08
Feb
10

30th anniversary of John Carpenter’s “the fog”


February the 8th, 1980, opening day, & I was a senior in high school.  I was just driving in my first car, had a job and a pocket full of freedom to go to the movies just about anytime I could squeeze them in.  I was pretty new to the rated “R” world of films, and the ones I saw were so vastly different from Star Wars, Bambie, and the Jungle Book which were what filled my movie time just prior to my first “R” rated film, “Alien”!!!!  I really had to pick carefully and work up a lot of courage to go because the territory was uncharted and unrestricted to what amazing or terrifying things it could show me…the gritty reality of  more mature movies was horrifyingly wonderful and  really captured my attention and imagination.

“The Fog” was my theatrical introduction to John Carpenter, and man was it a wicked little tale!!!  I went alone to this one between school and work, and it thrilled and scared me for quite sometime after.  From the film’s opening with the Ghost Story on the beach, to the revelation of the wicked story of how the town of Antonio Bay was founded, to all the horror that Mr. Carpenter so eloquently fashioned throughout this dark tale, I was drawn in.  Thirty years later, I have seen this movie countless times and love it more every time I see it.  “The Fog” is  a great film to see John’s talent in the early days.  He has a gift for storytelling, and I love that his talents are so broad, from writing, composing & performing, directing, editing and finally he’s especially gifted at scaring your socks off!!!  John’s work with Debra Hill make for some awesome productions and are amongst my very favorites of both of their early career films!!!

Lots of fun in-movie jokes in this one as well.  John Carpenter plays a young church worker named Bennet in the opening moments of the show; Bill Taylor plays the bar tender.  Bill Taylor, for those that don’t know, was the VFX supervisor on, and  wrote the song “Benson, Arizona” from, Dark Star.  He later went on to be one of the founders of Illusion Arts ( the optical and matte Painting facility) that just recently closed. Four of the characters in the film are named after friends and inspirations of John’s, Charles Cyphers plays “Dan OBannon” (Co Writer of  Dark Star),  George “Buck” Flower plays “Tommy Wallace” (One of the Coup De Villes and the film’s production designer),  Tom Atkins plays “Nick Castle” (the third member of the Coup De Villes, and film buddy of JC),  and finally Darwin Joston plays “Dr. Phibes” (a horror movie character played by Vincent Price).

This one is a must see for Carpenter fans new and old.  The film takes place in a coastal town and  is told over about a 26 hour period of time on the 21st of April, 1980.  The under story, as told through a diary read by Hal Holbrook, really sets the pace, combined with some excellent roles played by John Houseman, Janet Leigh & Jamie Lee Curtis (mother and daughter in real life), Adrienne Barbeau and, of course, Hal Holbrook.  Rob Bottin is the creator of the special make up and also plays the lead dead settler, “Blake”.  One awesome ride from start to finish, and the commentary on the DVD by John and Debra Hill really makes for a great movie both in front of and behind the scenes!!  Enjoy, and Happy 30th to John Carpenter and one of his many masterpieces, “The Fog”!

a few words by Poe start the film

11:55 and the ghost story begins!!!

Carpenter's Cameo

unhappy words from 100 years ago

Adrienne Barbeau owns the light house that has been converted into a local radio station

sometime after midnight on the 21st of April

look at what the fog drug in

Hal Hollbrook as Father Malone

Jamie Lee Curtis, fresh off the Halloween bus, Joins Carpenter for another scary outing

a couple of steps down to the Point Reyes Light House

a favorite Carpenter trademark, The dead are not always REALLY dead!

Tom Atkins, Bill Taylor, John Vic, Janet Leigh & Nancy Kyes

the fog

even if the killers hiding in the fog knock...don't answer the door!

The fog not only hides the dead but it, too, is a living character capable of doing it's own bidding!

