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Film / The Fog

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"To the ships at sea who can hear my voice: Look across the water, into the darkness. Look for the fog."

The Fog is a 1980 horror film by John Carpenter (his first feature after a certain other horror film), starring Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis (and her mother, Janet Leigh), Hal Holbrook, Nancy Loomis, John Houseman and others.

The small coastal northern California town of Antonio Bay is about to celebrate its 100th anniversary. Among the town's denizens are Stevie Wayne (Barbeau), who runs her own radio station, and Kathy Williams (Leigh), who is in charge of the centennial celebrations. New in town is Elizabeth Solley (Curtis), an aspiring artist who has hitchhiked from Santa Barbara. Everything seems peaceful in Antonio Bay, but on the night of the ceremony, a mysterious fog rolls in... and the fog wants victims...

Remade in 2005 with Tom Welling, Maggie Grace and Selma Blair. The remake tries to create more connections between the characters and also tries to expand on a few plot points from the original.


No relation to James Herbert's horror novel of the same name.

This film provides examples of:

  • 555: The call number to Stevie's radio station.
  • Action Mom: Stevie becomes one of these in the film's final few minutes as she has to fight off the ghosts.
  • Actor Allusion: Jamie Lee Curtis is the one who protects Andy from the horrors, you might say taking on the role of a babysitter.
  • Asshole Victim: Averted. The conspirators who sank the Elizabeth Dane would qualify as this, but all of them are dead by the time of the film and Father Malone’s grandfather was consumed with guilt over it, and the victims the ghosts do claim as revenge are all perfectly nice people who had nothing to do with it. The closest anyone gets to bring one of these is Al Williams, and he’s just an average joe.
  • Avoid the Dreaded G Rating: The lack of blood in the film was to try and secure a PG rating. They still ended up with an R (as PG-13 had not been invented yet).
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  • Adult Fear: Stevie realises that her son is in danger and, trapped in the radio station, there's nothing she can do except send out distress messages in the hope that someone will hear and go to help. Even by the end of the film, she still has no idea if Andy has made it to safety.
  • Aroused by Their Voice: Stevie puts on this type of voice when broadcasting her music. One of the first scenes has the three sailors getting turned on by it. She drops the voice instantly when she has to make an emergency broadcast.
  • Artistic License – Engineering: Stevie's generator is clearly a gas-powered one - so it should be outside the lighthouse instead of inside.
  • Attack of the Town Festival: Subverted as Antonio Bay's birthday festival is cancelled due to power malfunction caused by the fog.
  • Axe Before Entering: The ghosts have a habit of using their longshoreman's hooks to break through doors.
  • Ax-Crazy: Implied with Blake, whose vows of revenge over the tape player quickly descend into Word-Salad Horror.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Most of the main characters survive, but poor Father Malone still gets killed by the zombie/ghost lepers for something his ancestor did. May also double as a Downer Ending.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Kathy runs through her list of things to do to get ready for the festival - and the last thing is to go home and pass out.
  • Broken Pedestal: Father Malone's image of his grandfather is shattered when he discovers the journal and the Dark Secret.
    "The celebration tonight is a travesty. We're honouring murderers."
  • By the Hair: One of the ghosts grabs Sandy by the hair when trying to get through the church window.
  • Casting Gag: Mother and daughter Janet Leigh and Jamie Lee Curtis. Also Halloween co-stars Nancy Loomis and Charles Cyphers in addition to Curtis. All three interacted a lot in Halloween but are almost completely separate in this.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Stevie's radio station becomes the only thing that can warn people about the dangers of the fog.
    • When reading the journal, Father Malone says he couldn't read past the night where the six conspirators murdered Blake's crew. Had he read on, he'd discover that the gold the ghosts are after is hidden in the church walls.
  • Coitus Ensues: Nick and Elizabeth hop into bed literally about half an hour after they've met, before they even know each other's names too.
  • Cool Old Lady: Mrs. Kobritz, who is like a second mother to Andy and protects him as best she can from the ghosts.
  • Creator Cameo: John Carpenter appears early in the movie as Bennett.
  • Curiosity Killed the Cast: Dan wanting to check out the fog after hearing a knock at the door of the weather station quickly makes him the fourth victim.
  • Cut Phone Lines: Just as the sheriff is calling Stevie on her request, a pillar of fog climbs up a telephone pole and breaks off the cables.
