October 12, 2018

John Carpenter's The Fog (1980) Rolls In To Launch Movies At Dog Farm Pre'Ween Picture Show 2018

John Carpenter's The Fog (1980)
John Carpenter's The Fog (1980)
     "It was terrible.  I had a movie that didn't work, and I knew it in my heart."
John Carpenter on The Fog (1980)

     So yeah. That's how I like to kick off a weekend of horror movies...with a title that the movie's own director had such a low opinion of upon viewing the rough cut that he felt obliged to do a major overhaul just to whip it into a releasable form.  I must defer to Mr. Carpenter's assessment.  He was surely better equipped than anyone to judge the relative merit of his own work.  Truly, then, Carpenter must be a master filmmaker, because the rejiggered version of The Fog (1980) he ultimately released to the world after extensive re-shoots and re-editing is one of the finest atmosphere laden spook shows out there.

     I believe many still think of The Fog as second tier Carpenter, and it's honestly not too hard to see why.  Even when originally released it was out of step with the prevailing tone of the nascent slasher boom - ironically, a boom Carpenter's own Halloween (1978) was largely responsible for precipitating.  The Fog was an old fashioned ghost story born of the oral tradition. The elder generations pass down the local folklore to the younger ones.  As the years pass, the origins of those tales become murky, and the particulars of those tales are sometimes distorted by the storyteller.

     Carpenter plainly lays out this theme in The Fog's opening scene (created during re-shoots) by having grizzled, stately old John Houseman telling a version of the story we're about to see to a group of wide-eyed children around a campfire on the beach.  It's a beautifully vetted scene that invites the viewer to be actively involved in the storytelling tradition by virtue of the simple intimacy with which it's related.  It could have been told in flashback, with the specifics writ large in a more traditionally cinematic fashion, but that wouldn't have been nearly as affecting as putting us right there with those kids, hanging on every word just as they are.

     The Fog may be one of Carpenter's most subdued movies, but the patient, atmospheric delivery does exactly what it intends.  Who doesn't want to hear a spooky old ghost story by the fire at Halloween?  This, I believe, is why The Fog is an ideal candidate to kick off this year's Pre'Ween Picture Show.

     It will be followed by What We Do In The Shadows (2014) and [REC] (2007) on the evening of October 26th.  Ginger Snaps (2000), Trick 'r Treat (2007), and [REC] 2 (2009) will round out the festivities on the 27th.  If you're anywhere in the vicinity of Timberville, Virginia and would like to join us, contact me care of Movies At Dog Farm.  There's always room around the fire for one more.


  1. Carpenter can be the best of directors, and he could be the worst of directors. When I review his films that made the biggest impact on me, I am jealous that he made such iconic films (that are underrated): _Prince of Darkness_, _Halloween_, _The Thing_, _They Live_, _In the Mouth of Madness_, and _The Fog_. I could not think of cinema without those movies. Additionally, all of those films I listed avoided the conventional monsters. Carpenter ADDED to the canon of Horror by what he did. That's astounding.

    Great selection of movies, as always. I have re-watched _Trick 'R Treat_ so many times because of the inter-connectivity with the plot lines.

    Man, I wished I lived closer...

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on John Carpenter. I've always found it telling that so many of Carpenter's most revered and influential works only achieved their lofty status after we've had years - even decades - to contemplate them. So many of his movies have undergone significant critical reappraisal long after their debuts were dismissed. If you'd only ever read reviews of The Thing from 1982, you'd think it was a violent, overblown disaster destined to be forgotten in a year's time. That's a long way from the general consensus now.

      I've also re-watched Trick 'r Treat many times. All love to Mr. Carpenter, but the holiday needed a new perennial. The interconnected plot lines help keep it fresh with every viewing.


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