On April the 21st one hundred years ago just off Spivey Point a small clipper ship sailed towards landfall. Without warning a heavy fog rolled in and the ship was disoriented with no visibility save for a single light on the shore. They steered towards the light believing it to be the lighthouse but in the darkness and fog they failed to see that it was a camp fire and ran aground on the jagged rocks which crushed the Elizabeth Dane splitting it in two and sinking it to the depths of the ocean with all hands on board.
The fog then lifted, never to return.
It is said that when the fog returns to Antonio Bay the dead sailors will return from their icy tomb to seek out those who lit the campfire that spelled their doom, and avenge their deaths.
Never blow out all the church candles at once.
The Fog is a relic of Carpenters hay day, in the same era as the classic horror of Halloween and Christine and the action of Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York yet so far removed from the recent crapola of Ghosts of Mars and Halloween 46.
As writer and director, Carpenter uses all the usual plot devices to create a feeling of tension and suspense. The titular fog replaces the usual horror movie darkness but all the other elements are present; ghostly hands knocking ominously on doors waiting to be let in, stupid people walking obliviously into the fog to their doom and some implied gore. The gore is implied because not a single drop of blood is spilled on-screen. Sure you see knives plunged into chests and meat hooks dug deeply into flesh but no actual blood, unusual and refreshing for a horror of this type. The horror is left up to the situations and people, not the amount of Heinz new Squeezable Tomato Sauce that can be sprayed around.
As such, The Fog is an intense and scary experience filled with the usual shock type horror and a good deal of tension building scenes that will leave you double checking your torch batteries before heading outside to take the garbage.
The audio track for The Fog belies the age of the film. Although a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is available it is obvious that the source material was not surround encoded and the use of the rear and bass channels are minimal. Despite this limitation the audio contained on this DVD is adequate for the genre, particularly the tense score by John Carpenter which does an excellent job of adding to the horror.
Flared pants and flares.
While the audio component provides a definite hint to the age of this film, the video presentation is the complete opposite. For a movie that is pushing a quarter of a century old, The Fog has withstood the rigors of time very well. The picture is clean, clear and sharp. Colours are rich and vibrant and the absence of the usual film artefacts from movies of this era are a real tribute to the effort put into this release.
It is worth noting that the bit rate used on this dual layer disc averaged around nine megabits per second, in fact it rarely dropped below eight. When you consider that the average bit rate, even on modern movies and transfers, is around five megabits per second itís obvious why the video looks so good. As a reference, even the highly touted Ďsuperbití DVDís only average about 7 or 8 megabits per second. Is this a superbit in disguise? The Clark Kent of Superbits?
Despite the perfection, there are a few minor problems with the video presentation, aliasing in the usual places and a strange non-deliberate fog in the top half of the screen at around 32 minute mark.
The extras for this DVD were lost in the fog. Itís a shame because Carpenter usually has very interesting and informative commentaries. Given the high bit rate of the video portion of the DVD I doubt they could have squeezed much more than the minimally animated menu system on anyway. Conversely, it is good to see that without extras they made full use of the disc with a higher bit rate.
Overall the disappointing audio and lack of extras is offset by the excellent video transfer and this DVD presentation of this classic John Carpenter horror has done great justice to the original vision of the director and is a worthy addition to any classic Carpenter DVD collection, right next to Escape from New York and Halloween.