  • Dangerous Windows: The ghosts/zombies break through the stained-glass windows of the church.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Sandy, Kathy Williams's snarky assistant.
    Kathy: Sandy, you're the only person I know who can make "yes, ma'am" sound like "screw you".
    Sandy: Yes, ma'am.
    • Dan O'Bannon gets some in too.
  • Death by Sex: Almost pointedly averted — perhaps due to Carpenter's last film having arguably established the trope, which baffled him. One of the first scenes involves two characters having anonymous casual sex after knowing each other for about an hour, which in another horror movie would instantly mark them as future victims. It's barely dwelled upon.
  • Diary: Father Malone's grandfather's journal provides exposition.
  • Drone of Dread: Used frequently in the score to marvelous and eerie effect.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Father Malone is found drinking in his study on the evening of the festival.
  • Everytown, America: Despite being a seaside town, what we see of Antonio Bay fits the trope. The festival even looks a bit like a 4th of July celebration.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Mrs. Williams mentions that her dog kept barking and growling on the night of the ghosts' first appearance.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The film takes place over the course of one day, beginning around midnight and finishing some time the next evening.
  • Eye Scream: Dick Baxter gets stabbed right through the eyes.
  • Fatal Family Photo: Al Williams is a rare case where we get to meet his family, or in this case his wife.
  • Fog of Doom: It's in the title, folks. Notably it moves against the wind, glows with an eerie light and can short out electricity.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend:
    • When Andy is rescued from his house, no one asks about the fate of his babysitter Mrs Kobritz. He does briefly mention her towards the end as one of the victims though. Justified, since his rescuers, Nick and Elizabeth, have no idea who she is, and have more pressing matters to deal with, like avoiding being killed by the ghosts.
    • Otherwise averted, since Nick’s motivation is finding out what happened to his friends on the Seagrass, and Stevie is appropriately horrified and saddened when she heard Dan being killed over the phone.
    • Double subverted when it comes to Kathy's husband Al. After finding out he's dead, she's clearly devastated, but chooses to put on a brave face for the sake of the festival. He doesn't get mentioned after that again.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Stevie Wayne. Also a case of Two First Names.
  • Ghost Ship: Three examples. The Seagrass and the Resa Jane (the brig Nick talks about, which also seems to have fallen victim to the ghosts) are examples of the trope, and the Elizabeth Dane is a rather literal example.
  • Ghost Story: The film's opening prologue has old sea captain Mr. Machen (John Houseman) relating the tale of the wreck of the Elizabeth Dane exactly 100 years prior (and the legend of her perished crew returning with the fog at midnight) to a group of children at a beach bonfire.
  • Ghostly Chill: The ghosts cause the temperature to drop sharply when they appear (the thermometer on the Seagrass was stuck at twenty degrees).
  • Ghostly Goals: Plain old revenge.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: Blake's (the leader of the ghosts) red eyes.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Most of the murders. In fact, there is no blood spilled on-screen in the movie.
  • Haunted Technology / Electromagnetic Ghosts: The ghosts' presence is first experienced when various technology goes haywire.
  • The Hecate Sisters: The three principal female characters. Elizabeth, the youngest and the newcomer in town, is the Maiden. Stevie, the only mother in the cast, is the Matron. Kathy, the eldest and sharp-witted, is the Crone.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Father Malone tries this. Double Subverted.
  • Hollywood Density: For a man his age, Father Malone sure is strong to be able to carry a large solid gold cross.
  • Hooks and Crooks: Most of the ghosts are armed with longshoreman's hooks, although at least one wields a dagger, and Blake himself carries a sword.
  • Hope Spot: When Blake is given the cross it glows brightly and dissipates the fog, saving Stevie and the others. However, in the final scene, the ghosts return to the church, and Blake himself delivers the deathblow to Father Malone - the sixth and final victim.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: The ghosts strike on the town's 100th anniversary celebration.
  • Hysterical Woman: Subverted. Stevie's panic slowly starts to increase but she keeps her act together long enough to warn people about the fog and to fight off the pirates. This is a Justified Trope—she is trapped in a lighthouse while her home and her son are left at the mercy of undead pirates and all she can do is spread warnings over the radio.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: The opening credits call it "John Carpenter's The Fog".
