You need to watch the most unnerving cult classic thriller on Amazon Prime ASAP
John Carpenter's follow-up to Halloween is an underrated cult classic.
Not all scary movies share the same goals. While the intention of scaring viewers binds this genre together, horror films go about pursuing that objective that in different ways.
Slasher flicks usually aim to unnerve and shock audiences by prioritizing gore and brutality above everything else, while haunted house movies like The Conjuring focus on creating an overwhelming mood that turns our fear of the supernatural against us.
Over the course of his career, John Carpenter has dabbled in practically every corner of the horror genre — from slasher films (Halloween) to monster movies (The Thing). However, 1980’s The Fog sees Carpenter attempting to blend and inject multiple different forms of horror into one film. The final result is a bold piece of cinema — a film that feels wholly unique and yet perfectly in keeping with its director’s overall filmography.
The Fog is one of the most underrated films that John Carpenter has ever made, and thankfully, it’s streaming now on Amazon Prime. Here’s why we recommend that you add it to your watchlist this October.
The town is Antonio Bay, California, a tiny coastal oasis on the verge of celebrating its 100th anniversary. The only problem? Its past is far more violent and wicked than its residents realize. No matter: the fog will lay those secrets bare.
That’s the basic set-up of The Fog, a film in which evil, vengeful spirits shrouded in an elemental mist descend upon the unsuspecting residents of a small town. Directed by Carpenter and co-written by him and frequent collaborator Debra Hill, the film is a moody slow-burn horror-thriller about the sins of a nation’s past coming back to haunt it. In a way, its story has never felt more relevant.
The film’s opening 25 minutes unfold over the course of a single night — one in which the present-day residents of Antonio Bay are unknowingly visited for the first time by their spectral invaders. It’s a moody and patient sequence, which culminates with a viciously tense middle-of-the-night attack on a fishing boat that, more than anything else, helps set the stage for The Fog’s ceaselessly intense final third.
The middle portion of the film, however, is a bit more uneven than its unforgettable opening and closing segments. Carpenter and Hill set the entire second act during the day and use this stretch of the film to introduce and further develop The Fog’s main characters, played by Adrienne Barbeau, Tom Atkins, Jamie Lee Curtis, Hal Holbrook, and Janet Leigh.
It’s an undeniably interesting decision on the part of Carpenter and Hill to, for the most part, press pause on The Fog’s horror elements in favor of exploring the town’s history and residents. But this gambit largely pays off, as the time spent with characters during The Fog’s middle section helps to heighten the film’s thrilling final act through emotional investment.
The Fog wasn’t well-received when it was first released in 1980. Indeed, while the film was financially successful, critics largely viewed it as an underwhelming and ineffective follow-up to Carpenter’s 1978 horror masterpiece, Halloween. Roger Ebert only gave the film two stars and wrote at the time of its release that it is “made with style and energy, but it needs a better villain.”
A little over 30 years later, general consensus surrounding the film is much more positive, and it’s not hard to see why. While it may not be a total knockout like Halloween or The Thing, The Fog is more effective, original, and memorable than most other horror films released over the past three decades.
And that’s true even without hailing the film’s shockingly brutal and biting final frame — an admirably savage coup de grâce that sends The Fog out on a fittingly deranged high.
John Carpenter’s The Fog is available to stream now on Amazon Prime.