Dean Cundey and the FX crew did some awesome work with the lighting and the practical Fog fx

even this cursed church is not holy enough to keep this evil out

awesome imagery!!! love this shot of Blake and his men

this is an anniversary cover created for the 25th. The 30th editions are at the post office getting canceled, so keep an eye out for the new covers when I get them back.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fog

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61 Responses to “30th anniversary of John Carpenter’s “the fog””


  1. 1 deg
    February 8, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    Oh yeah, good one, and I recall the Darwin Joston Dr. Phibes (Oooo, that was a creepy flick too), but did not know those other in-jokes. They remade this film with Tom Welling (Smallville’s Clark Kent). It was nowhere near as good. How could it be though? Thanks for the memories, John. Seems you had quite the journey/passage into the realm of R-rated film, eh. :D

    peace | deg

    • 2 deg
      February 8, 2010 at 3:27 pm

      Oooo, and Adrienne Barbeau, hubba hubba! In love with her since Maude. Liked her in Swamp Thing as well. Wasn’t she married to JC? And I think she was in EFNY…

      peace | deg

    • 4 johneaves
      February 8, 2010 at 8:04 pm

      DEG!!! Yeah Dr. Phibes really scared my bad as a kid,,, they would play late saturday nights on TV and man-O-Man I had a hard time walking to my room after the show was over and everyone was already asleep!! Remember the one torture he did where he drilled the hole in the floor on the second story and poured that liquid on the face of that guy sleeping and in the morning they found his skull still in bed with carnivorous bugs all over it!!! YIKES!!!!

      • February 8, 2010 at 8:09 pm

        It was actually the nurse he did that to. With the locusts. You might be confusing that with the first kill at the beginning of the movie useing bats. I watch both of those movies on a regular basis. :) Can never get enough Vincent Price.

      • 6 johneaves
        February 8, 2010 at 8:33 pm

        I only saw those on TV as a kid and have to get them again!!!

      • 7 Jay
        February 9, 2010 at 8:26 am

        I completely agree – you can never get enough Vincent Price.

      • 8 deg
        February 9, 2010 at 8:34 am

        Gt this: I remember seeing Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory the same year (’71) with my mom and bro, and get this, the trailer for The Abominable Dr. Phibes comes on before the show! At Willy Wonka for Pete’s sake! LOL That was it, I HAD to see it! I begged my mom, please please please can we see that?

        She was like, No, that’s for older kids, Honey. (U was 9 at the time) When you get a bit older, sure. But I was relentless, all the way home, Awww, come on, Mom, please please please, Mom? You know us, we never get nightmares…

        She knew I was a weird odd lil’ kid (as was bro) and we were pretty sure about stuff and were not easily shaken (always watching Night Gallery and the like, and all of Vincent Price films, The House on Haunted Hill, The Tingler all the Hammer Poe stuff, etc.), so she took us, against here better judgment (but she knew she would just have to keep dealing with me otherwise).

        And man-oh-man were we creeped! but in a good way! Neither of us were scaredie-cat kids at all, never had nightmares or anything, we just LOVED a good creep-show! And boy, that was the best-to-date!

        Scared the ba-jeezas! out of my mom though, but she still took us to the sequel come the next year, as we got our love of creep-shows from someplace, eh. :D

        peace and creeps | deg

      • 9 Jay
        February 9, 2010 at 8:47 am

        Those Poe pictures were actually AIP instead of Hammer, but the vibe is certainly similar! I only very recently saw the first Dr. Phibes movie on DVD and I was really impressed by how much I enjoyed it and especially at how gorgeous it looked. SO much color. Great production design on that one. I haven’t seen the sequel as the DVD is apparently out of print and I’m as yet too cheap to pay the eBay price, but I think I got the original from 5 bucks from the bargain bin. And a bargain it was, too!

      • 10 johneaves
        February 9, 2010 at 10:55 am

        yeah loved being scared as a kid and your right it wasn’t the nightmare,scardy cat thing it was different,, those flicks released something internal and made watching them more real than say watching a more grounded in reality show.

