The Fog (1980) Review

One from the re watch pile…
The Fog (1980)

The Australian Bluray cover


Film: There’s several people who are real heroes of cinema for me: Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento are amongst them, and John Carpenter really stands up there. He is responsible for several films that I really like, like Halloween, They Live and Prince of Darkness, but it’s not just that: his soundtracks that he himself creates sit directly in my love of synth music too. This movie, The Fog, is no exception.

I am not really a ghost/ supernatural fan when it comes to horror movies as I’d rather a slasher or a giallo or mutants or monsters: I like tactile, physical baddies and I think that comes from not believing in ghosts makes me not fear them. Sure a jump scare might alarm me, but I won’t walk away from the film traumatised.

That’s not to say I don’t still watch them though as even though the potential fear doesn’t scare me, I can still enjoy the story, performance and if I’m lucky, some chunky gore.

This is one of those times where the film is solid and the fact it’s a supernatural tale doesn’t matter.

The beautiful seaside town of Antonio Bay has a dark past where a ship full of lepers were killed when their boat was lead to its destruction. Now, 100 years later, the town is ready for its centenary under the guidance of Kathy Williams (Janet Leigh) but the local priest, Father Malone (Hal Holbrook) has discovered, hidden in the church, a diary telling the awful tale of the founding of the town, but the show must go on regardless.

Adrienne Barbeau… sigh.


A strange occurrence is happening on this celebration though: a mysterious fog is moving into town, and effecting the lives of the town including DJ Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau), fisherman Nick Castle (Tom Atkins) and a hitchhiker he has picked up, Elizabeth Solley (Jamie Lee Curtis) but what is in the fog killing people?

Could it be the spirits of the Dead coming back to haunt the descendants of the original families of Antonio Bay? Of course it is.

The first thing I have to say I love about this film is it’s cast: Psycho’s Janet Leigh, Night of the Creeps Tom Atkins, Magnum Force’s Hal Holbrook, Swamp Thing’s Adrienne Barbeau and of course Halloween’s Jamie Lee Curtis, to mention but a few.

Jamie Lee Curtis notices Tom Atkins’ moustache has stuck to his beer can.


This is film is clearly a Carpenter film as well, and I must say his surname suits perfectly as his stories me direction builds slowly and to a fantastic finale, as does his soundtrack… I love it when Carpenter scores his own films! 

This is no exception, and the record of this soundtrack gets a regular spin here at the To Watch Pile!

Really though, this film wins with its warm and likable characters who are victims of their ancestors crimes and potentially innocent themselves, and with Caroenter’s masterful handling of the pacing of the film.

Seriously, if you haven’t seen The Fog… or anything else by Carpenter, you need to fix that immediately.

Score: ****

Australian Bluray menu screen of The Fog


Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the Australian region A/B Bluray release, which runs for approximately 90 minutes, and is presented in a clear, but not wholly sharp, 2.35:1 image with a really nice DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track.

Score: ****

Extras: Crappy extras on this release, I’m afraid. There is an audio and video configuration test. What?

Score: 0

WISIA: It’s one of Carpenter’s best: you better believe it should be watched over and over again!

No shower scene for Janet Leigh here.

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Nightmares in Red, White and Blue: The Evolution of the American Horror Film (2009) Review

One from the To Watch Pile…

NIGHTMARES IN RED, WHITE AND BLUE: THE EVOLUTION OF THE AMERICAN HORROR FILM (2009) REVIEW

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Film: Even though their releases are hit and miss, I am always willing to giving Australian company Monster Pictures a go. Sometime I get a gem like   All Through The House, other times I am kicked in the nuts with trash like Pod, but I still feel that support is important.

On a few occasions, Monster Pictures will release a documentary ABOUT films, like Andrew Leavold’s The Search for Weng Weng, the unusual film about Richard Franklin’s descent into madness Lost Souls, and this, the more mainstream horror based doco about the American horror film, Nightmares in Red White and Blue: The Evolution of the American Horror Film.

Now I am a massive fan of documentaries about film, and site The History of Film TV series as my second favourite TV series of all time (the first is Doctor Who, the third is Criminal Minds) and I am a regular viewer of other docos like Video Nasties, Channel Z, Not Quite Hollywood, Machete Maidens Unleashed, Rewind This et cetera.

I think the reason I am so interested in these documentaries is because I am somewhat of a frustrated filmmaker myself, and would love to make docos!

Now the history of horror films would be a TV series unto itself as so many countries have a massive horror film industry themselves, so this one egotistically narrows its focus solely on the American horror film.

