Cult Movie: Great HD release shows John Carpenter's The Fog still chills the blood

The Fog – this new HD edition unveils a richness and depth of tone that simply wasn’t there before
Ralph McLean

THESE days The Fog is considered a classic, a prime slice of American horror from 1980 brought to us by the director who rewrote the genre with his game-changing slasher epic Halloween two years previously.

When John Carpenter's creepy tale of nautical revenge from beyond the grave first appeared, however, the feeling of slight underachievement was hard to shake. If Halloween had stuck traditional horror's wet little fingers well and truly into the socket The Fog felt, to many, a little tame in comparison.

A slow burning ghost story that's clearly in love with the tradition rather than hoping to invert it, the initial impression was that this was a fine, unfussy excursion into cinematic spookiness if a decidedly safe one.

Watching the brand new 4K Ultra HB and Blu-ray from StudioCanal, it's easy to see why public opinion has gradually gravitated towards a positive view of it. Time has been kind to The Fog.

It looks stunning, for a start – this new HD edition unveils a richness and depth of tone that simply wasn't there before – and it's knowing pastiche of horror movie tropes seems impressive now where maybe it was just retro in 1980.

What it lacks in typical 1980s gore – and it's so low on that stuff that Carpenter was forced to reshoot material to inject a little more blood and guts into proceedings – it more than makes up for in lush, almost gothic atmosphere.

Set inside a coastal town that's engulfed in a deep, thick fog out of which the malevolent spirits of shipwrecked sailors lurch nastily to attack the townsfolk who caused their deaths in the first place, this is a reassuringly familiar ghost fable of the highest calibre. It's also got some fine central performances to enjoy as well.

Adrienne Barbeau is a late-night DJ who gets chased around her lighthouse studio by some of those crumbling critters from out at sea and Carpenter's old leading lady Jamie Lee Curtis turns up as a streetwise potential victim. The director also finds room for Curtis's real-life mother Janet Leigh in the cast and even manages to crowbar himself into the action as a crusty old church caretaker.

The ending has always felt like a bit of a cop-out but there's still much to enjoy in all the creaky old ghostly goings on.

Anyone considering investing in this latest reissue for the film should be aware that StudioCanal have outdone themselves this time out. There's a new feature-length documentary, Retribution: Uncovering John Carpenter's Fog, to savour, an impressive featurette on some of Carpenter's unfilmed projects from the past, commentary tracks and more posters, postcards and paraphernalia than even the most dedicated John Carpenter collector could desire.

It all makes for the perfect retrospective for a fine period spook-fest that still works today even if it doesn't quite hit the heights of the director's very finest works. It still chills the blood even if it doesn't spill that much of it.

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