      • February 10, 2010 at 8:54 am

        Oh sure sure, AIP is the VP Poe films. I always get the two studios mixed-up given their like-fare and same time period. Thanks, dude. ;)

        peace | deg

      • February 10, 2010 at 8:57 am

        Actually correction, they weren’t really the same period, Hammer was later early 70s, while the Poe AIP were early to mid 60s, IIRC… But you get me point. ;)

        peace | deg

      • 13 Jay
        February 10, 2010 at 11:06 am

        Hammer was making great horror pictures from the late ’50s through the early ’70s, so you were well founded in having the two studios mix and match in your mind, deg. To further muddy the water, there was another British studio called Amicus that was making horror movies in the ’60s and early ’70s as well, and frequently poached Hammer stars like Peter Cushing, so there was plenty of cross-pollination.

  2. February 8, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    It actually took me awhile to warm up to this one. I remember seeing the teaser trailer for this when I was kid. I think I was seeing Scavenger Hunt or some other silly movie like that. The trailer made me jump, it had no scenes from the movie just a decayed hand reaching out of the water as far as I can remember. I eventually saw it on video and didn’t give it much thought. I didn’t really give it another chance until it came out on DVD and it is a great movie. Adrienne Barbeau and Jamie Lee Curtis in the same movie what’s not to like. And yes Adrienne was married to JC for awhile. Not to mention the legendary Tom Atkins.

  3. 19 Richard Knapp
    February 8, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    Saw this one in a creepy hold cinema in Buffalo, NY when it first came out. Scared the heck out of me!

    Thanks for all the cool pictures John!

  4. 22 Jay
    February 8, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    Wow, I could talk all day about this flick so I’ll just spill my guts I guess :)

    Not merely my favorite John Carpenter movie but also my favorite horror movie, bar none. I didn’t see it in its theatrical release. I wasn’t quite 7 then, and not really into horror movies yet. My age probably wouldn’t have been an impediment to seeing it had I been interested as my mother, God love her, would pretty much let me watch anything then. She took me to see “Alien” when I was 6 because I was in love with anything sci-fi. At the same theater, I had seen “Star Wars”, “Star Trek – The Motion Picture”, “The Black Hole”, and the theatrical versions of Glen Larson’s “Battlestar Galactica” and “Buck Rogers”, so how much different could “Alien” be? Its all in space, right? I think she probably had second thoughts about that after the chestburster sequence but I don’t recall it doing me any permanent damage. Anyhoo, I discovered “The Fog” on cable in the ’80s, as it was a frequent feature late at night on TBS.

    I just think its the creepiest thing. Supernatural horror is the kind I respond to most. Serial killers and guys with butcher knives don’t phase me, but something unseen, something unfettered by the laws of nature and physics, something that can be anywhere, in your house, in your room, in your head, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it … that’s scary. And “The Fog” pretty well illustrates that kind of fear and in such an entertaining way. Not to be one of those kinds of people, but it has so much of something that modern horror movies lack – atmosphere. Carpenter said his idea for the film was to make a modern version of a Val Lewton movie. I don’t want to get too movie geeky here, so suffice it to say that Lewton produced some terrific horror movies for RKO back in the early ’40s and they were all about atmosphere and what you *don’t* see, and Carpenter really succeeded in capturing that flavor.

    Carpenter takes his time, setting up Antonio Bay, its history, you get to know the characters so that you care about what happens to them when the scary stuff starts to go down. And what a terrific cast of actors! One of the things that makes “The Fog” so effective is that it stars people you can relate to. People who actually look like real people you might meet or know, and not a cast of underwear models that look like they just got home from an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog shoot (a la the awful Tom Welling remake). It becomes very easy to put yourself in the place of the people on screen, and I think that’s a key ingredient in an effective horror movie. On some level you have to see the people on screen and say to yourself “That’s me up there”.

    The plot is a pretty straight forward tale of revenge so its really more about the journey than the destination, and Carpenter does such a beautiful job of steadily laying on layer upon layer of creepiness and dread. The poltergeist activity, the earthquake that reveals the diary, the discovery of the Sea Grass and its doomed crew, throats slit, eyes gouged out, lungs filled with water. What *happened* to those guys? The great and truly scary scene where water outlines the name of the Elizabeth Dane on the plank of wood from the wreck while a voice intones about something hanging around you neck “like an albatross”. The dark figure in the fog, banging on Tom Adkins’ door with a meat hook, who disappears as the clock strikes 1 o’clock. I have doors like that in my house, and every time I walk by in the middle of the night, something in the back of my head wonders if I’m going to see a figure in the fog like that. All that in the first half of the picture, building tension until the final act begins a long chase through the town and finally back to the old church.

