Tuesday, October 19, 2010

DR. SHOCK'S HALLOWEENIE MOVIE OF THE DAY: THE FOG (1980). This was John Carpenter's spooky follow-up to the box office-smashing HALLOWEEN (1978). Naturally, THE FOG wasn't quite the success HALLOWEEN was; how could it be since HALLOWEEN was the highest-grossing independent film of all time. For some reason, THE FOG seemed to come and go without making that much of a splash. However, as time went on people began to look at it fondly and say that it was a pretty damn good horror movie. I'm one of them. Actually, I thought that way from the beginning . . . or at least ALMOST from the beginning when I first saw it on TV in the early dawning days of cable on HBO in 1981. All of us who were teenagers back then can relate to the fact that we would watch a movie over and over and OVER on HBO because this whole uncut, commercial-free movie watching thing was brand new and pretty exciting! And how can you not be sucked in immediately by that pre-credits storytelling sequence by John Houseman?!? And talk about economical; there's the whole premise for the film laid out for you before the campfire by old salt John Houseman in a creepy "Inner Sanctum" voice. Houseman as "Mr. Machen" (obviously an homage to horror story writer Arthur Machen) tells the terrified kiddies how the clipper ship Elizabeth Dane met its doom off the coast of Antonio Bay when it followed a campfire (much like THIS one) on the beach; the resulting wreck (and the gold which was found) causes the town to become a town. Now, on Antonio Bay's 100th anniversary, the restless dead (with salt water in their lungs) seems to be returning for some good old-fashioned revenge on the descendents of the 6 people responsible for wrecking the ship. Adrienne Barbell (sorry, Barbeau) stars as Stevie the owner/DJ of a local radio station operating out of the town's lighthouse (a spectacularly wonderful set idea). There's also local boy Nick Castle (ha ha) played by Tom Atkins who picks up hitchhiker Elizabeth (Jamie Lee Curtis); while sharing a can of Activia, Nick's pickup truck suddenly has all it's windows blown out. You see, between the hours of 12 midnight and 1 am (the witching hour) strange things are happening: telephone booths ring, gas pumps pump, hydrolic car lifts lift, convenience store products shake and quake and car alarms go off; basically the restless spirits are announcing that tomorrow night's centennial celebration is going to be a night no one ever forgets. 15 miles out on the ocean the small craft "The Sea Grass" meets a fog bank; sadly for them, inside the fog are the dripping, seaweed-encrusted ghosts of the Elizabeth Dane and they're carrying swords and meat-hooks. Scratch one three-man boat crew! Local soused priest Father Malone (Hal Holbrook) finds his ancestor's journal describing how the clipper ship was deliberately wrecked by the townspeople and that the hour from midnight till 1 am belongs to the dead. Meanwhile, Mrs. Williams (Janet Leigh) is trying to set up the 100th anniversary celebration with her assistant Sandy (HALLOWEEN's own Nancy Loomis). As the eerily-glowing fog bank slowly inches its way over the town, Stevie pieces together that there is something in the fog -- vengeful, bloodthirsty spirits stepping right out of an E.C. comic book -- and tries to warn the town via her radio broadcast. The fog effects are quite nicely done as are the seen-in-silhouette drippy ghosts holding their rusty meat-hooks. John Carpenter and co-writer/producer Debra Hill apparently got the idea for the film when on a trip to England; they looked out over the moors and saw a fog bank sitting out there and Carpenter said, "Wow, I wonder what's IN that fog!" Carpenter, as always, manages to include a tribute to his hero Howard Hawks when he has Stevie broadcast over the air at the end of the film to watch for the fog . . . there's something in the fog . . . which, of course, echoes the ending of THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951). Even though the film takes place in April, THE FOG has the best "Halloweenie feel" to it and makes for great, atmospheric October viewing!

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