Fog, The (UK - BD RA/B)
Scott McKenzie takes a look at the BD of this 1980 movie from John Carpenter...
Antonio Bay is a small town in California that is about to reach its one hundredth anniversary. However, as the preparations for the festivities begin, strange things start to happen. A thick fog moves through the town and when people start to die the residents realise that the fog is bringing them more than just bad weather. Father Malone begins to piece together the reason for the ghostly apparitions, but can he help to save the town from the massacre that is unfolding?
I always find The Fog to be a real mixed bag whenever I watch it. To a certain degree, you get what you expect from a John Carpenter movie: a haunting score, a group of people banding together to fight an evil menace, plenty of scares and a general foreboding atmosphere throughout the movie. Carpenter's score in particular helps to create the atmosphere, with a long cold opening credits sequence where we are introduced to the residents of the town and the strange goings on that are only going to get worse.
If you start to ask questions while you're watching The Fog, it doesn't take long for some problems to arise. For a start, some of the scares are pretty cheap, in particular the appearance of Father Malone from the shadows for no apparent reason other than to scare the hell out of Janet Leigh's character. Even though the bad guys are tooled up with hooks and swords, there is very little blood on screen when people are stabbed or slashed, which is rather odd since this was filmed as a low budget horror movie.
The structure of the action is very strange. The Fog is an ensemble movie, but some of the characters never meet each other so it lacks a sense of closure within the group by the end. Adrienne Barbeau plays a DJ that haunts the airwaves with her music and you would think she would play an important role, but she doesn't get to do much at all and her showdown with the bad guys was only added in during re-shoots. In fact, a lot of the action in The Fog was added in when Carpenter and the studio realised that the first cut was neither long enough nor scary enough.
The Fog is still just under an hour and a half long and for once, I have to say I would have preferred it to be longer. A decent amount of time is spent introducing us to the characters early on and with so many different story threads, I wanted to see more of everyone. This made me think the story may have worked as a longer TV movie, but following the recent remake it's doubtful this would ever be an option. The opening quote from Edgar Allen Poe adds a touch of class to the proceedings, but by the end it just leaves the viewer wondering if what they've watched was all a dream.
The video quality of this 1080p presentation is as much of a mixed bag as the movie itself. The opening Studio Canal logo looks great, which only serves to highlight the problems early on when we get into the movie. As we've come to expect from movies this old, there's a bit of wobble on the opening titles and it's clear that dark grey will equate to what is supposed to be black throughout the movie. It looks like some sections of film (mainly those without any visual effects) have survived the last twenty-eight years in better condition than others. Some shots are bright (red is a colour that looks particularly good here) and rich in detail, but the movie will then cut to an incredibly grainy shot of fog moving through the town. The picture also flickers from time to time, which doesn't necessarily detract from the viewing experience in the early camp fire scene but does disappoint for the remaining eighty minutes of a presentation that's supposed to be the highest quality available.
There are two audio options available through the menus: 5.1 and 5.1 with subtitles. That's right—the audio options menu is really the subtitles menu. After doing a bit of Googling on the subject, it appears that the audio track is the 5.1 Master Audio that came with the HD DVD, since this is almost certainly a BD port of that disc. There have been reports that there is a pitch problem with this soundtrack, with the audio 4% higher than it should be due to it being an old NTSC to PAL conversion, but I didn't notice any problems here. That doesn't mean The Fog is particularly enjoyable to listen to though. The quality is generally fuzzy, with dialogue, effects and John Carpenter's music lacking clarity. I couldn't detect significant use of directional sound through the surround channels either, which leads me to believe there's as much of a remastering job still to be done on the audio side as there is on the picture.
No extras at all here I'm afraid, apart from a couple of audio and video configuration options, which don't count in my book.
The Fog is an odd film—an ensemble movie with a great atmosphere, but one that never really delivers on the promise of a second classic horror movie in a row from the creator of Halloween. I like to think of this as John Carpenter honing his skills for the significantly superior Escape from New York and The Thing. Unfortunately the movie neither looks or sounds very good on this high definition release and the lack of any extra features at all make this a release that is very difficult to recommend, especially to Carpenter fans who already own the feature-packed DVD special edition.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Scott McKenzie
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 4th August 2008
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Easter Egg: No
Director: John Carpenter
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh, Adrienne Barbeau, Hal Holbrook
Length: 86 minutes
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