“11:55, almost midnight. Enough time for one more story. One more story before 12:00, just to keep us warm.”
John Carpenter’s 1980 film The Fog is a ghost story that begins with a ghost story. On the eve of the centenary of the tiny fishing hamlet of Antonio Bay, old Mr Machen (John Houseman) tells a group of children gathered around a beach bonfire the tale of the wreck of the Elizabeth Dane a hundred years ago, a befogged ship that mistook a fire on the beach for the local lighthouse and foundered on the rocks with all hands lost. He also tells the enraptured kids that legend says the drowned crew will one day return, along with the fog that doomed them.
And that is exactly what happens.
Released in 1980, The Fog is horror legend John Carpenter’s fourth theatrical feature and his first since the epochal Halloween in 1978. If that film broke new ground, codifying the slasher subgenre and setting the template for every implacable big screen mass murderer going forward, The Fog is a decidedly – and delightfully – old-school horror movie, revelling in the tropes and traditions of the good, old-fashioned campfire tale. It’s not about subverting expectations, but meeting them, and the joys of the film do not involve the shock of surprise but the creeping anticipation of knowing what’s going to happen to the various characters caught up in the dark doings on screen.