The film is narrated by horror icon Lance Henrickson, and features interviews with various directors like Joe Dante (The ‘Burbs), George Romero (Land of the Dead ), Brian Yuzna (Beyond Re-animator), John Carpenter (Halloween (1978), Larry Cohen (The Stuff), Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II), Mick Garris (Riding the Bullet), Tom McLoughlin (Sometimes They Come Back) and Roger Corman (trust me, you’ve seen a Corman film), as well as film historians John Kenneth Muir and Dennis Fischer and ex-Fangoria editor in chief Tony Timpone.

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This is a pretty good movie, though as the title would suggest, its very insular and outside a couple of mentions of what is happening in the overseas film industries, it talks repeatedly about what was happening in America, to Americans (though apparently Canada is America now, according to the Cronenberg mentions) and how the various world wars effected Americans and the American horror film industry.

That’s a minor criticism though and the documentary takes a fleeting look at the entire history of American horror from the dawn of cinema appearing in America to Universal Monsters, to thrillers, savage cinema, slashers, zombies: you name it.

This documentary also looks at the highs and lows of the industry, and how the ‘real’ world (whatever that is these days) effects the quality and tone of horror films.

Horror movie fans will love the fact that this film doesn’t hold back on the violence and blood: obviously the director, Andrew Monument and writer, Joseph Maddrey (also the writer of the book on white this was based) know where the bread and butter of the genre usually is; you know, that surface interest before the story or acting or direction becomes and appeal.

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The real shame in this film is the lack of female discussion: no women directors, historians, journalists or actresses get a say here which I found unusual, considering how great their presence has become, and how important both sexes are to the genre. Seriously, Rue Morgue, the wonderful horror magazine was at its best when under the control of now-director Jovanka Vukovic, surely someone like her or her contemporaries (like Monica S. Kuebler or Rebekah McKendry or April Snellings or any of the other wonderful female voices in horror)  would have had something important to say.

Even over that, I enjoyed this documentary and am happy to have it in my collection of docos about horror films.

Score: ***1/2

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Disc: This region 4 DVD release from Monster Pictures runs for roughly 96 minutes and is presented in a 16×9 image of varying quality, which is not entirely fair as some of the footage is from old films but some of the interview do have some noise on their image, and the audio is presented in an entirely functional Dolby Digital 2.0.

Score: ***

Extras: Not a sausage.

Score: 0

WISIA: I have no doubt that I’ll watch this again as I do re-watch horror documentaries regularly.

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Countdown to Halloween review #1: Halloween (1978)

One from the re watch pile… And day one of our ’13 Days of Halloween’ celebration…
Halloween (1978)


Film: One thing every serious horror fan must agree on is that Halloween is our Christmas. The further away it goes from what it actually stands for, the more it becomes the day that all horror fans come together as one and raise our machetes/ finger-knife gloves/ kitchen knives to the heavens and hail a holler to horror.

Now if the holiday Halloween is ‘ours’, surely the film Halloween by director John Carpenter must be ubiquitous in all our collections. It must be the beginning and end of every collection, whether it is a favourite or not.

As if I need to remind anyone, I’ll quickly run through the synopsis of Halloween.

The film opens with a young Haddonfield, Illinois resident, Michael Myers (Will Sandin), in a POV shot that in the 80s became synonymous with horror, wander through his house on Halloween, until he finds his sister, post coitus, and stabs her to death.
He is committed to a mental institution where his doctor, Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance) claims that he is the very epitome of evil and should never be released. 


Unfortunately, 15 years later, a now adult Michael (Nick Castle) manages to escape with the intent of returning to Haddonfield and seeking out his younger sister Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis), and he has no remorse as to who gets in his way, including a bunch of her school friends… But will he catch her? Will he be able to complete whatever his mission seems to be?

Well, horror fans should know by now.

With this film, John Carpenter completely nailed down the formula of what became the slasher film. Borrowing liberally from the film Black Christmas, and with elements of Italian giallo films thrown in for good measure. I can clearly remember as a youngster my step-father telling me when he and my mother went and saw this at the local drive-in theatre that it was the scariest film he’d ever seen.

Whilst I think that may be not completely true now, it certainly took the horror world by storm. The story is fairly generic slasher by today’s standards but at the time it would have been pretty scary.


The fear level came from a couple of things. The first was the fact that the villain was a driving force that was seemingly unstoppable, almost super-human, and his tenacity for destruction is truly a trait inspired to cause shudders. The second was that the hero, in Dr Loomis, seems even MORE deranged in his unwavering need to stop Myers. His madness seems to increase and his sanity collapse over the course of the sequels, but the seeds of that future insanity are firmly planted in the soil of his mind in this film. Thirdly, John Carpenter’s score for the film is this slow building, tension drenched piece that is just so awesome… Well, it’s my ringtone on my iPhone…

Well, for everyone except my wife who has her own ringtone: the Imperial March from Star Wars. 

Don’t tell her.

