot in the anamorphic 2.35:1 format, which gave the film a grander look so it did not seem like a low budget horror film. Filming took place from April 1979 to May 1979 at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood, California (interior scenes) and on location at Point Reyes, California, Bolinas, California, Inverness, California, and the Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Sierra Madre, California.

After viewing a rough cut of the film, Carpenter was dissatisfied with the results. Recalling the experience, Carpenter commented "It was terrible. I had a movie that didn't work, and I knew it in my heart".[1]:118 Carpenter subsequently added the prologue with Mr. Machen (John Houseman) telling ghost stories to fascinated children by a campfire (Houseman played a similar role in the opening of the 1981 film Ghost Story). Carpenter added several other new scenes and re-shot others in order to make the film more comprehensible, more frightening, and gorier. Carpenter and Debra Hill have said the necessity of a re-shoot became especially clear to them after they realized that The Fog would have to compete with horror films that had high gore content.[3] Approximately one-third of the finished film is the newer footage.


Cast as the female lead was Adrienne Barbeau, Carpenter's then-wife, who had appeared in Carpenter's TV movie Someone's Watching Me! in 1978. This was her first feature film. Barbeau would subsequently appear in Carpenter's next film, Escape from New York (1981).[4]

Tom Atkins, a friend of Barbeau's, was cast as Nick Castle. The Fog was Atkins' first appearance in a Carpenter film, though he would also go on to appear in Carpenter's next film, Escape from New York, and Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), which was produced and scored by Carpenter.[5]

Jamie Lee Curtis, who was the main star of Carpenter's 1978 hit Halloween, appeared as Elizabeth. Commenting on the role and on appearing in another of Carpenter's films, she said "That's what I love about John. He's letting me explore different aspects of myself. I'm spoiled rotten now. My next director is going to be almost a letdown."[6]

Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, and Tom Atkins all appeared in Creepshow shortly thereafter.

Play on character names and other references[edit]

Besides the fact that many of the actors in The Fog also appeared in Halloween (and other later Carpenter films), several characters in The Fog are named after people that Carpenter had collaborated with on previous films.[7]

Other in-jokes and references that are interwoven into the film include the name of the John Houseman character "Mr. Machen" (a reference to British horror fantasist Arthur Machen); a radio report that mentions Arkham Reef; and the town's coroner Dr. Phibes was named after the titular character of the horror films starring Vincent Price from the early 1970s.


Box office[edit]

It made $21.3 million.(domestic)[2]

Critical response[edit]

The film was greeted with mixed reviews when it was initially released, but was a commercial success. It later came to be considered, as Carpenter called it, "a minor horror classic" on the audio commentary of the special edition DVD of The Fog. Carpenter himself stated that this is not his overall favorite film due to re-shoots and low production values. This is one of the reasons he agreed to the 2005 remake.[8][9] Roger Ebert gave the film two out of four stars, commenting, "This isn't a great movie but it does show great promise from Carpenter".[10] The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 69% approval rating with an average rating of 6.2/10 based on 39 reviews.[11] On IMDb it holds a ratings of 6.8/10.[12] Chris Justice at commented "The music is also classic Carpenter, and although the composer actually scrapped his original score and rewrote it to better match the film's vibe, viewers benefit greatly from his acute sense of rhythm, composition, and tone. His stark notes add another layer of complexity to a film that too often is forgotten. The editing is also brilliant; at 89 minutes, the film packs quite a punch and is worth every second."[13]

Zombiemania: 80 Movies to Die For author Arnold T. Blumberg wrote that the film was "a very effective small scale chiller" and "an attempt to capture the essence of a typical spooky American folktale while simultaneously paying homage to the EC Comics of the 1950s and the then very recent Italian zombie influx."[14]Slam Adams at House of Geekery commented "The Fog is an incredibly atmospheric horror flick that takes the technical expertise of Halloween and adds more obvious supernatural elements. Carpenter pick and chooses what to show and what not to show opting that more is less. It is impressive the way they seem to have complete control over the actual fog giving it an other-worldy, sentient feel."[15]

