Release Date(s)1980 (August 1, 2017)
Studio(s)AVCO Embassy/MGM/20th Century Fox (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: A+
[Editor’s Note: The film portions of this review are by Adam Jahnke from his 2013 Blu-ray review, available here at The Bits. Additional Steelbook comments by Tim Salmons.]
Over the years, I have found myself returning to the films of John Carpenter more and more frequently. He’s one of those rare directors whose movies only seem to improve with the passage of time. More than once, I’ve reconsidered my opinion of movies that I initially wasn’t fond of, such as Prince of Darkness. And movies that I enjoyed just fine the first time around seem even better on repeat viewings.
Such is the case with The Fog, Carpenter’s 1980 return to big-screen movie-making after a couple of TV-movies immediately following Halloween. It’s a simple, straight-forward ghost story about a small seaside town with a 100-year-old curse. John Houseman’s brief campfire appearance at the beginning should be a pretty big clue as to what kind of movie you can expect. But The Fog finds Carpenter increasingly comfortable with the tricks of his trade and he turns the movie into a triumph of style over substance.
The ensemble cast includes Adrienne Barbeau as the owner/operator of the local lighthouse and radio station, Jamie Lee Curtis as a hitchhiker who hooks up with fisherman Tom Atkins, Janet Leigh as a townswoman whose missing husband can’t deter her from organizing the town’s centennial celebration, and Hal Holbrook as an alcoholic priest who uncovers the secret behind the town’s curse. Their individual stories don’t exactly overlap so much as they brush up against each other, giving the movie an episodic feel that robs it of some urgency.
But The Fog is more about its individual moments than the sum of its parts. Carpenter and cinematographer Dean Cundey make brilliant use of the frame, with shadows and the swirling fog contributing more dread and menace than anything more explicit ever could. The opening sequence, showing weird, unexplained phenomena popping up all over town, establishes a sense of unease that carries throughout. The characters are never really fleshed out beyond the thumbnails I provided above but it hardly matters. This is nothing more than a well-told campfire story and as such, it delivers the creepy, eerie goods.
Cundey supervised the new video transfer of The Fog and it looks absolutely spectacular. The level of detail is impressive and the colors are deep, rich and gorgeous. Audio is presented in your choice of an excellent 5.1 DTS-HD mix or 2.1. Scream Factory has produced an outstanding collection of bonus features to accompany the film, including newly minted material with vintage extras.
The most exciting new extra is My Time With Terror, an extended video interview with Jamie Lee Curtis. She not only discusses The Fog but goes into detail about her entire reign as Scream Queen, including Halloween, Prom Night, Terror Train, Road Games and Halloween II. Fans have been waiting a long time for Curtis’ participation in the extras for her horror career and Scream Factory doesn’t disappoint. New material also includes a video interview with Cundey that covers his extensive collaborations with Carpenter, a terrific audio commentary featuring Adrienne Barbeau, Tom Atkins and production designer Tommy Lee Wallace, and an installment of Sean Clark’s Horror’s Hallowed Grounds. Rounded up from previous editions are a vintage audio commentary by Carpenter and the late Debra Hill, the documentaries Fear on Film: Inside The Fog and Tales from the Mist: Inside The Fog, storyboards, trailers, TV spots and outtakes.
For Scream Factory’s 5th anniversary, the company decided to celebrate by re-releasing three of their previous John Carpenter Blu-ray titles: Escape from New York, The Fog, and They Live. None of the content on these releases has changed, including both the A/V quality and the extra material, but they’re now housed in beautiful Steelbook packaging. They’re also limited to 10,000 copies each, so get them while you can.
The Fog is too often dismissed as one of John Carpenter’s lesser movies, interesting to fans but not in the same league as Halloween or The Thing. Perhaps it isn’t but taken on its own terms, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable scary movie that demonstrates why Carpenter truly deserves the title Master of Horror. Kudos to Scream Factory for giving this underrated gem the A-list treatment it deserves (including its Steelbook release).
- Dr. Adam Jahnke (with Tim Salmons)