It finally seems that the world is catching up in realizing that John Carpenter rocks. Carpenter’s Halloween is being seen by a new generation of horror lovers thanks to David Gordon Green’s smash hit sequel. There’s now a demand for new sequels to Carpenter’s classics, eschewing the standard hype for simple remakes of his genre classics. Shout! Factory has released multiple special editions of Carpenter’s beloved films. The multi-hyphenate Carpenter is also having success as a musician, touring the world and playing the compositions from his films. Now Rialto Pictures is reviving Carpenter’s Halloween follow up The Fog with a brand new 4K restoration playing in theaters across the country (including our good friends at The Frida Cinema). The return of The Fog is a reminder that Carpenter has been a master of horror that has never been confined to a single aspect, crafting a unique exercise in horror that is rooted in the supernatural and yet is all too real because it deals with the complicated history behind the founding of much of America.
The California coastal town of Antonio Bay is ready to celebrate the centennial anniversary of its founding with local Kathy Williams (Janet Leigh) orchestrating the festivities. In the days leading up to the celebration, strange things start to occur in the quiet costal town – electrical shortages and supernatural rumblings. The town’s priest Father Malone (Hal Holbrook) discovers a long lost journal of his grandfather’s exploits which paint a disturbing portrait of Antonio Bay’s founding, a plundering which led to the foundation of the town.
Elsewhere in Antonio Bay, local DJ Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau) broadcasts to the town and the ships out on the sea. Also listening is Nick Castle (Tom Atkins) who while driving on the outskirts of town picks up a hitchhiker Elizabeth Solley (Jamie Lee Curtis). A strange fog rolls along the coast of the town, and within is an destructive force which claims the lives of a crew of fishing boat. The bodies, though dry, look as if they’ve been drowned in the sea. The unusual happenings around Antonio Bay begin to grow in number as does the body count from strange accidents. The secrets behind the fog have been buried in the diary discovered by Father Malone, but no one is safe once the fog creeps in ashore.
The Fog is a real change of pace from the horrors that Carpenter along with producer and co-writer Debra Hill crafted in Halloween. Whereas Michael Myers was an unstoppable force of evil, the evil within The Fog is not the supernatural forces perpetrating the killing but the tainted revisionist history that obscured the horrors of the past. That’s what’s most terrifying. Nobody likes to think that they’ve benefited from a heritage of pillage and plunder, and yet a vast majority of Americans have. It’s a nation that was built on the backs of slaves. It’s a nation where native people were displaced and decimated. It’s something that still occurs in the way that families and entire neighborhoods are displaced for various development projects. If we don’t reckon with these demons from the past, they could just come back to haunt us in ways that are unimaginable.
The creepy happenings of The Fog are amplified by so many of Carpenter’s signature trademarks. Master cinematographer Dean Cundey captures the horrors in anamorphic widescreen, blending the light and dark of the supernatural terror with stellar special effects for the film’s low budget. As always, the mood is further buoyed by a score from Carpenter himself with Dan Wyman credited for bring about the music’s electronic realization. The Fog builds and builds in the sleepy coastal town until it’s fully unleashed in a fantastic climax of light and violence.
Upon its initial release, The Fog was a commercial success but not universally acclaimed among the era’s critics. Like much of Carpenter’s filmography, time has been kind to The Fog. It’s an entry in the storied filmography of one of genre’s great filmmakers, a work that highlights Carpenter’s brilliance in creating imaginative scenarios grounded with thematic and intellectual heft.
To be clear, I was unable to view the new 4K restoration of The Fog ahead of its release but I feel confident in saying that the people at Rialto Pictures are no slouches in this department. They’ve continually delivered stellar restorations of classic films and I have no doubts that their work on restoring The Fog will be anything less than spectacular. Keep an eye open as you look out the window because The Fog is rolling back into theaters, and it very well may be approaching the streets of your fair city. The only way to be safe is to watch this genre classic as it was meant to be seen – on the big screen. Let’s just hope that your theater and your town don’t have any dark secrets that may be carried in along with The Fog.
John Carpenter’s genre classic The Fog returns to theaters with a new 4K restoration and the film endures because of its supernatural terrors and thematic examination of how the horrors of the past can haunt the present.