    Carpenter gets great production value on screen and the film looks so much more expensive than its actual budget. He really takes advantage of the widescreen frame and gets some truly spectacular shots of the beach, of the dock, of the lighthouse, of the cloudy and overcast sea. Very cinematic, ably taking advantage of the medium and giving a lot of scope to what would in other hands have been a small film. The fog effects are great, both the practical ones and the optical ones, both adding to the film’s sense of reality that you just can’t get with CG. Consciously or unconsciously, your brain knows the difference. And the score! There are some really lovely, melodic, melancholy pieces early in the film that help give a fornlorn feeling of hopelessness and inevitability to Antonio Bay. The artificial nature of the sound Carpenter’s syntheziers create adds a sense of unease even to daylight or expository scenes – the feeling that something just isn’t right.

    And absolutely, the last scenes, with Blake standing in the church, backed up by his men, rotting and in rags, eyes glowing red, in shadows and fog, create a genuinely iconic and frightening image. Not of evil, as one typically expects in horror films, but of righteous indignation. Blake’s colony were pitiable people and they were wronged. Who could deny them their desire for vengeance, however misplaced it might have been? You fear them but you also empathize with them, and that’s a pretty hard combination to pull off. Carpenter was really firing on all cylinders here, and that’s particularly ironic given that his first cut of the film was, by his own words, a disaster and an unscary one at that. He pulled the film together with some last minute reshoots and ended up restructuring about a third of the movie in the editing, turning out a great flick and a classic, if perhaps a minor one. But a minor classic is still a classic!

    Also, Adrienne Barbeau is awesome, gorgeous, and tough, in a Pam Grier sort of way, and a lifelong crush began right there :)

    • 23 johneaves
      February 8, 2010 at 7:57 pm

      Jay thats awesome!!! I always try to hold back and not give to much away or geek out but what you have written here was a pleasure to read,, I agree with everything and more!!! thanks for taking the time and for sharing all you did here!! I forward these entries over to Carpenter’s office and I’m sure they love seeing the love for his films and the impact they have on all the folks that take time to leave a note!!! Great writing Jay!!!

      • 24 Jay
        February 9, 2010 at 8:27 am

        Too kind, sir! Thank you! I could talk about my appreciation of that flick all day (and I guess I nearly did – lol)

    • February 10, 2010 at 4:48 pm

      What a well-written and enjoyable read, Jay! Bravo, makes me want to see the film again right now! And yeah, atmo is where it’s at! All this gore-porn that tries to pass itself off as horror these days. Pffft…

      And yeah,

      You fear them but you also empathize with them, and that’s a pretty hard combination to pull off.

      indeed.

      I saw a South African film just recently called Tsotsi that gave me the same feeling for the title character. Not at all the same type of film, but that same feeling in the end, for different plot/story reasons.

      Anywho, well done, and thanks for the AIP shore-up. And yeah, I recall Amicus as well. ;)

      peace | deg

  5. 26 Buckaroohawk
    February 8, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    This is another of my favorite horror films, for many of the reasons Jay outlined so eloquently above. It was on one of the movie channels not too long ago and my wife had never seen it, so we made a point to set time aside to watch. Watching “The Fog” is always fun, but my enjoyment was doubled by witnessing my wife’s reaction to it. As the film progressed she kept moving forward on the couch. Then she grabbed one of the couch pillows and clutched it close to her tummy. By the end she was on the edge of the couch, leaning as far forward as she could, and she had a strangle hold on the pilllow. She finally relaxed after Holbrook handed the golden cross to Blake and the vengeful spirits vanished in a blaze of light.

    I knew what was coming next so I kept my mouth shut and I won’t spoil anything for those who may not have seen the film yet (and shame on you for that, by the way), but my wife’s reaction to the ending was priceless. It knocked her off the edge of the couch right onto the floor, her face frozen in dumbstruck shock. It was just so much fun to watch her watch “The Fog!” We had a great time and she now counts the film among her favorites as well.

