The Fog (1980 United States)

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For some reason, phones that begin ringing on their own and car alarms that go off without any reason, are still much more scary than a CGI-ghost appearing out of a wall. It is notable that this film had a low-budget which works perfectly for the dark, depressing atmosphere. The movie is quite short, and because of that, the story feels ‘incomplete.’ But this open-ending makes the whole thing more frightening.

All the elements of a good ghost story are in ‘The Fog’: an ancient crime, retribution, foreshadowing, atmosphere and discovery of why things are going wrong. The plot is most powerful because of what is never shown or explained. It’s not even necessary to see the faces of the drowned lepers – just the glowing eyes and the sense of rotting bodies is more than enough thank you! I also love this movie because it was made before all the advances in computer technology. There is an ‘organic’ feel and look to the special effects – very unlike all the computer-generated tricks you see today. People had to be more creative then.

Today, technology is so relied upon that many in Hollywood have become lazy. You see, this is one of those motion pictures where you have to pay attention – sometimes that is asking a lot with the public’s short attention span of today. Pay particular attention to Hal Holbrook, who plays Father Malone, when he is reading from the diary that falls out of the church walls. That will go a long way in explaining the ending. My main complaint with the fog is that the progression of events is a bit choppy and uneven, but that doesn’t stop you from enjoying the movie. Also take note of how this is one of those flicks where you can read all the credits.

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Antonio Bay is celebrating its anniversary as a town. However, the residents don’t know the terrible secrets behind the founding of their township. 100 years ago, Blake, a rich man was afflicted with the disease of leprosy. He wanted to use his own money to establish a colony for him and others like him. The town fathers back then did not want a leper colony close by. They pretended to be sympathetic, then hatched a conspiracy to lure Blake’s ship to the rocks where it crashed and all on board drowned. The town fathers had nothing against taking Blake’s gold, however. As for casting, the inferior 2005 re-make didn’t have the classy cast this film had. Ladies go first in this “original” with Adrienne Barbeau in the lead as “Stevie Wayne,” a small- town disc-jockey whose studio is a lighthouse.

“Wayne” has a sultry voice that adds a nice touch to the story. Then there’s the real life mother-daughter duo of Janet Leigh and Jamie Lee Curtis. The male lead is played by someone I am not familiar with, Charles Cyphers, but he does a fine job. John Houseman gets good billing here but he’s only in the film the first three minutes. The only annoying aspect of the film is the typically-weird, theological mumbo-jumbo with another weak priest (Hal Holbrook, in this case) shown. Hollywood loves showing priests who are pathetic. The “star” of this film, however, is the silvery, luminescent fog….a special-effect that was eerie 35 years ago and still has that effect. The films zips by in 90 minutes with the violence being effective, but not overdone, and the suspense is terrific.

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