A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Fog is a 1980 horror movie directed by John Carpenter in which a mysterious fog wreaks havoc on a beach town. While the violence is nothing like the violence in other horror movies or other John Carpenter movies, it does have moments of horror-movie violence and peril. Ghostly sea zombies slash into living folks with swords and grappling hooks. The murders generally avoid gore and blood, but the quick "shock" edits are careful to leave the worst of it to your imagination. Still the director's favorite trick seems to be a nice, shiny blade suddenly popping out of a victim who's been run clean through. Characters shown binge-drinking and acting drunk -- slurring speech, stumbling. Cigarette and pipe smoking. A man and a woman are shown in bed together the morning after the man picked up the woman while she was hitchhiking. Infrequent profanity -- "f--k" used once. The disc jockey lead character makes deliberate innuendos, talk of being "high" up in the broadcast tower, and hoping the audience is "turned on."
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What's the story?
In THE FOG, an old sailor (John Houseman) tells spellbound boys of a shipwreck 100 years earlier, and the restless dead mariners at the bottom of the sea. The yarn turns out to be a whitewash of what really did happen here, with the terrible truth revealed as the community looks forward to celebrating its hundredth anniversary. At the stroke of midnight, glass breaks all over town, and walls tremble. Out at sea a trawler is surrounded in weird, glowing fog. Fishermen on board see a ghost ship and are slain by its ragged, shadowy crew bearing cutlasses. At the town church, hard-drinking Pastor Malone (Hal Holbrook) finds an old diary that says an island colony plagued with the dreaded disease leprosy was planning to move to the shore and paid the founders of Antonio Bay in gold for the privilege. However, six prominent townspeople lit a false signal-fire on the beach so the ship would wreck on the rocks instead. Now, the dead are back for revenge, to claim the lives of six locals -- or whomever they can just get their claws on.
Is it any good?
Fog of a different sort seems to have muddled the shapeless script, co-written by director John Carpenter. Though The Fog has a few bona fide jump-out-of-your-seat moments, it's also got ridiculous and logic-defying details viewers of any age should see right through. Sometimes the living dead materialize wherever the fog seeps in, sometimes a locked door or window stops them, and more silly things that most kids will pick up on.
In-joke character names are derived from horror movies/literature and John Carpenter's moviemaking associates (Arthur Machen, Dr. Phibes, Dan O'Bannon), but the talented cast, in thinly-sketched roles, plays things entirely straight-faced, unlike later horror movies where dark humor was abundantly added to the terror. The movie ends on a rather grim note of inevitable fate that's like the slam of a coffin lid. If it had a little less mature content, The Fog could pass for a Goosebumps-style chiller strictly for youngsters, like the campfire ghost story that opens the narrative.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about horror-movie violence. Unlike many horror movies, the most graphic moments of killing are edited out and left to the viewer's imagination. Is it scarier to leave out the gory moments, or is it scarier to graphically show someone being killed?
How was the element of surprise used to create moments of suspense?
As a movie from 1980, what did you notice in terms of cultural differences between then and now -- with drinking and smoking, for instance?
Have you seen the 2005 version? How does this compare?
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