This and Friday the 13th are the Beatles and the Rolling Stones of horror. You can like both, but you’ll only truly love one of them. For me, it’s Friday the 13th that’s my love, but Halloween is right up there… Riiiiiiiight up there. It’s an example, like Psycho and Alien, of a horror film that gets every beat perfect. If you don’t have it, get on to eBay, Amazon or your local DVD/ Bluray retailer and get it. NOW!

Score: ****

Format: The review copy of Halloween was the Australian Beyond Home Entertainment bluray, 30th Anniversary release. This region B disc runs for 93 min and is presented with a decent and fairly clean 16×9 widescreen with a great Dolby digital 5.1 soundtrack.

Score: ****

Extras


A Cut Above The Rest explores the creation of the film and the influence it’s had since with interviews with Executive Producer Irwin Yablans, writer/ director John Carpenter, co-writer/ producer Debra Hill, actors Jamie Lee Curtis, P.J. Soles and others involved.

Halloween 2000…. Though the title card of the documentary calls it Halloween Unmasked… Is more of the same as above, retelling the same stories.

Then there are several trailers, including the original trailer, the rerelease trailer, and some TV and Radio adverts.

There is also a still gallery. I hate stills galleries.

This disc also has an audio commentary with John Carpenter, Debra Hill and Jamie Lee Curtis, which is interesting, but does tell a few of the same stories as the two documentaries. 


Score: ****

WISIA: It’s Halloween: at the very least you should be watching it once a year, you know, at Halloween!

Countdown to Halloween Review #2: Halloween II (1981)

One from the re watch pile…
Halloween 2 (1981)


Film: I have a special love for Halloween 2. My days of being a voracious film collector started with two films that I grabbed in the days of VHS: Halloween 2 and Dawn of the Dead, so excuse me whilst I zip up my 80s pants, so you can’t see the size of my nostalgia.

I am not even quite sure if I had even seen the first Halloween when I first saw this, and realistically, I am not sure it mattered. All I do remember is being stunned by how awesome horror movies didn’t have to have either Godzilla or Abbott and Costello in them, which is what I had mostly been exposed to before that, either on a Saturday afternoon when they played those sorts of things on Channel 7, or something like Octaman on a late night creature feature.

I mean I knew other horrors existed as I had been getting Famous Monsters of Filmland for several years, but this was something else!

From what my young mind could tell, obviously something bad had happened before, then a whole pile of more bad stuff happened, then boobs… Pause…. Then more bad stuff happens and then the bad guy gets his come uppence.


… or to put it in a slightly different way…

Laurie Strode’s (Jamie Lee Curtis) Halloween night has so far been pretty terrible, as all her high school friends have been slaughtered by a madman named Michael Myers, who then pursued her, but she fought him off, and he was shot 6 times by Professor Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance) before falling out of a second story window… And disappearing!

Our story takes us to Laurie’s journey to the hospital, and how her night of being terrorised by Myers is not over. Her recovery is not without event, as Myers survived the fall, and has tracked her to the hospital, carving a bloody path all the way there, and through the hospital staff… But why is he so intent on Laurie’s death? The revelation that she is the younger sister of Myers, adopted by the Strode family, would perhaps suggest that he has a job to finish…


As I previously suggested, I believe this may have been the first slasher that I ever saw, and I’ve loved them, and by extension, giallo films as well. I’ve definitely rewatched this more than any other slasher, even my beloved Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (!), and I still enjoy it today… Even though it contains the two most ridiculously luckiest shots from a handgun by an amateur in the history of cinema!

Basically I just love this film, and I am well aware it’s not the greatest film in the world, but I love the cast, the look of the film, the soundtrack and it’s higher body count, and even though the revelation if Laurie’s relationship seems to come from left field, it does create the basis for the franchise that the film’s became… Whether that’s a good thing or not is a different story. Is it nostalgia that makes me so fond of this film? Maybe, but that’s not SO bad, is it?

Score: ****1/2


Format: The review copy was the Australian region B bluray, which goes for 93 minutes and is presented in anamorphic 2.35:1 image no a Dolby DTS-HD 5.1 both of which look just fine.

Score: ****

Extras: There is a few extras on this disc. The first is a series of deleted scenes which show more of the personalities of the hospital staff, and throw a few unnecessary story elements in. There is also an alternate ending which shows the survival of a character previously assumed to be dead. There is also a theatrical trailer.

Score: ***


WISIA: This is one of my favourite movies for story, body count, boobs and nostalgia, so it is a regular respinner at the To Watch Pile Cinema.

New Halloween Shirts from Fright Rags!


Do you have your Michael Myers shirt really for Halloween this year?

No?!? Well you better click THIS LINK to check out Fright Rags new Halloween collection!! Fright Rags are being quite secretive about it, but there is going to be heaps of Halloween stuff dropped on us this year, and October the 12th has the first lot… yep, FIRST!! Why am I excited? Well Halloween socks, obviously!!