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Feature


As the small Californian town of Antonio Bay approaches its centenary, strange goings on start to disrupt the preparations for the impending festivities. Inexplicable, seemingly supernatural happenings begin to occur across the town at the stroke of midnight and an impenetrable fog rolls in off of coast, bringing with it more than just bad weather. The town priest, Father Malone, uncovers an old journal which reveals that the town was founded using gold plundered from the hold of a ship named the Elizabeth Dane, which the town's founders (including his ancestor) deliberately sank.

As the fog spreads further inland numerous gruesome deaths occur and the hands of the revenants of Dane (the former captain of the Elizabeth Dane) and his vengeful crew. Local DJ Stevie Wayne observes events from the lighthouse where she broadcasts her show and warns people of the impending danger while pleading for someone to rescue her son. Resident Nick Castle and a hitchhiker named Elizabeth Solley answer the call and one by one the players begin to converge on the church, hoping to find shelter from the spectral menace threatening the town.

Video


The original UK release of The Fog was reviewed for DVDActive by Scott McKenzie over ten years ago. It was, to be blunt, terrible. Instead of a new high-definition transfer Optimum (as they were then) delivered an upscaled standard-definition version of the film that looked like mush and had issues with contrast and brightness. More recently, Shout! Factory took a stab at the film (pun intended), but while its release was better, there was still considerable room for improvement.

Enter Sudiocanal's new release, minted from a new 4K scan of the camera negative as with its other recent John Carpenter releases. To say it's an improvement over what's come before is an understatement, particularly if we're talking exclusively about the UK Blu-ray editions. The level of detail far surpasses the old Optimum disc, offering a finely resolved image that exhibits a natural grain structure. Much of the film takes place at night and previous releases have either been way too bright or dark, but this new version, retains plenty of shadow detail whilst delivering some inky deep blacks. The palette is also improved over previous releases, presenting strong, natural colours throughout. As expected from a newly minted effort, the image is also exceptionally clean and artefact free. To be honest I think the screen captures on this page speak volumes and I've tried to match frames to those from Scott's review (linked below) so you can see just how much better this release really is.

Audio


The Optimum disc included a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that was reportedly incorrectly pitched. This Studiocanal disc includes a correctly pitched Master Audio 5.1 track along with the film's original mono audio presented in LPCM 2.0. To be completely honest there's so little surround activity in the 5.1 track you're not going to be missing out on much this time around should you be limited to a stereo set-up. Fidelity is fine for the most part, the exception being the occasionally canned sounding dialogue (possibly due to looping), and although not terribly expansive The Fog sounds perfectly good on Blu-ray.

Extras


This disc continues to excel over the previous UK offering by including a host of entertaining and informative bonus material. We are treated to multiple commentary tracks, an all-new documentary, vintage featurettes, outtakes and much more. A complete list extras can be found below:

  • Audio Commentary with writer/director John Carpenter and writer/director Debra Hill
  • Audio commentary with actors Adrienne Barbeau, Tom Atkins and production designer Tommy Lee Wallace
  • Retribution: Uncovering John Carpenter’s The Fog - A brand new retrospective documentary produced by Ballyhoo Motion Pictures and featuring interviews with cinematographer Dean Cundey, production designer/editor Tommy Lee Wallace, photographer Kim Gottleib-Walker, make-up effects artist Steve Johnson, Carpenter biographer John Muir, music historian Daniel Schweiger, visual effects historian Justin Humphreys and assistant Larry Franco
  • The Shape of The Thing to Come: John Carpenter Un-filmed - A brand new featurette looking at the John Carpenter films that never were
  • Scene Analysis by John Carpenter - Director John Carpenter analyses key scenes from The Fog, in an interview from 2003
  • Fear on Film: Inside the Fog (1980) - A vintage featurette which includes an interview with John Carpenter
  • The Fog: Storyboard to Film – original storyboards
  • Outtakes
  • TV Spots
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • Photo Gallery incl. Behind the Scenes
  • Horror's Hallowed Grounds with Sean Clark - a fun tour of the film’s locations hosted by Sean Clark
  • Easter Egg – surprise!

Overall


Following the unexpected success of Halloween, The Fog marked the first time John Carpenter was handed a decent budget to work with. Unfortunately the film couldn't replicate Halloween's success, partly due to audiences' increasing lust for gore in their horror movies, something that Carpenter was yet to embrace. However, as with a surprising number of the director's features, what was considered an under-performing film at the time found its market on home video. Personally speaking it's probably near the bottom of my 'favourite Carpenter films' list, with the whole thing feeling a bit flat ineffectual from a scares point of view. There's nothing terribly wrong with it - the ensemble cast are good, it has bags of atmosphere, excellent cinematography and a haunting score - but I'd take the uneven highs of something like Prince of Darkness over it any day.

Of course that's just my opinion and largely irrelevant if you're already a fan of the film. If you are you're going to want to own the best available Blu-ray version, which this clearly is. Visually it's streets ahead of the previous UK release and a clear step up from even the US disc. While the audio isn't anything special (it's not even one of Carpenter's more memorable scores) both tracks are solid enough efforts. However, the extras are the real star of the show here and provide many hours worth of enjoyment.

* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.

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