In the late 1970s, John Carpenter was put in an unenviable position. His previous film, Halloween (1978) was a terrific success and was already beginning to redefine the American horror genre. How, then, could he possibly follow up such a revolutionary and genuinely scary film? Carpenter chose to do so with The Fog.
The Fog – it is easy to say – does not match Halloween as a cornerstone of the genre, however there is much to applaud all-the-same. Carpenter’s decision to portray an old-fashioned ghost story on screen was a bold one; the kind of story which raises goosebumps on the skin while sitting around the campfire. Indeed, the film begins with John Houseman’s old seadog telling just such a tale to a group of kids around a fire, and the scene sets the tone for the exact type of film we are about to see.
And though the old-fashioned sensibility of The Fog feels worlds away from the modernity of Halloween’s horror, the shadow of Carpenter’s masterpiece can still be felt. Much of the cast of Halloween turns up in The Fog (Jamie Lee Curtis, Charles Cyphers, and Nancy Loomis) and cinematographer Dean Cundy photographs scenes in the same foreboding manner, lending the creeping fog the same menacing presence as Halloween’s stalking Shape. Additionally, Carpenter returns to compose the film’s score in his traditional understated, electronic style. Carpenter’s eerie soundtrack underscores the film’s tense moments brilliantly, and his choice of employing a classical piano underlines The Fog’s Gothic roots.
The Fog will probably not keep you up at nights, but it is nevertheless an entertaining and engaging foray into Gothic horror from one of the greatest filmmakers to dabble in the genre. It may not be regarded with the same reverence as Carpenter’s other films, but it remains an overlooked minor gem in his catalogue of undisputed classics.