    Carpenter was a master of not only horror but also of good old-fashioned, spine-tingling, goosebump-inducing suspense. I would love to see him return to the genre and remind people how it’s supposed to be done. Here’s to John Carpenter and here’s to “The Fog!”

  6. 27 johneaves
    February 8, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    my wife slaps me if i try to get her to watch a Carpenter or Coen Brother film!! HAAA! what a great story and fond memory you have made with your love-n!!!

    • February 10, 2010 at 4:51 pm

      Watched A Serious Man last night. I always LOVE a Coen Bros. film. C even made it through this one. She runs hot-and-cold with the boys and their film-fare. Me? I’ll watch any of ‘em over-and-over again. :D

      peace | deg

  7. 29 the bluesman
    February 9, 2010 at 12:07 am

    John

    Way cool post. I’m a big John Carpenter fan too, and the Fog is a very good film.

    Of course what high school aged guy who was into sci fi and horr movies didn;t have a crush on Adreinne Barbeau?

  8. 32 JNG
    February 9, 2010 at 1:02 am

    Yeah. I’ll watch anything with Adrienne Barbeau in it.

  9. 35 Barrie Suddery
    February 9, 2010 at 4:24 am

    This was on British TV a few weeks back and I watched it for the first time.

    Simply put, I LOVED it. A brilliant tale of what seems to be revenge but turns out to be lost souls demanding justice before they can rest.

    A Carpenter classic.

    Oh and Adrienne Barbeau guested on DS9 as Senator Cretak in “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges”.

  10. 37 Jnadreth
    February 9, 2010 at 5:00 am

    I loved the film when I saw it once really late at night….I didn’t know John Carpenter made it though lol Thankies John Eaves :)

  11. 39 Will Cox
    February 9, 2010 at 7:54 am

    The Fog is one of my favorite John Carpenter movies, basically because it’s a good old fashioned ghost story and doesn’t rely on buckets of blood to deliver its scares. Plus, any movie with John Houseman telling spooky campfire stories cant’ go wrong in my book.

  12. 41 TKThor
    February 9, 2010 at 8:00 am

    And absolutely, the last scenes, with Blake standing in the church, backed up by his men, rotting and in rags, eyes glowing red, in shadows and fog, create a genuinely iconic and frightening image. Not of evil, as one typically expects in horror films, but of righteous indignation. Blake’s colony were pitiable people and they were wronged. Who could deny them their desire for vengeance, however misplaced it might have been? You fear them but you also empathize with them, and that’s a pretty hard combination to pull off.

    Right on Jay!

    I just saw this movie for the first time a couple of years ago. And there are so many iconic images. It’s the small moments that stick with me the most. When we are waiting for something to happen. Like when the sailors first encounter the ship in the fog. Ghostly.

    The final moment when Blake is standing in the church with this men with the glowing eyes. Dang. Straight out of EC comics or something. It’s the image that stayed with me the most. Can’t wait to meet Carpenter in person.

    Great post John!

    • 42 johneaves
      February 9, 2010 at 8:13 am

      Yeah Jay really poured it out here!!! great comments, and glad you saw it!!!

    • 43 Jay
      February 9, 2010 at 8:41 am

      Thank you, sir! And a great point about the scene where the sailors encounter Blake’s ghostly clipper in the fog. Carpenter creates a great sense of wonder in those moments, in addition to fear. Another tough combination to pull off!

  13. 44 DeanneM
    February 9, 2010 at 10:05 am

    Didn’t see it. ::sheepish look:: I don’t have the courage to face scary movies alone and haven’t had the right scary-movie-minded folks to go with since my high school days. I’ve seen a few (including The Thing From Another World this last year, HA!) and survived, so someday I will see more JC stuff. I promise!

    I think I might be able to handle one on my own soon, but too much suspense and I’ll dive behind the sofa and not come out! :D How “bad” is In the Mouth of Madness” on the terror scale?

