Thursday, October 1, 2009

THE RETURN OF 31 DAYS OF HORROR: #1 The Fog




Horror fans take a lot of shit. Most people who aren’t movie fans, and even a surprising amount who are, simply can’t wrap their minds around the appeal. Watching horror movies is something that people expect you to be embarrassed about, it’s seen as adolescent, and immature if not down right harmful. Many view watching a horror movie to be akin to watching simulated snuff.

And it’s hard to defend the genre against these people. Oh sure I can talk about technique and style, and the way you can use horror films to reflect societies fears. You can even get a little less sophisticated and talk about the simple joy of watching someone like Tom Savini, Rob Bottin, or KNB pull off what equates to one great grue soaked magic trick. And that’s all the truth. But not the whole truth.

So why do it? Why watch images of people being killed? Why wallow in the worst your subconscious can bring up? Why do I enjoy sitting in the dark and watching terrible things happen? The truth is if you’re like me, you don’t quite know why you watch horror movies. The above paragraph, that’s all stuff you enjoy about it, but its not why. You watch them because, because there is something different about you (And that’s not bad, here’s a nice ego stroke after all the tough questions). Something that responds to the monsters, and creeps, and slashers and deadites.

Something that has a pure love for sitting in the dark and having the ever living shit scared out of you. Some part that gets psyched for the worse possible scenario. For the monster just once to be as bad as it is on the poster. For the movie to be, just once, as bad as all the parents groups are saying.

And what I really love about The Fog, is it comes the closer to capturing that feeling, then any other movie I’ve seen. In it’s masterful opening scene a grizzled old fisherman tells a story to a terrified group of young campers, with no further purpose then to traumatize them with a tale of murderous leper ghost pirates, who are surely about to murder them in their beds. It doesn’t get to the heart of the why. But every time the movie starts and I see those wide eyed boy scouts shuddering in fear, I can’t help but give a smile and nod of recognition.

Of course that’s not the only pleasure the scene captures. It’s also about the pleasures of storytelling. It’s the other reason I love this movie, more so then anything else in John Carpenter’s filmography, with the exception of Big Trouble In Little China, it a film where you can see Carpenter enjoying the hell out of the yarn he gets to spin. Murderous Ghost Leper Pirates! Hidden Shameful Secrets! Battle For Survival Atop A Lighthouse! And Fog! Dear Sweet Jesus The FOG!!!

The Fog tells the story of the quaint little town of Antonio Bay. A nice little town that had the misfortune to begin it’s history with the murder of a bunch of lepers. Now a hundred years later the understandably peeved ghosts are back for revenge, and they have the meat hooks to do it. They travel in an ominous Fog which shrouds the townsfolk. Who include the great Adrienne Barbeau as a single mother/DJ who tries to warn the townsfolk while fending off a siege of the living dead from her lighthouse station, Janet Leigh as the town’s mayor, and Hal Holbrook as Father Whiskey Bottle, who discover the towns dreadful secret just in time to ignore it. And Jamie Lee Curtis who rolls into town and shacks up with Tom Atkins (If she yelled “Thrill Me” During Their Sex Scene this would officially be the greatest movie ever.) just before the storm, proving that she’s got the absolute worst luck as far as being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The idea of
Her as a drifter terrifies me, as it means she has undoubtedly left a trailer of murderers, forest fires, earthquakes, and locust infestations at each town she was unlucky enough to visit.

Carpenter shoots the film quite well, gaining quite a lot of mileage from the ominous fog. It’s a cheap but effective tool for shrouding his Ghost Pirates. A good example of a director using the power of suggestion without failing to give a pay off. Their numbers, and natures are never truly revealed (though as leperous water logged ghosts they can’t be looking great). And he’s able to provide some genuine chills.

And yeah it’s not perfect, it doesn’t work with focused merciless clockwork that his best films do (Halloween, The Thing) and it doesn’t have the epic scope of say Escape From New York, or Big Trouble In Little China. It’s a bit of a shaggy dog story, in all honesty, all disjointed, never sure whose story it’s telling. And It plays pretty fast and loose with it’s rules, something that always bothers me.

But for some reason, it doesn't really matter. Despite some sloppiness The Fog always retains that simple pleasure of a good horror story well told.

2 comments:

Wings said...

"The Fog" is creepy. But it doesn't do it for me. The one that leaves me with the willies, looking over my shoulder, creeped out is "Halloween". Just always freaked out by it.

As for why we watch these flicks... I don't know, either. I just love them. I can watch again and again, and still like it. Like be freaked out, like the willies. Maybe it has to do with a level of fear and worry we CAN actually control. We know it will be over soon enough.

I don't know.

Evil Dead Junkie said...

YEah Halloween is definitely the better movie. But I kind of love The Fog because of it's flaws.

That's a good point on the horror movies. Wish I'd thought of it.