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This review appears direct to the web courtesy of THE CINEMA LASER.



While THE FOG ($50) isn't relentlessly terrifying as John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN, it is still a marvelously creepy ghost story that manages to send shivers down one's spine.

One hundred years ago, off the coast of the town of Antonio Bay, a shipwreck occurred that claimed all those who were aboard. As the town prepares to celebrate its centennial, a ghostly fog rolls in off the ocean to take revenge upon the town that sent those poor souls to their deaths all those years ago. The plot to THE FOG is a throwback to the old style Hollywood ghost story; the execution, however, is quite modern. In older horror films, the supernatural was only alluded to, and never seen. In THE FOG, we do get to see the horror, just not very well. THE FOG was produced just as splatter was coming into vogue, and the horrific elements needed to be shown instead of just being left to the viewer's imagination. This is the key element that differentiates THE FOG from Carpenter's HALLOWEEN. In HALLOWEEN, Carpenter never really showed us anything. In THE FOG, he shows us just enough to make the horror tangible, and this is certainly the film's key weakness. Nothing is scarier than the dark, and the best ghost stories knew how to manipulate an audience based upon that premise. Take a look at THE UNINVITED if you want to see how scary the dark can be.

Despite this key weakness, Carpenter manages to imbue THE FOG with macabre atmosphere. John Houseman's pre­credit ghost story not only sets the premise for the film, it creates the first sense of dread in the audience. From there, Carpenter slowly piles one chill on top of another so that the audience is on the edge of their seats by the film's climax. Dean Cundey's cinematography is another key element in THE FOG's ability to frighten the audience. Cundey blends light and shadow so perfectly, that the audience never clearly sees the terror hiding in the fog, which would totally destroy the film's credibility. Carpenter's cast also deserves a great deal of credit for making the movie good scary fun. In addition to John Houseman, the cast of THE FOG includes Adrienne Barbeau, Hal Holbrook, Janet Leigh, Jamie Leigh Curtis and Tom Atkins.

New Line and Image have finally given THE FOG a Letterboxed transfer (something it has needed for at least a decade), and might I add, that the transfer is terrific. If you have seen nothing but that awful pan and scan transfer, then you have never seen THE FOG. I mentioned above how Dean Cundey's cinematography enhanced the overall creepiness of THE FOG, but I failed to mention the beauty of his Panavision cinematography. For a low budget film, THE FOG is a gorgeous looking movie. Light, shadow and color come together in such a way that at times one can forget that they are watching a horror movie. For those who appreciate cinematography, THE FOG makes the viewer feel as though they are in the presence of greatness. Cundey has since gone on to become one of the premiere cinematographers in Hollywood (and far outside John Carpenter's budgetary restrictions). As for the Letterboxing itself, it is nice to see almost all of THE FOG again. I couldn't stand watching that horrendous pan and scan hatchet job, and therefore haven't seen THE FOG in many years. The Letterboxing restores almost all of the Panavision framing (depending on your monitor's overscan), and allows one to enjoy Cundey's work fully. Color and definition are excellent, and apparent film grain is held in check. The film element chosen for the Letterbox transfer has some minor blemishes.

The digitally encoded monaural soundtrack is excellent. In fact it is one of the best monaural tracks that I've heard in quite some time. This track requires amplification, just for John Carpenter's suitably creepy score. The Japanese pressing was very clean.

For supplements, THE FOG features an audio commentary by John Carpenter and Debra Hill. The commentary isn't as engaging or informative as Carpenter's previous commentaries, but it is well worth listening to. As an added feature, Carpenter's score has been isolated on the other analog track. A theatrical trailer has also been included, as well as several television spots and some outtakes.

Absolutely recommended for John Carpenter fans and horror fans in general.


Laserdisc reviews are Copyright © 1996 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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