    I may not have seen the movie, but I’ve been in your Arrow. :)

    • 45 johneaves
      February 10, 2010 at 9:38 am

      you should force Hiedi to watch all this with you!!! tell her she has to bring the corn!!! Hey call Dave Stipes!! He’ll come over

  14. 46 Mick Mitani
    February 9, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    The Fog was never one of my horror movie favorites. I didn’t see it until it came out on HBO, which is also where I watched Alien. As a young married Airman I just didn’t have enough money to catch a lot of new films except on base. The regs back then meant that the base theater could only show movies that were available in 16mm format in addition to standard format so they could be shown at remote bases. A lot of studios wouldn’t do that because they were afraid of film piracy in the days before VCRs.

    • 47 johneaves
      February 10, 2010 at 9:36 am

      that’s right!!! I remember that 16MM format issue!!! We had the same thing happening when they wanted to show a movie at School or College!! what a forgotten memory!! We saw Close Encounters, the original King Kong and Alien that way!!

  15. 48 Razorgeist
    February 10, 2010 at 2:49 am

    So you designed the Enterprise-E and yo love John carpenter movies. Dude we should hang out! The Fog is definetly one of my favorites from Mr Carpenter. I consider it one of the best ghost movies ever made (they’re not zombies folks).

  16. February 10, 2010 at 8:48 am

    If this is ever on tv late at night I always make sure to stay up and watch. When everyone else is asleep and you’re still up watching The Fog, you feel like you’re really one of Adrienne Barbeau’s radio listeners. :) Never knew John Carpenter had a cameo in the movie, though. I’ll have to look out for him next time I see it.

  17. February 10, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    Classic movie, gave the remake a very very wide berth !!!

  18. 56 Matt Boardman
    February 10, 2010 at 10:45 pm

    :: scribbles another one to add to the list of movies to watch :: This sounds like a fun one! I’ll have to have my wife watch it with me. Ha! She loves scary movies, but usually by about half way through them, she’s practically sitting on my shoulder trying to get as far away from the floor as possible. :D

  19. February 11, 2010 at 11:07 am

    The Fog has always been one of my favorite horror and Carpenter films, and a couple of times a year I’ll get the yearning to take it out and watch it again. It’s time to do it again now!

    I love the music, the atmosphere, so much about it… and Adrianne… wotta woman!

  20. 58 Jeff Wright
    February 22, 2010 at 11:06 am

    “I love the music, the atmosphere, so much about it… and Adrianne… wotta woman!”
    –and even without chainsaw hands (Sealab 2021 joke for the Adult Swim fans).

    Wasn’t there also an HPL reference? When you see Adrianne’s character driving you hear a voice on a radio beacon talking about Whateley reef (or was it Curwen) as well as Spivey Point?

    It gave me an idea or a lovecraft pastiche on storm chasers, with the automated Weather Radio voice changing to “The National Weather service has issued a Tornado warning for…praise his comings and goings…the airwalker howls in the void…IA!…Metraton Salemandae…”

    In the remake, they made the ghost crew too sympathetic I thought. In the original, I tok Blake and the rest to be the ghosts of leper pirates of a more evil bent than the colonists of the second film, which allowed the Fog itself to become more active via CGI. But the original was the most atmospheric–no silly scene from the sink. Both have their moments, but having the fog vanish at 1 AM at the end of the witching hour was really interesting.

    Long before the remake actually showed an underwater scene, I had this dream where a mini-sub was under the ocean beneath The Fog, and what was scene in the window were the wives and children of the pirates dancing in a glowing fashion beneath the waves–it was the men who did the evil above.There is a real beauty about the film–even the secondhand sweeps of the faces of clocks in the original seemed frightening–along with the shattering of glass at certain times.

    • 59 Jay
      February 22, 2010 at 1:39 pm

      Absolutely correct, sir, on the HPL references to Spivey Point, Whately and Arkham, specifically in the scene where Ms. Barbeau is driving up that winding road and listening to the weather service report on the radio. There’s also a reference to Bodega Bay from, of course, Hitchcock’s “The Birds”.

  21. May 30, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    Love this movie! I love all of John Carpenter’s gems! I think this was Rob Bottin’s first movie? He’s also a hero of mine. John Carpenter’s The Thing is probably in my top three favorite movies ever.


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