GUEST MOVIE REVIEW: The Fog

This is the first in a five-part series by author CM Saunders where he discusses with us his top five 80s horror picks. I hope it encourages you to either watch (or maybe re-watch) some old classics. I know it really helped me to get some of my Halloween spirit back this year, and since Halloween isn’t over until I say it’s over, you’ve got plenty more time to sit back and enjoy these.

Top 5 Eighties Horror Flicks #5

Title: The Fog
Year of Release: 1980
Director: John Carpenter
Length: 89 minutes
Starring: Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Hal Holbrook, Janet Leigh

Any horror movie aficionado of a certain age will tell you that the eighties were a special time. Yes, some of the music was questionable and the fashion sense largely atrocious. Plus, there was no internet meaning that you had to physically go to shops to buy things. There were no cellphones, either, so you usually had to go by yourself. Crazy, I know. But the movies were something else. What they lacked in special effects and CGI they more than made up for in wit and atmosphere. That’s why I’ve decided to mark this Halloween spooktacular with a rundown of the top 5 horror flicks of the decade. You’ll probably be familiar with most of them. If not, seek them out immediately. Despite the big shoulder pads and spiky hair, you won’t be sorry.

One more thing before we get started; this list, as with most lists, is entirely subjective. If you don’t like it, make your own damn list.

Following the success of Halloween two years earlier, John Carpenter was considered hot shit in Hollywood and virtually given free license to do what he wanted on the Fog, albeit on a modest budget. He didn’t disappoint. Being sandwiched between Halloween and Escape from New York the Fog is often overlooked, but remains one of the jewels in carpenter’s crown. 

As the Californian coastal town of Antonio Bay nears its hundredth anniversary, paranormal activity begins to rocket. When a huge chunk of masonry falls out of a wall in his church, town priest Father Malone (Holbrook) finds his grandfather’s journal hidden in the alcove. When he reads it, he uncovers a terrible secret. The original townsfolk, led by Malone’s grandfather, deliberately sank a clipper ship, the Elizabeth Dane, and plundered it for gold, which was then used to establish the town and build the church. Cut to the present day, and a fishing boat is out at sea when it is engulfed by a mysterious glowing fog. You guessed it, there’s something in there. Specifically, it’s the Elizabeth Dane, and her very angry (and very dead) crew.

The heart and soul of San Antonio is the local radio station, seemingly managed by Stevie Wayne (Barbeau) all on her lonesome. The radio station is set up in an old lighthouse, meaning Stevie is in pole position to see the glowing fog, which suspiciously moves against the wind, approach the town. Weatherman Dan helpfully calls to tell her about it, but unfortunately, Weatherman Dan could make a strong case for being the stupidest man in the world and he is dead moments later. Instead of just calling it a night and going home, Stevie then takes to the airwaves to implore any passing strangers to go to her house, address provided, to save her son who is stuck there with the soon-to-be-dead babysitter. A short time later, she apparently gives up on him altogether and shifts her attention to saving the villagers instead who have gathered for a Centenary celebration. In an apparent attempt to help the crew of the Elizabeth Dane find them quicker, she tells them all to gather in the church where an epic showdown takes place.  

As well as writing, directing, and even pulling off a brief cameo role, John Carpenter also composed the musical score. I didn’t notice the significance until I sat down and actually listened to it. It consists of the usual deep, ominous, brooding tones, which are then mimicked by lighter tones. Same chords, different tones. When I thought about it, that effect conjured up the notion of being stalked or followed, which I imagine to be an effective tool to use on the subconscious whether intentional or otherwise. The music is instrumental (boom!) in making the Fog such an atmospheric, satisfying, well-made chiller. The plot is ultimately a tad predictable, but there’s just enough gore and jump scares to keep things interesting.

The fate of the Elizabeth Dane is said to be based on that of an actual wrecking which took place off the coast of California near the town of Goleta in the 19th century. This particular kind of skulduggery appears to have been mercifully rare in America. However, it was a lot more prevalent in Britain (LINK). John Carpenter also claimed to be partly inspired by a visit to Stonehenge with his co-writer/producer (and then-girlfriend), Debra Hill while in England promoting Assault on Precinct 13 in 1977. They visited the site in the late afternoon, and saw an eerie fog in the distance. Though carpenter and Hill worked together on The Fog, Halloween and several other projects, by the time the Fog came to be filmed Carpenter was married to Adrienne Barbeau. Unusually, both Carpenter and Hill were involved in the 2005 remake starring Selma Blair and Tom Welling, which managed to stay more-or-less faithful to the original.  

