“Legend says that Antonio Bay was built in 1880 with blood money obtained from shipwrecked lepers, which no one believes. On the eve of the town’s centennial, many plan to attend the celebrations, including the murdered lepers.” — IMDb
This one was a re-watch for me, and it was even better the second time around. I’m a huge John Carpenter fan — I mean really, who isn’t? — and while this isn’t my favorite Carpenter film (oh hi, The Thing, you’re still my #1), it’s still fantastic. It was Carpenter’s first movie after the huge success of Halloween, so I think it loses some fame because of that, but it’s amazing and more than able to stand on its own (though it wasn’t even one of Carpenter’s favorites).
It’s the 100th anniversary of Antonio Bay, a small, coastal town in California. Everyone’s getting ready for the celebration festivities when things start acting… strange right around midnight. Car alarms go off with no provocation, lights short out, all easily explained away. The weird gets weirder and more eerie as the real history of the town becomes known, and at least a few realize that the spirits of the murdered lepers are returning for revenge.
“Now what kind of a fog goes against the wind?”
First things first, the soundtrack is amazing. John Carpenter kind of has a thing for taking care of the music aspect for his own movies, and he definitely delivers here. It’s haunting and spooky and just perfect. He also has a thing for making sure his movies are aesthetically just beautiful. Unique angles that don’t try too hard, brilliant use of light and shadow, and a ridiculous amount of atmosphere — there’s no doubting that he’s a genius at his craft.
As you watch, you really feel as if you’re part of the suffocatingly small town of Antonio Bay. Stevie Wayne (played by Adrienne Barbeau, Carpenter’s wife at the time) is the sultry radio DJ who keeps the town connected to all of the goings-on while she watches from her lighthouse. She’s a nice central character to focus on as she starts to piece things together herself, and watches the fog roll in from above.
Speaking of the fog itself, it is freaking fantastic. Watching this silvery, glowing fog roll in from the ocean and envelop the land is chilling, to say the least. They did an amazing job at making the fog seem almost sentient, having it surround objects and cause them to cease working or creep through the crack under a door. It has a mind of its own and it’s a pretty impossible thread to avoid.
It does a great job, too, of evoking this sense of isolation and dread, particularly the scenes from Wayne’s lighthouse studio. This feeling of seeing everything but being unable to stop it is effective.
My favorite scene has to be when they are trapped in the church and the revenants stand in the fog with their eyes glowing red. It’ll make the hair on your arms stand up. They didn’t show much of them through the entire movie and I think it makes them much scarier — you know just enough to be scared but the sense of mystery really helps. The ending is fantastic as well… satisfying, in a way.
Ultimately, an understated and yet incredibly chilling horror!
Rating: 7/10 | Director: John Carpenter | Writer: John Carpenter, Debra Hill | Music: John Carpenter | Starring: Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh, John Houseman, Tom Atkins, Charles Cyphers, Hal Holbrook