In the early 2010s, Time Out conducted a poll of over 100 authors, directors, actors and critics who have worked within the horror genre to vote for their top horror films.[16] The Fog placed at number 91 on their top 100 list.[17]


In the same year as the movie was released, a novelization was published written by Dennis Etchison. The novel clarifies the implication in the film that the six who must die were not random but in fact descendants of the six original conspirators.It was published by Bantam Books on January 1980. [18][19]

Home media[edit]

The film has been released on various home video formats since the early 1980s, including video cassette and laserdisc. It was released on DVD in 2002 complete with extra features including two documentaries and an audio commentary by John Carpenter and Debra Hill as well as trailers and galleries.[20] Shout! Factory released the film on Blu-ray in 2013, which included the previous extra features as well as a new audio commentary by actors Adrienne Barbeau and Tom Atkins and production designer Tommy Lee Wallace, a new interview with Jamie Lee Curtis, and an episode of Horror's Hallowed Grounds which revisits the film's locations.[21]


Main article: The Fog (2005 film)

In 2005, the film was remade under the direction of Rupert Wainwright with a screenplay by Cooper Layne and starring Tom Welling and Maggie Grace. Though based on Carpenter and Hill's original screenplay, the remake was made more in the vein of a "teen horror film" and given a PG13 rating (the original film was rated R). Green-lit by Revolution Studios with just eighteen pages of script written, the film was almost universally panned for its poor script and acting and has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 4%.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Gilles Boulenger, John Carpenter: Prince of Darkness, Los Angeles: Silman-James Press, 2003. ISBN 1-879505-67-3
  2. ^ a b "The Fog (1980)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2014-12-12. 
  3. ^ Audio commentary by John Carpenter and Debra Hill in The Fog, 2002 special edition DVD.
  4. ^ Farmer, Jim. "Preview: With the revival of “Pippin,” Adrienne Barbeau’s career hits the literal high wire". Arts Alt. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  5. ^ Matt Serafini (October 26, 2009). "MattFini's Halloween Top 10 Lists: Ghost Stories!". DreadCentral. Retrieved 2014-12-12. 
  6. ^ Paul Scanlon, "'The Fog': A Spook Ride on Film", Rolling Stone, June 28, 1979. Reprinted at the Retrieved 2007-11-17.
  7. ^ Robert Cumbow (2002). Order in the Universe: The Films of John Carpenter. Scarecrow Press. p. 99. ISBN 978-0-585-38302-6. 
  8. ^ Bunge, Mike. "John Carpenter’s The Fog (1980) vs. The Fog (2005)". kimt. KIMT. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  9. ^ Audio commentary by John Carpenter and Debra Hill in The Fog, 2002 special edition DVD.
  10. ^ Roger Ebert, "The Fog", Chicago Sun-Times, February 5, 1980. Retrieved 2007-11-17.
  11. ^ "The Fog (1980)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2013-10-10. 
  12. ^ Contributors. "The Fog". IMDB. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  13. ^ Justice, Chris. "The Fog (1980)". Classic Horror. Retrieved 2 June 2015. 
  14. ^ Blumberg, Arnold (2006). Zombiemania: 80 Movies to Die For. Telos Publishing. p. 161. ISBN 9781845830038. 
  15. ^ Adams, Slam. "JOHN CARPENTER IN REVIEW: THE FOG (1980)". House of Geekery. Retrieved 2 June 2015. 
  16. ^ Derek Adams; Dave Calhoun et al. "The 100 best horror films". Time Out. Retrieved 2014-04-13. 
  17. ^ Derek Adams. "The 100 best horror films: the list". Time Out. Retrieved 2014-04-13. 
  18. ^ Etchison, Dennis. "The Fog Paperback – January, 1980". Amazon. Amazon. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  19. ^ Etchison, Dennis (1980). The fog : a novel. New York: Bantam Books. ISBN 0553138251. 
  20. ^ Carr, Kevin. "19 Things We Learned from ‘The Fog’ Commentary". Film School Rejects. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  21. ^ Listing. "The Fog (Collector's Edition) [Blu-ray]". Amazon. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  22. ^ "The Fog (2005)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2014-12-12. 

External links[edit]