Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||John Carpenter|
|Produced by||Debra Hill|
|Written by||John Carpenter|
Jamie Lee Curtis
|Music by||John Carpenter|
|Edited by||Charles Bornstein|
Tommy Lee Wallace
Debra Hill Productions
|Distributed by||AVCO Embassy Pictures|
|Box office||$21.3 million (domestic)|
The Fog is a 1980 American supernatural horror thriller 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 over a small coastal town in California, bringing with it the vengeful ghosts of mariners who were killed in a shipwreck there 100 years before.
The Fog received mixed reviews upon release but was a hit at the box office, making over $21 million domestically on a $1.1 million budget. Since release, it has received more positive retrospective reviews and has become a cult classic. A remake of the film was made in 2005 to very negative reviews.
As the coastal town of Antonio Bay, in Northern California is about to celebrate its 100th anniversary, paranormal activity begins occurring at midnight. Town priest Father Malone discovers his grandfather's diary at the church after a piece of masonry falls from the wall, and the journal reveals that in 1880, the six founders of Antonio Bay (including Malone's grandfather) deliberately sank a clipper ship named the Elizabeth Dane, so that its wealthy, leprosy-afflicted owner Blake would not establish a leper colony nearby. The conspirators used gold plundered from the ship to fund the town.
Meanwhile, three fishermen are out at sea when a strange, glowing fog envelops their trawler. The fog brings with it the Elizabeth Dane, carrying the vengeful revenants of Blake and his crew who kill the fishermen. Meanwhile, town resident Nick Castle is driving home and picks up a young hitchhiker named Elizabeth Solley. As they drive towards town, all the truck's windows inexplicably shatter.
The following morning, local radio DJ Stevie Wayne is given a piece of driftwood by her son Andy; it is inscribed with the word "DANE", and Andy says he found it on the beach. 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 circuit. 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 flame. Stevie quickly extinguishes the fire, but she 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 one of the fishermen, Dick Baxter, with his eyes gouged out. The other two are missing, one of whom is the husband of Kathy Williams, who is overseeing the town's centennial celebrations. While Elizabeth is alone in the autopsy room, Baxter's corpse rises from the autopsy table and approaches her, before collapsing. As Elizabeth screams, Nick and coroner Dr. Phibes rush into the room where they see the once-again lifeless corpse has carved the number 3 on the floor. That evening, as 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 killed by the revenants as Stevie listens in horror. As Stevie proceeds with her radio show, the fog starts moving inland, disrupting the town's telephone and power lines. Using a backup 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. As the fog envelops Stevie's house, the revenants kill her son's babysitter, Mrs. Kobritz. They then pursue Andy, but Nick arrives and rescues him.
Stevie advises everyone to head to the town's church. Once inside, Nick, Elizabeth, Andy, Kathy, her assistant Sandy, and Father Malone take refuge in a back room as the fog arrives outside. Inside the room, they locate a gold cross in the wall cavity which is made from the stolen gold. As the revenants begin their attack, Malone takes the gold cross out into the chapel. Knowing that they have returned to take six lives in lieu of the six original conspirators who led them to their deaths, Malone offers the gold and himself to Blake to spare the others. At the lighthouse, more revenants 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 seconds before it disappears in a blinding flash of light along with Blake and his crew. The revenants at the lighthouse also disappear, and the fog vanishes. Stevie gets down from the roof and makes it back to safety. After Elizabeth, Nick, Andy, Kathy and Sandy leave the church, the fog reappears inside the church along with the revenants, and Blake decapitates Malone as the screen cuts to black.
- Adrienne Barbeau as Stevie Wayne
- Tom Atkins as Nick Castle
- Jamie Lee Curtis as Elizabeth Solley
- Hal Holbrook as Father Malone
- Janet Leigh as Kathy Williams
- Nancy Loomis as Sandy Fadel
- Ty Mitchell as Andy Wayne
- Charles Cyphers as Dan O'Bannon
- James Canning as Dick Baxter
- John Houseman as Mr. Machen
- John F. Goff as Al Williams
- George Buck Flower as Tommy Wallace
- Regina Waldon as Mrs. Kobritz
- Darwin Joston as Dr. Phibes
- Rob Bottin as Blake
- John Carpenter as Bennett (uncredited)
John Carpenter 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:116 (this event was portrayed more directly in the 1975 Tom Laughlin film, The Master Gunfighter). The premise also bears strong resemblances to Massimo Pupillo's 1965 Terror-Creatures from the Grave as well as 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.:115 Although this was essentially a low-budget independent film, Carpenter chose to shoot in the anamorphic 2.35:1 format, preventing it from looking like a low-budget horror film. Filming took place from April 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".: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. Approximately one-third of the finished film is the newer footage, increasing the film's budget slightly to $1.1 million.
Cast as the female lead was Adrienne Barbeau, Carpenter's wife, who had appeared in Carpenter's TV movie Someone's Watching Me! in 1978. This was her first feature film. Barbeau also appeared in Carpenter's next film, Escape from New York (1981).
