Bolt your doors. Lock the windows. There's something in the fog! Believe it or not, I can see where this tagline is coming from. I don't mean which movie, as I know it's from The Fog, but rather how this could be scary. Place yourself in a seaside town in the dead of night. As your walking near the beach, a deep fog suddenly encloses you, blinding you. Where do you go? What could it be hiding? A fog can be seen in the same way why people fear the dark; it's what's possibly in there that could be scary.
While I don't live near the ocean, I've been there a lot being a resident of California, to see several fog banks in the evening and early morning. I see it a more beautiful then frightening, as I see it as a curtain before it reveals the California sunshine that we're familiar with. The point is that because fog is a natural element of nature, I think that I can be seen as scary as it's something we can't control. That's why while I don't consider it scary, I understand why it could be written as scary. Let's see how John Carpenter does so with The Fog.
The northern California town of Antonio Bay is about to mark it's one-hundredth anniversary. The night before, paranormal activity starts to occur as a fog is seeping in. This causes power to go out and car alarms to go off. At the local church, father Malone (played by Hal Holbrook) discovers an old journal that belonged to his grandfather that reveals that the town was built on stolen gold. At the same time, a local sailor Nick Castle (played by Tom Atkins) and hitchhiker Elizabeth (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) witness the fog that shatters the truck their riding in.
The next day, local DJ Stevie Wayne (played by Adrienne Barbeau) finds that her son has brought a plank of wood that reads "DANE". She takes it into work, only for it to suddenly reads "6 MUST DIE". At the same time, Nick and Elizabeth discover a missing ship with the crew all killed and town mayor Kathy Williams (played by Janet Leigh) is aware of the odd events circulating. Once the sun sets, the fog, this time with a strange glow, seeps in bringing zombies of the town elders.
John Carpenter loves portraying the villain as a force rather then as one character. The Fog is a good balance of that personification as the beginning, of an old man telling a campfire about this town's history, and the ending with the monster invasion, sums up how atmosphere can generates a lot of fright. A lot of it is how we don't see much of the threat until the last twenty minutes. It's the Hitchcock principle of what we don't see is scarier. So it's a shame that while the antagonist is fantastic and the films tone does set itself up, the rest of the movie is very generic.
It's not that the cast is trying, but the writing doesn't give a lot of insight to their personalities. They all seem to be catalysts to keep the plot going, so their more light set pieces rather then compelling characters. Even stars like Jamie Lee Curtis and Hal Holbrook are that interesting; their just a standard runaway and standard priest. The only one I enjoyed was Janet Leigh who brings a lot of charisma to a small part that does become bigger then I thought. I can't fully blame the actors. That would be the scripts department.
I get that John Carpenter and Debra Hill wanted The Fog to be reminiscent of a spooky story that would be told around campfires (the beginning of the movie reflects that). I think it's because of this it's a lot tamer the Halloween. Unlike the later, which was a slasher throughout, The Fog is more about the build-up before the actual spook. So if your looking for something scary
you'll get it if your willing to overlook some bad characters. It's a slow burn, which helps for this kind of story.
I'll give this five hooks out of ten. Though it's full story is bumpy, I'm still recommending this for the atmosphere alone. This may make a good movie to play during parties if you want something that doesn't always require attention. Horror fans what want something with more weight should watch The Thing instead which perfects the mistakes of The Fog. This may not always have everything to make it scary, it has a lot of understanding, so look through it and you may find something worth catching.