Review by C.J. Bunce
Forty-three years ago in 1980 I saw my first horror movie at the drive-in theater, John Carpenter’s The Fog. Since referred to as “the most beautifully shot of all John Carpenter films,” “a better Halloween movie than the slasher that bears the holiday’s name,” “an incredibly atmospheric horror flick,” and “a horror classic,” The Fog has been difficult to find on any streaming platform in past years, although it finally received a 4K restoration five years ago, making for a great film for physical media. You have two options to stream it between now and Halloween: It’s available until November 1 free on Tubi TV, and it’s free on Amazon’s Freevee platform here (you can also rent it on Vudu). It stars Jamie Lee Curtis right after her breakout role in Halloween, Adrienne Barbeau in her first feature film, Tom Atkins, Hal Holbrook, and Janet Leigh (star of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and Curtis’s mother), plus John Houseman and familiar Carpenter actor John “Buck” Flower. For a Carpenter film it’s light on the gore, but it’s also a great ghost story and a top recommendation if you’re looking for a good ghost-horror mood movie this week.
After 40 years of re-watching the movie, for me one of the standout features is the breathtaking color cinematography by Dean Cundey (Escape From New York, the Back To The Future series, Apollo 13, Romancing The Stone), whose imagery–including the lonely Point Reyes shore and lighthouse standing in for Spivey Point lighthouse and the Pacific Coast town that could be any of a hundred real towns between Astoria, Oregon and San Diego–makes the oddly lit fog and the ghosts within come out of the screen.
It all begins with a quote from Edgar Allan Poe and a ghost story told over a campfire by John Houseman to a group of kids, including the son of the lighthouse owner, Barbeau’s sultry Stevie Wayne. The beautiful seaside town of Antonio Bay is visited by a large fog bank on the one hundredth anniversary of the town’s founding. Four women in the town, a radio DJ at the lighthouse (Barbeau), a drifter (Curtis), the mayor (Leigh), and her assistant Sandy (Nancy Loomis Kyes), along with boatman Nick Castle (Tom Atkins) and a preacher (Hal Holbrook) try to escape what lies within the fog just as the town learns the terrible secret behind the fog’s appearance.
Just don’t trust the original movie trailer, which doesn’t do the movie justice:
One of the hidden gems of the movie is waiting for you to find, an Easter egg showing that The Fog is a sequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.
If you’re looking to pair it for a double feature, note that when I saw it at the drive-in in 1980 it was screened with Phantasm. I don’t recommend that one, but a great pairing today would be with the similar vibe of The Vast of Night, available here on Prime Video.
See the Academy Award-winning Jamie Lee Curtis early in her career. Watch why Adrienne Barbeau became an icon of the 1980s. It’s one of Carpenter’s best, and one of the best horror films of the 1980s, often listed in critics’ Top 100 best horror films.
For the ultimate viewing experience pick up the steelbook edition of the 4K restoration of The Fog here at Amazon–but note it still doesn’t include a digital copy. You can’t even buy a digital copy from Vudu, which offers it for rental only. But The Fog doesn’t need to be viewed in 4K to enjoy it–in fact that old video quality may very well add its own ambience. So catch it now until November 1 free on Tubi TV or via Amazon’s Freevee platform here.