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MGM Studios DVD presents
The Fog: SE (1979)

"To the ships at sea who can hear my voice, look across the water into the darkness. Look for the fog."
- Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau)

Review By: Dan Heaton  
Published: August 18, 2002

Stars: Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, John Houseman
Other Stars: Janet Leigh, Hal Holbrook, Tom Atkins, Charles Cyphers, Ty Mitchell
Director: John Carpenter

MPAA Rating: R for (contains violence and gore)
Run Time: 01h:29m:46s
Release Date: August 27, 2002
UPC: 027616878120
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- BB+B+ B+

DVD Review

Three typical, small-town guys float calmly in the waters near the shores of Antonio Bay and partake in their normal routine of consuming large quantities of alcohol. A call comes in from the lighthouse warning of a patch of fog heading their way, but it seems like nothing out of the ordinary. Without warning, the hazy menace engulfs the ship and destroys their instruments. Now that everything has gone haywire, the shipmen venture onto the deck to inspect this strange phenomenon. Strange beings quickly appear within the fog and deal unkindly with these unsuspecting victims, seeming to originate from a large, 19th-century style ship, but that is impossible. Has a strange curse overtaken this apparently innocent town?

John Carpenter's The Fog presents a chilling ghost story in which the evil generates scares while barely appearing on the screen. During his heyday, the talented director subscribed to the idea that showing less actually achieved more suspense. Unfortunately, he has nearly forgotten this important element of the craft in his more recent films. This tale begins around a campfire where a old man (John Houseman) relates a tragic story to a group of young kids: One hundred years earlier, a ship crashed at Antonio Bay after mistaking a campfire for a lighthouse beacon. Trapped within an eerie fog, the entire crew perished and were never heard from again. Does the dire fate of the three shipmen signify the return of the doomed crew? Horror genre fans should already know the answer to that question.

Knockout DJ Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau) spends her evenings playing slow, dull jazz tunes from her perch in the town lighthouse. She notices the patch of fog moving across the water, but considers it your normal unexplained phenomenon. When her son discovers a strange wood piece from an old ship, it seems odd to her, but she could never guess at the deadly reality. When the fog begins to overtake Antonio Bay on the second night, her strong voice over the airwaves is the only hope for the frightened populace. The town residents include Father Malone (Hal Holbrook)—a gloomy priest who discovers the reasons for the eerie attacks—and Kathy Williams (Janet Leigh), the spokeswoman for the town's 100th anniversary. Jamie Lee Curtis also makes an appearance far from Halloween mode as a hitchhiker who shacks up with tough guy Nick Castle (Tom Atkins).

The fog eventually traps the major characters in a church on the hill, and the zombie-like figures seem unstoppable. John Carpenter loves this type of sequence and has created similar moments in cult classics like Assault on Precinct 13 and creepy genre films like Prince of Darkness. Throughout the story, the tension starts slowly and continues to rise into a crescendo of suspense. Carpenter does revert to some cheap scares of people stepping out of dark corners, but the overall atmosphere of impending dread remains. A climactic Hitchcockian moment on the roof of the lighthouse is especially frightening without being overplayed.

The Fog especially succeeds due to its understated direction and Carpenter's own spine-tingling score. The adequate group of actors play their roles straight and don't revert to horror-film clichés. Curtis has plenty of experience in this method, and veterans Holbrook and Leigh both play their roles effectively. There's nothing particularly groundbreaking occurring here, but Carpenter deftly showcases his skills in providing scares. Curl up on the couch on a dark and stormy night and let him work his magic.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - P&S
Original Aspect Ratioyesno
Anamorphicyesno


Image Transfer Review: The Fog appears in a decent 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that displays a generally effective picture. The few problems consist of too much grain appearing during the night sequences near the fog. The daytime shots filmed outdoors look excellent, and even the lighter indoor moments are mostly bright and clear. However, the hazier scenes lack this same visual level. Overall, this is an impressive transfer, even with some notable drawbacks.

This disc also contains a pan & scan transfer on its reverse side.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Frenchyes


Audio Transfer Review: This disc offers a 5.1-channel Dolby Surround track that conveys the story's chilling atmosphere. The ambient sounds are pretty light in the background, but the front speakers strongly command our attention. Carpenter's cheap scares achieve their goal thanks to the significant force of this audio track. Its effectiveness is clear when comparing it to the Mono transfer, which is obviously much simpler and quieter.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
5 TV Spots/Teasers
Production Notes
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
Storyboard
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director John Carpenter and producer Debra Hill
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Outtakes
  2. Original posters and film memorabilia
  3. Photo gallery
Extras Review: MGM has done solid work with this special edition of The Fog, which contains a wealth of materials. John Carpenter almost always provides an entertaining commentary, and this release is no exception. His track with producer/co-writer Debra Hill stems originally from the laserdisc release of the mid-'90s. Carpenter sports a down-to-earth demeanor that keeps him at our level without dumbing down his statements. Hill also contributes plenty of noteworthy items, and they make a good team here. I really enjoyed hearing mentions about the reshoots, which produced many of the film's best scenes.

Some similar territory is covered in Tales from the Mist—Inside The Fog, a brand-new documentary created especially for this disc. Carpenter, Hill and many actors and crew members discuss the production openly and in the context of their careers. There's nothing promotional about this refreshing piece, which allows us to gain much more knowledge about the film. The running time is 28 minutes and could have been much longer. Fear on Film—Inside the Fog comes from 1980 and gives a quick look behind the scenes. It is not too fluffy, but its effect is limited by its brief length of seven minutes.

Next, there is a four-minute collection of outtakes that showcases the actors continually messing up. They often follow the mistakes with profanity, which is especially funny from someone like Janet Leigh. Lots of laughter ensues in this fun little throwaway. Mixed within are a few scenes that did not make the final cut. Also done well is the storyboard-to-film comparison of the early attack on the boat. The drawings appear above the actual scenes, which makes it easy to compare the two elements. The Photo Gallery features a collection of behind-the-scenes and publicity shots. There are about 70 pictures in all, which should please viewers who like this type of supplement.

Finally, this disc contains an advertising gallery of previews and more pictures. The original theatrical trailer, two teasers, and three television spots appear in poor full-frame transfers with awfully silly narration. Luckily, none of them reveal too much of the story's secrets. Six original posters and three memorabilia shots round out the section.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

John Carpenter's steady descent into mediocrity in recent years is mystifying considering his remarkable start. I find it difficult to even compare such transcendant classics as Halloween and The Thing with the dull genre fodder of Vampires and Ghosts of Mars. This excellent special edition of The Fog reveals the master working during a period when he still dominated several genres. Even the most cynical viewers will find themselves losing sleep over the mysterious creations of this picture. If you're disturbed with the current direction of horror films, pick up this release and enjoy being scared again.

 


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