  • Infant Immortality: Andy is in danger when the ghosts attack his house, but he's rescued by Nick and Elizabeth.
  • Iron Lady: Kathy Williams, even though she's just the chairwoman of the town committee. When she hears her husband may have been lost at sea, she still continues with her work in the celebration. Truth in Television, many people react to such situations by going about their daily routines or even burying themselves in work - it both helps give you something else to think about/focus on, and gives you the feeling that it is an ordinary, routine day.
  • It's Quiet… Too Quiet: When the title weather phenomena (and the zombies inside of it) are approaching the home where Mrs. Kobritz and Andy are staying, the frogs suddenly stop croaking, resulting in complete silence.
  • Jump Scare: Father Malone suddenly jumps out of his confessional booth in the silent church, scaring the bejesus out of Kathy.
  • Kill the Lights:
    • During the attack on the weather station, the ghost fog (or the zombies) cut the building's power supply, causing the man inside to open the door and get killed.
    • Later on the ghost fog enters the town's main generator and shorts it out, cutting off power to the entire area.
  • Light Is Not Good: The fog is accompanied by a bright glowing light.
  • Lighthouse Point: Stevie's radio station is located in the cupola of an abandoned lighthouse.
  • Mama Bear: Stevie tries anyway. When she sees the fog heading towards her house, she desperately screams into her radio for someone to rescue Andy. But she also defies this in a way; on the radio she apologises to Andy for not coming herself, because she needs to warn the rest of the town.
  • May–December Romance: Nick and Elizabeth, if the actors' actual ages are anything to go by (45 and 22 respectively).
  • Meaningful Echo: Sandy sarcastically responds with "yes ma'am" whenever Kathy Williams says something. Later on after hearing that her husband has been killed she asks Sandy to take her home, and Sandy says "yes ma'am" affectionately.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: The ghosts kill six people. Only one is female. There is a considerable amount of tension when Andy is potentially attacked by the ghosts but being a child grants him that exception.
  • Misplaced Retribution: The Fog Zombies are acting out of revenge against the town that murdered them, seeking to kill six people specifically, but kill indiscriminately. They then leave after their kill count is satisfied, and even slay the grandson of the conspiracy ringleader, even after he willingly returned the stolen gold to them.
  • The Mockbuster: Oliver Krekel's Fog 2 - Revenge of the Executed.
  • Must Be Invited: If the fog can't come inside, the ghosts can't either unless you let them. Of course, at the climax, the ghosts start getting impatient, as they just plain smash their way into the church and the lighthouse.
  • Mythology Gag: Many of the characters are named after notable people John Carpenter has worked with, such as Nick Castle (who played Michael Myers in Halloween), Tommy Wallace (the film's editor), and Dan O'Bannon (a fellow screenwriter).
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The slow build-up at the beginning of the film where, after midnight, things inexplicably start to go crazy as a bad omen. There's no cause given and no explanation and the incidents in question just... happen.
  • Oh, Crap!: Most of the second half of the movie is full of moments like this such as Andy being trapped by the ghosts in his home after they kill Ms. Kobritz and later Stevie being trapped by the revenants in the lighthouse.
  • Ominous Fog: The premise of the film.
  • Ominous Knocking:
    • When the fog and the zombies reach the weather station, one of them knocks on the door. Dan the weatherman opens the door and looks out, allowing a zombie to enter and kill him.
    • While Mrs. Kobritz and Andy are trapped in a house by the fog (and the zombies in the fog), one of the zombies pounds on the front door for admittance. Mrs. Kobritz foolishly opens the front door to see who's there and is killed by the zombie.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted. One of the protagonists is called Elizabeth, and the ship that Blake captained was called the Elizabeth Dane. There's no connection - except in the remake.
  • Peek-a-Boo Corpse: Elizabeth is sitting around in the abandoned fishing boat when the corpse of a fisherman tumbles out of the overhead compartment.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Dan O'Bannon usually drops a few funny lines whenever he appears on screen.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Stevie's radio station plays jazz music, because it was more affordable than rock music on such a low budget.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Blake, the leader of the murderous zombie ghosts, has red Glowing Eyes.
  • Scenery Porn: The gorgeous coastline of Marin County, California.
  • Screaming Woman: Elizabeth does a bit of screaming when the bodies of the fishermen are involved. Other than that though, she keeps a cool head.
  • Servile Snarker: Sandy, who is Kathy's assistant.
