The Film (3.5/5)
From his debut film Dark Star in 1974, through the remainder of the 70's and into the early 90's John Carpenter was one of genre cinema's greatest contributors. His work in this period spanned numerous genres from action (Assault on Precinct 13), Science Fiction (They Live), Horror (Halloween), Biopics (Elvis), and films that expertly combined various genres to create something unique to the genre, and left with Carpenter's undeniable imprint (The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China, etc).
The Fog is Carpenter’s theatrical follow up to Halloween after a quick detour into TV movies (Someone’s Watching Me, Elvis). It attempts to tell a creepy subtle ghost story about a ghostly leper colony out for revenge against the population of a town who a 100 years prior killed them to steal their gold, and obtain the money to turn their fledgling community into a proper town.
The film has a wonderful sense of atmosphere that certainly captures the tone of an old-fashioned horror story slowly unfolding with the audience. It also, has a great ensemble quality to the film. Rather than focus on a single character, it has a overarching sense of community, which makes it feel more like a horror of place than person. This is certainly helped by the excellent locations which although set in California feel positively Lovecraftian. We also have a fantastic ensemble of actors who bring the Fog to life, everyone from Tom Atkins Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis to her Mother Janet Leigh, and all the way down to the smallest part help to bring this small town horror film to life.
The direction from Carpenter is certainly befitting to the material, and creates a sense of impending dread over the piece, and of course, the FX by Rob Bottin who would go on to do the Thing are spectacular. The one and only thing I can think of that truly bogs down The Fog is it’s sense of pacing. Because of the community-wide nature of the film, and the large cast, it does take a bit to get into it’s premise, and at times the film does feel a tad overlong.
During Carpenter’s “golden” period he made a great number of films that could be and are considered classics, or are so very good they border on classic status. The Fog happens to fall into the latter category. It tells a chilling ghost story very very well, and sometimes that is good enough.
Scream Factory brings John Carpenter’s The Fog to Blu-ray with a fantastic 2:35:1 mpeg-4 AVC encoded transfer. This transfer is certainly a thing of beauty, and is the best The Fog has yet to look on home video. The black levels are inky and deep, flesh tones are accurate, and detail is vastly improved from all prior editions. There is also a healthy organic grain structure present that gives the full a very pleasant film look that is much appreciated.
The audio is presented in a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 or a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track. Both tracks are quite good, but for my viewing I stuck primarily to the 2.0 track. The dialogue through the track comes through nice and clear, as does Carpenter’s excellent score, and the FX. I did not detect any instances of pops, cracks, or hissing on the track.
Scream have put together an amazing slate of extras for their release of the Fog on Blu-ray. Scream Factory have taken extras from the prior editions of the Fog, and combined them with newly created exclusive extras to create what can only be considered the definitive edition of The Fog. The disc kicks off with an archival commentary track between director John Carpenter, and producer Debra Hill. We then move on to a newly commissioned commentary with Adrienne Barbeau, Tom Atkins, and production designer/Halloween 3 director Tommy Lee Wallace.
This is followed by what I have to consider the finest extra on the disc and a real coup for Scream Factory a one on one interview with Jamie Lee Curtis called My Time with Terror. This interview not only covers the Fog, but all 6 of the horror features that helped give her the title of the original "Scream Queen." Even if you hate the Fog, this interview is certainly a reason to own this disc. This is a part of Jamie Lee's career that she has rarely, if ever, spoken about and this interview is a fantastic addition to this release seeing as she was unwilling to participate on the Terror Train release. We then get a 19 minute interview with DP Dean Cundey, which is truly fantastic, like Jamie Lee he covers this film, but also his career as a whole.
This is followed by a pair of archival featurettes one called Fear on Film inside the Fog that runs about 7 minutes, and another running nearly half an hour called Tales from the Mist inside the Fog. We then get the Fog: Story board to Film, and another edition of Horror's Hallowed Grounds a look at the locations of the Fog when they were shot, and how they appear today. The disc is rounded off by a series of outtakes, FX Test, Trailers, TV Spots, and Photo Galleries.
A fun atmospheric ghost story from Carpenter's golden period. Scream Factory has created what can only be considered the definitive version of the Fog with a fantastic transfer, audio, and an overwhelming heap of supplements. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.