Trivia Corner:

Worried the film might flop, the distribution company, AVCO Embassy Pictures, spent around $3 million on advertising and promotion, mostly on expensive TV, radio and print ads. They also spent a considerable amount installing fog machines in the lobbies of cinemas where the film was showing. That was almost three times the amount the film cost to make. However, the gamble paid off as it generated over $21 million at the Box Office.

On the 13th of every month I put a fresh spin on a classic movie in my RetView series over at my blog. Go here for the archive.

Boo-graphy: Christian Saunders, a constant reader who writes fiction as C.M. Saunders, is a freelance journalist and editor from south Wales. His work has appeared in almost 100 magazines, ezines and anthologies worldwide including Fortean Times, the Literary Hatchet, ParABnormal, Fantastic Horror, Haunted MTL, Feverish Fiction and Crimson Streets, and he has held staff positions at several leading UK magazines ranging from Staff Writer to Associate Editor. His books have been both traditionally and independently published.

The fifth volume in my X series featuring ten (X, geddit?) slices of twisted horror and dark fiction plucked from the blood-soaked pages of ParABnormal magazine, Demonic Tome, Haunted MTL, Fantasia Diversity, and industry-defining anthologies including 100 Word Horrors, The Corona Book of Ghost Stories, DOA 3, and Trigger Warning: Body Horror.

Meet the local reporter on an assignment which takes him far beyond the realms of reality, join the fishing trip that goes sideways when a fish unlike any other is hooked, and find out the hidden cost of human trafficking in China. Along the way, meet the hiker who stumbles across something unexpected in the woods, the office worker who’s life is inexorably changed after a medical drug trial goes wrong, and many more.

Also features extensive notes, and original artwork by Stoker award-winning Greg Chapman.

Table of Contents:
Demon Tree
Revenge of the Toothfish
Surzhai
The Sharpest Tool
Something Bad
Down the Road
Coming Around
Where a Town Once Stood
The Last Night Shift
Subject #270374
Afterword

X X2 X3 X4 X5

GUEST MOVIE REVIEW: Halloween Franchise

Halloween Film Reviews

The Halloween franchise has been frightening audiences for generations, beginning with John Carpenter’s 1978 classic, and leading to Halloween (2018). With two more films set for release: Halloween Kills (2021) and Halloween Ends (2022), it’s the perfect time to revisit the films and see what made them so special. And also, which ones don’t quite make the cut in terms of quality.

The following is a non-spoiler review and opinion of almost every Halloween film ever made, ranked in order of importance. I am omitting the Rob Zombie versions from this list because I have not seen them and cannot make an accurate judgment. Nor do I want to.

Halloween (1978): The granddaddy of slashers. Its status is cemented in popular culture for good reason. From the opening credits to the film’s iconic musical score, it induces a sense of dread at every turn. When we hear those infamous piano keys, we feel the danger looming, knowing Michael Meyers is close. We are introduced to Laurie Strode, played brilliantly by Jamie Lee Curtis, a comely high school student who is relegated to babysitting on Halloween while her friends are off partying. She becomes the accidental heroine by fending off Michael, and protecting the children while Dr. Loomis searches for his escaped mental patient.

In terms of quality, it is still the gold standard for the franchise and slasher films in general.

Five Stars.

Halloween II (1981): Although he wrote and co-produced Halloween’s second entry, John Carpenter passed the director’s chair to Rick Rosenthal. Halloween II picks up the moment the first film ends. After Dr. Loomis fires six shots into Michael, he disappears, leaving Loomis to continue his search. With Laurie seriously injured, she is transported to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital for treatment. Michael continues his rampage, following Laurie to the hospital to finish what he started.

Halloween II doesn’t quite capture the same magic as the original, but it’s a very worthy sequel that streamlines one film to the next.

Four Stars.

Halloween (2018): I’d have to put this above all the sequels that came before it. As far as canon, this new entry pretends that nothing exists past Halloween (1978), even excluding Halloween II for no other reason that I can see, than to keep the dynamic of Laurie and Michael mysterious, meaning they are no longer brother and sister…a trope that Carpenter introduced with the 1981 sequel.

It begins with two journalists visiting Smiths Grove Sanitarium in hopes of getting a face-to-face with Michael Myers, who, according to the new timeline, was captured before the events of Halloween II. He eventually escapes during transport and tracks down the journalists, retrieving his original mask in the process. He now has no other motive but to locate his non-sibling, Laurie Strode, who has been preparing for this moment her whole life, barricading herself into a cage of crazy and excluding everyone around her, including her daughter.

The end showdown is nothing short of amazing, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the lore come full circle.

Three and a half stars.

