Director: John Carpenter
AA | 1h 29min | Horror , Thriller | 6 November 1980 (Original UK release, see below for reissue screening dates in October-November)
RATING : ★★★☆☆
Though his career has been erratic in recent decades, writer-director (and composer) John Carpenter’s place in film history is secure, thanks to a filmography that includes the likes of the slyly witty alien invasion/Reaganite satire They Live (1988), and the brilliantly ambitious physical effects horror showcase that is The Thing (1982). His synth-driven soundtracks remain hugely imitated to this day. Carpenter also has this year enjoyed a producer and composer role on a new direct sequel to his 1978 genre-defining slasher Halloween, which as of now is storming the global box office (see the favourable Smoke Screen review here) and sees original ‘final girl’ Jamie Lee Curtis return to the iconic role of Laurie Strode.
But 2018 also sees Carpenter honoured in yet more exciting ways: distributor Studiocanal has completed brand new 4k restorations of some of his most iconic titles: THE FOG, THEY LIVE, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and PRINCE OF DARKNESS. All four brand new 4k restorations were done using the original camera negatives, with the colour grading approved for the new restorations and UHD versions by the films’ Cinematographers: Gary B Kibbe and Dean Cundey.A very special, 4-disc Collector’s Edition will be available of THE FOG, THEY LIVE, and ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, that will also include a copy of the film’s seminal soundtrack composed and performed by Carpenter himself.
This October sees the start of these films being given limited theatrical releases across London and the wider UK before the home video release dates. From October 26, THEY LIVE and PRINCE OF DARKNESS screened at select cinemas, but the big Halloween one-night special slot was reserved for shows of the remastered print of THE FOG, which the Smoke Screen could not resist sampling.
Written and directed by Carpenter with a writing co-credit to Debra Hill, The Fog is probably not one of Carpenter’s best it has to be said, though the practical effects work and atmospheric shots of a fog-covered ocean look better than ever in 4K. The script and characterisations lack the kind of charisma and wit that made characters in other Carpenter films, such as RJ Macready in The Thing or Nada in They Live, so memorable. In contrast, we barely get to know The Fog’s principal characters Elizabeth (Jamie Lee Curtis, teaming up with Carpenter again) Stevie (Adrienne Barbeau) and Tom (Nick Castle, ‘The Shape’ from Halloween), their function is mostly to ponder the mystery of the titular fog for the first half of the film, and then spend the rushed second half running (or driving) away. Still, I like the timeless quality of the core story, which feels like it could have been written 100 years ago. The pretty town of Antonio Bay, California has turned a hundred years old and is getting ready to celebrate its centennial year. But as the residents of the tightknit community begin to prepare for the festivities, a mysterious cloud of fog appears upon the shore and begins to creep its way across the town, leaving a trail of horrifying slaughter that eventually reveals a dark past of betrayed leprosy-infected seamen who are now back for revenge on the anniversary of their doom. There are some evocative real-life locations and effective practical lighting and fog effects to savour as the chaos ensues, and Carpenter laces the build-up to the arrival of the fog with some genuinely creepy beats; such as a parking lot full of cars suddenly blaring their alarms all at once. Memorably, the main supernatural villain, always shot in shadow so his hooded features are obscured, carries a fishing hook as his weapon of choice
Celebrated UK based artist Matt Ferguson has created exclusive brand-new artwork for each film, which you can feast your eyes on below.
See here for the dates and locations of 4K cinema screenings of the John Carpenter 4K restorations.