Tom Atkins, a friend of Barbeau's, was cast as Nick Castle. The Fog was Atkins' first appearance in a Carpenter film, and he also appeared in Carpenter's next film, Escape from New York (1981) as well as Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), which was produced and scored by Carpenter.
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".
This was the first collaboration between Carpenter and character actor George Buck Flower, who would go on to appear in four more films directed by Carpenter.
Character names and other references
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.
- Dan O'Bannon is a screenwriter who worked with Carpenter on Dark Star (1974).
- Nick Castle is the actor who played Michael Myers in Halloween and co-wrote Escape from New York (1981).
- Tommy Wallace has worked with Carpenter as an editor, art designer, and sound designer on several of his films in the 1970s and 1980s.
- Richard Kobritz, the producer of Carpenter's 1978 TV film Someone's Watching Me! inspired the name of the character Mrs. Kobritz.
Other references that are interwoven into the film include the name of the John Houseman character "Mr. Machen" (a reference to Welsh 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.
Release and reception
In addition to the final $1.1 million production budget, Avco Embassy spent over $3 million solely on advertising which included TV spots, radio spots, print ads, and even the placement of fog machines (costing £350 each) in the lobbies of selected theaters where the film was showing. A further undisclosed amount was spent on 600 prints of the film, 540 of which were distributed to American cinemas. Originally, the film was set for release during the 1979 Christmas season, but Avco Embassy president Bob Rehme opted to wait until February 1980 when there would be less major box office competition from other films and more theater screens available. The film had a staggered release in various cities beginning February 1st before expanding to further locations later that month.
The film made $21.3 million in the United States and Canada.
The film initially received mixed reviews when it was released. In the years since its release, later reviews were more positive regarding the film. It later came to be considered, as Carpenter opined regarding his creation, "a minor horror classic" though he also stated it was not his favorite film due to re-shoots and low production values. This is one of the reasons he agreed to the 2005 remake. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 74% approval rating, with an average rating of 6.55/10 based on 65 reviews. The consensus reads, "A well-crafted return to horror for genre giant John Carpenter, The Fog rolls in and wraps viewers in suitably slow-building chills." In his 1980 review, 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". In a 2002 review (for the DVD release of the film), Slant Magazine reviewer Ed Gonzalez gave the film 3.5 stars out of 4 and stated that "Carpenter's use of 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen is beyond legendary and his compositions evoke a town that may as well be the last remaining one on the face of the earth."
Chris Justice at Classic-Horror.com 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."
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." 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 picks 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-worldly, sentient feel."
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. The Fog placed at number 77 on their top 100 list.
A novelization of the movie, written by Dennis Etchison, was published by Bantam Books in January 1980. 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.
The film has been released on various home video formats since the early 1980s, including VHS 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. Another Special Edition Dual disc DVD was released in Europe in 2004 with the same features of the 2002 release. Scream 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.
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 PG-13 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%.
- Gilles Boulenger, John Carpenter: Prince of Darkness, Los Angeles: Silman-James Press, 2003. ISBN 1-879505-67-3
- "The Fog (1980)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved December 12, 2014.
- Audio commentary by John Carpenter and Debra Hill in The Fog, 2002 special edition DVD.
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- Scanlon, Paul. "'The Fog': A Spook Ride on Film", Rolling Stone, June 28, 1979. Reprinted Archived February 28, 2015, at the Wayback Machine at TheOfficialJohnCarpenter.com. Retrieved November 17, 2007.
- Robert Cumbow (2002). Order in the Universe: The Films of John Carpenter. Scarecrow Press. p. 99. ISBN 978-0-585-38302-6.
- "AFI Catalog of Feature Films (The Fog)". American Film Institute. Retrieved July 30, 2015.
- Bunge, Mike (September 5, 2014). "John Carpenter's The Fog (1980) vs. The Fog (2005)". KIMT. Archived from the original on March 7, 2017. Retrieved June 1, 2015.
- "The Fog (1980)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
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- Gonzalez, Ed (August 27, 2002). "DVD Review: The Fog". Slant Magazine. Retrieved July 30, 2015.
- Justice, Chris (October 3, 2005). "The Fog (1980)". Classic-horror.com. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
- Blumberg, Arnold (2006). Zombiemania: 80 Movies to Die For. Telos Publishing. p. 161. ISBN 9781845830038.
- Regan, Rick (October 7, 2012). "JOHN CARPENTER IN REVIEW: THE FOG (1980)". House of Geekery. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
- Huddleston, Tom. "The 100 best horror films (1980)". Time Out. Time Out Group. Retrieved October 12, 2020.
- Etchison, Dennis. "The Fog Paperback – January, 1980". Amazon. Amazon. Retrieved June 1, 2015.
- Etchison, Dennis (1980). The fog : a novel. New York: Bantam Books. ISBN 0553138251.
- Carr, Kevin (October 31, 2013). "19 Things We Learned from 'The Fog' Commentary". Film School Rejects. Archived from the original on November 3, 2013. Retrieved June 1, 2015.
- "The Fog (Collector's Edition) [Blu-ray]". Amazon. Retrieved June 1, 2015.
- "The Fog (2005)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved December 12, 2014.
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