I once read a book titled "The Fog." It was one of those young adult horror stories of the R. L. Stein and Christopher Pike variety. I don't remember much about it, except that it took place in small coastal town. Much like John Carpenter's The Fog. I read a few of those books but I have yet to see a movie about a killer ski trip or a haunted dress.
The Fog begins with what might be the best ghost story told in film. It's 11:55 pm, five minutes to midnight, and there is time left for one more story before April 21st. One hundred years ago a ship got lost in a mysterious fog and smashed on the rocks off Spiny Point. One hundred years ago, on April 21st. April 21st also happens to be Antonio Bay's centennial. As the town prepares for the celebration, strange things start to happen. People go missing, and Father Malone finds an old journal that recounts the events that took place during the months leading up to April 21st 1880. Burdened with the knowledge of Antonio Bay's true history, Father Malone refuses to take part in the celebration. Meanwhile, Nick and Elizabeth search for answers as to how a man can drown without being in the water, and local radio DJ Stevie Wayne receives a threatening message from a vengeful ghost. As the night closes in around Antonio Bay, so too does a strange and glowing fog.
With The Fog John Carpenter seems to have resolved his pacing issues, transitioning smoothly from day to nighttime. Like in his previous films, a lot is left unexplained letting the audience fill in the gaps. His tendency to limit exposition allows for the story to move along as events follow in a logical sequence. Carpenter's stories (so far) are quite simple and the lack of complicated backstory or plot turns, should not in any way be confused with a lack of depth. Rather, the refreshingly straightforward story told in The Fog--a town with a horrifying past--is almost dated in its simplicity.
And that simplicity isn't limited to the story itself, but also relates to the plot, or the way in which the story is told. The film begins with a old man telling a ghost story to a group of children. We listen to his voice and watch him and kids as he speaks. Our imaginations, not the filmmakers, take us back 100 years and as such we become one of those kids on the beach, listening to the tale and imagining the wrecking of the ship on the rocks off Spiny Point. Instead of being a passive audience watching these events unfold before us, we're actively involved in recreating the story for ourselves.
Is it a waste of the film medium to force someone to simply listen like this? Is it a sign of craziness? Hell no. Were we subject to a flashback we would lose all active interest in the film and let the images wash over us instead of engaging with the film.
Craze-o-meter: 0, totally sane