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989): Although it blends with Halloween 4, I personally prefer this one for its darker atmosphere. Donald Pleasance reprises his role as Dr. Sam Loomis, protecting Jaime Lloyd (Danielle Harris), the daughter of Laurie Strode, from her murderous uncle. In this timeline, Laurie is dead, making it all the more confusing for modern moviegoers who are only familiar with the recent entries.

Halloween 4 and 5 are fun by themselves, but fail to move the franchise forward in significant ways.

Three Stars.

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988): Some people will disagree that I put H5 ahead of H4, and in some ways, I understand. This entry rejuvenates the franchise, bringing back Myers as a central character, unlike the misdirection of Halloween III: Season of the Witch.

We are now introduced to Jamie Lloyd, Laurie’s daughter. After learning of Laurie’s demise, we understand that Michael is now stalking his niece, hoping to snuff the family bloodline.

Two and a Half Stars.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982): Michael Myers is nowhere to be found here. Halloween II was meant to be the last entry with Myers, leading to this new installment with the intent of extending Halloween lore in different directions. I personally like it, but it was a colossal flop, no one understood why it was called H3 when it departed from its previous “sequels” with no Shape to be found. It was intended to be an ongoing annual event, each year giving a new Halloween inspired theme, but unfortunately that never came to fruition. Go into it with an open mind, and you might enjoy it.

Three Stars.

Halloween H20 (1998): The year says it all. Twenty years later, this is the original Halloween (2018) forgetting H4 and H5 even exist. Laurie Strode is alive again, and she no longer has a daughter named Jamie Lloyd, she now has a son named John (Josh Hartnett) and is the headmistress of a private boarding school called Hillcrest Academy, where she has been hoping to avoid the inevitable confrontation with her brother. Her nightmares becomes a reality when Michael tracks her down, and a confrontation escalates.

This is Scream era, late ‘90s fare. If you enjoy this style, give it a shot.

Two Stars.

Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995): Before there was H20, the franchise gave one last crack at Michael’s existing reign. Paul Rudd is Tommy Jarvis, Pleasance is back as Loomis, and Michael is back as, well, himself. Donald Pleasance passed away during the filming, so the studio had to finish the film without him, and it shows. Some new lore is introduced here, in the form of something called Thorn. Hated it then, hate it now. But other than some side nonsense, it’s a fun watch if you don’t take it too seriously.

Two Stars.

Halloween Resurrection (2002): A sequel to H20 that wants to kill Laurie Strode within the first twenty minutes. I saw this in the theater and walked out immediately after said event. I’ve since seen it in its entirety and wished I hadn’t, citing temporary insanity as the cause. It revolves around a TV crew, showcasing their clichéd early 2000s internet broadcast that features a group of contestants spending a night in the Myers house. Surprise, Michael shows up. Busta Rhymes says, “Trick or treat, Motha Fu***,” and everything just sucks. Bottom of the barrel for me. Avoid it if you can.

One Star.

So there you have it, my loose reviews of the Halloween films. Let me know if you agree.

Cheers,
Phil Thomas

Boo-graphy:
Phil Thomas is an author and screenwriter from the suburbs of Philadelphia. He is a member of the International Association of Professional Writers & Editors and The Horror Writers Association. He is also the former co-host of What Are You Afraid Of? a weekly horror and paranormal show that lasted for over 150 episodes. The show still airs on Para-X radio on Friday evenings at 9:00 pm, where you’ll find interviews with wonderful guests such as Lloyd Kaufman, Katrina Weidman, Joe R. Lansdale, Grady Hendrix, Greg Bear, Daniel Kraus, and many more.

Check out his website and sign up for his mailing list so he can further control your mind, and please direct your angry hate mail to him here. You can stalk him on Twitter and Facebook.

His short stories have been featured in several anthologies, including Monsterthology 2, Nightside: Tales of Outré Noir, Coming Through in Waves: Crime Fiction inspired by the Songs of Pink Floyd, Books of Horror: Volume 3, Part 2, and the upcoming collection, Seven Doors of Fate, set to release in 2023.

His debut novel, The Poe Predicament, was published by Foundations Books on October 4, 2021 and hit the bestseller list.

Stuck in another time, Richard Langley just wants to find his way back home.

Richard is a former college professor, wandering a local neighborhood bookstore, where he stumbles upon the find of a lifetime: a signed copy of Tamerlane and other poems.

He is soon swept to another era. He is alone, confused, and his only mission is to get back to where he came from.

While struggling to adapt to his nineteenth-century environment, Richard meets a man he must help exonerate from false accusations in order to restore history’s original timeline and, ultimately, find his way back.

What Richard did not count on, was that man being the owner of the signature—Edgar Allan Poe.