    Kathy: Are you going to give a benediction tonight, Father?
    Father Malone: This town has a curse on it.
    Sandy: Do we take that as a 'no'?
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Coroner's name is Dr. Phibes.
    • Mr. Machen is an homage to Welsh fantasy writer Arthur Machen (mispronounced, mind you).
    • There are H. P. Lovecraft references in the place names "Arkham Reef" and "Whateley."
    • The overall story is reminiscent of "The Night Wire", albeit with the news-wire Framing Device updated to a radio show.
    • Nick Castle is named for the regular Carpenter collaborator who played Michael Myers in Halloween (1978).
    • The town of Bodega Bay, famous as the setting of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, is mentioned.
    • Stevie's message to "look for the fog" through the radio is a reference to the final scene in The Thing from Another World, where the reporter character grabs the radio and tells the world to "watch the skies" for extra-terrestrials.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Dan is dragged off into the fog by the ghosts/zombies as they begin to directly attack the town.
  • Sinister Minister: Father Malone's grandfather, who participated in the murder of the leper colony (though it should be noted he felt some remorse for it). Father Malone himself is more of a Good Shepherd.
  • Sins of Our Fathers: The ghosts in the fog want revenge for having been lured to their death so the town's founders could steal their gold.
  • Sound-Only Death: Father Malone, the third guy on the Seagrass and Mrs. Kobritz
  • Title Drop: ...look for the fog.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Although the townspeople did not know about the crime committed 100 years ago until Father Malone finds the journal on anniversary day.
  • Tuckerization: A few characters are named after John Carpenter's colleagues. The weatherman is named Dan O'Bannon (screenwriter for Alien), a sailor is called Tommy Wallace (the Halloween cinematographer) and Tom Atkin's character is Nick Castle (the actor who played Michael Myers). John Carpenter also cameos as a man called Bennett, possibly named after his writer friend Bennett Tramer (who also got this trope in Halloween).
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Father Malone, seeking to atone for his grandfather's crimes (despite having no hand in them), gives the gold to Blake's zombie in exchange for sparing the townsfolk's lives. Blake retreats...then comes back and kills him anyway to satisfy the kill count.
  • Weather Dissonance: The titular fog moves against the wind.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Early in the film, Father Malone tells Bennett, who has just asked to be paid, to come in at 6 instead of 4. Malone, realizing he'd been a dick to Bennett, was trying to call him back, presumably to apologize when the stone fell, revealing the hidden journal. Now, having just read about his Grandfather's sins, one might assume that Father Malone might be eager to avoid them, and pay Bennett for his services promptly when he returned. However, we never do see Bennett return, despite several scenes taking place at the church the next day. Did he simply decide not to show up, believing he'd never be paid for his work? Or was he paid by a contrite Father Malone off-screen?
  • When the Clock Strikes Twelve: At midnight before the anniversary of its founding, things start to go a little crazy in the town of Antonio Bay. TV's, machinery and car lights turn on, chairs move by themselves, church bells start ringing, a dog barks at the ocean, and a car alarm goes off for no reason. Later the audience learns that many years earlier six conspirators met from midnight to 1:00 a.m. to plot a mass murder.

The remake has examples of:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: In the 1980 film Nick is played by Tom Atkins. In the remake he's portrayed by the very handsome Tom Welling.
  • Adaptational Villainy: The addition of a pre-credits Distant Prologue, in which Blake and his undead pals are implied to have killed the four men who torched their ship immediately after their crime rather detracts from the notion that they're Tragic Villain-types: if, after all, they already did avenge themselves upon their actual killers, it's a lot harder to sympathize with their retribution against townsfolk who know nothing about a century-old atrocity, and whose ancestors probably didn't even live on the island at the time.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Elizabeth Williams, played by Maggie Grace, is revealed to be the reincarnation of the woman Blake loved when he was alive, and she becomes her ancestor at the end and disappears into the fog with Blake while her lover Nick can only watch in horror. He lives on with all the other survivors, but the woman he loved is gone.
  • Condensation Clue: One of the girls on the first boat to be engulfed draws a set of scales on the fogged-up window in a trance. Presumably this is to foreshadow the ghosts' desire to even the score against the town.


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