Thursday, October 2, 2014

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Fog (1980)

Directed by John Carpenter, The Fog is a classic example of a ghost story done right.

Set in the fictional town of Antonio Bay as it prepares to celebrate its centenary birthday. Although this should be a time for festivities, strange phenomena begins to occur throughout the town. Due to these strange incidents, the town's priest (Hal Holbrook) discovers his grandfather's diary that reveals a terrible secret about the town's origins: Antonio Bay's founders caused a ship to crash against the rocky store, plundering the wreckage for gold they used to build the future settlement.

On the night of Antonio Bay's centennial, an eerie fog slowly spreads throughout the town. Lurking inside the glowing mist is the ghostly crew of the wrecked ship, seeking vengeance from beyond the grave. With the citizens of Antonio Bay survive the night, or will they pay for their ancestors' crimes?

I feel like I should admit something before I go any further: I have a weak spot for ghost stories. Ever since I was little, I've always found the concept of a soul trapped on Earth due to some unfinished business both intriguing and terrifying. However, don't let that bias fool you. I can tell when a film tell such a story does so poorly. Thankfully, The Fog had a legendary horror director at the helm who knew what he was doing.

The Fog doesn't rely on loud noises or cheap scares, but an eerie atmosphere that fosters a sense of growing dread in the viewer. Each time the titular fog slowly enters the scene and you catch a glimpse of a shadowy figure hiding within, you know something bad is about to happen and you feel yourself growing tense. The feeling is only amplified by the film's masterfully-constructed score.

Carpenter also utilizes the horror principle that "less is more" to great effect. Throughout the film, the undead sailors are constantly shrouded by the fog and dark shadows, with their glowing red eyes being their only perfectly discernible feature. Because we only get glimpses of what they might actually look like, these ghosts are mysterious and much more terrifying.

Although it does have its flaws (some of the performances are a little lackluster and the film hasn't aged well in particular places), The Fog is definitely worth your time (especially if you're a fan of Carpenter's work and love a good ghost story).