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February 28, 1980 - Image 5

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1980-02-28

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'The Fog': a

The Michigan Daily-Thursday, February 28, 1980-Page 5
damp thriller,

" By CHRISTOPHER POTTER
John Carpenter's The Fog is the best
argument I've seen to date for preser-
ving the art of the creative B Movie. As
Carpenter moves up the social-
financial ladder of acceptance, one
fears the director's work may
correspondingly fit ever more snuggly
into conventient nooks of thematic con-
ventionality even as it matures and ex-
pands stylistically. The Fog is as
fe" a horror film as I can recently
member-a neat, clean Night
Gallery-ish drollery guaranteed to
raise none of the human hackles so
sadistically jostled by its cheaper but
far less compromising predecessor,
Halloween.'
Perhaps sudden fame and its
corresponding big bucks have seduced
Carpenter into a Hollywood respec-
tability that could never touch a George
Romero: The Fog is slick, expensive
d ruinously uninvolving. Its hoary
rrative spins out the yarn of the curse
of Antonio Bay, a California seacoast
town founded exactly a hundred years
ago. It seems the village's centennial is
fraught with guilt-unknown to most of
its current-residents, Antonio Bay was
originally endowed when its six foun-
ding fathers lured the treasure ship
Elizabeth Dane onto the rocky coast by
means of a false lighthouse beam. The
blood loot recovered from the ensuing
wreck was used to finance the town,
and superstition has it that a hundred
ars later the murdered mariners will
ise up through a dense fog and claim
six Antonio victims as vengence.
SURE AS shootin', the fog swirls up
right on the centennial stroke of mid-
night, the Elizabeth Dane rises from
her watery grave and her shadowy,
ghoulish crew silently embarks on its
miission of grim reclamation. Prime
targets of their menace include a local
DJ (Adrienne Barbeau) who- has con-
erted Antonio's lighthouse into a radio
tion, a handyman (Tommy Atkins)
and his hitchhiker companion (Jamies
Dee Curtis), the town's Centennial
Festival chairperson (Janet Leigh) and
a.drunken priest (Hal Holbrook) who's
damned with tke knowledge that his
immediate ancestgrs were responsible
for the ancient murders.
The horrors that ensue are as predic-
table as a made-for-TV movie and elicit
a comparable level of viewer in-
volvement. Though there's more gore
the ounce than in Carpenter's
Halloween, there's simply nothing ,in
The Fog to "hook" the viewer, to rivet
an audience with the unnervingly close
thought that this might just as easily be
happening to them.
OVERRATED though Halloween
was, its story of a psychopath menacing
the residents of a small Illinois town
carried an air of suburban familiarity
so claustrophobically tangible 'you
uld almsot reach out and touch it. The
_ og's California-gothic locals elicit no
such view identification, traipsing
exotically from Antonio Bay's archly
spooky lighthouse through its purple-
hued (and peopleless) streets up to its
loonily-lit church, whose garish innards
resemble nothing so much as a giant
juke box.
-Halloween's small group of menaced
teen-agers rang just true and earthy

honed his technical prowess to a con-
siderably finer edge than in Halloween.
In a wondrous opening prologue, an old
sea dog (John Houseman), his craggy
face hideously lit by the embers of a
dying campfire, mesmerizes a
gathering of children with his tale of the
curse of the Elizabeth Dane. As the an-
cient sailer bites out his grim narration,
the youngsters' face reflect the delec-
table, eternal human delight in being
scared out of one's wits. Later on when
the dead ship rises up through the mist
before the astonished eyes of the mates
on a fishing scow, the scene comman-
ders all the errie majesty of the Rhyme
of the Ancient Mariner.
AT HE did in Halloween, Carpenter
exercises a master's patience in letting
his story build with a stealthy, mad-
dening slowness until the audience's
emotions are pulled so tight the film's
inevitable explosion of violence
becomes as cathartic as it is horrifying.
Yet The Fog's horror is so undermined
by every plot turn that any need to

scream evolves less out of real terror
than out of a Pavlovian notion that this
is what one ought to do at a horror
movie.
Such methodology enabled Hammer
Films, the epitome of the schlock scare
picture, to milk the monster market for
two decades to the tune of unswervingly
rewarding profit. I hope a filmmaker of
Carpenter's obvious talent won't prove
merely an upper-class slave to the
same assembly-line mentality. There's
just too much good horror material
waiting for the right hands to mold it in
a way that won't sell both its creator.
and the public short.
Do a Tree
a Favor:
Recyely
Your Daily

STARTS TOMORROW
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ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S 1943
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Screenplay by Thornton Wilder. A well-bred, eastern man-about-town pays
a visit to his relatives in a small town middle America and there a nightmare
ensues. JOSEPH COTTON is subperb as Uncle Charlie, the charming sophis-
ticate with an undercurrent of warped ruthlessness and madness. As the
tense drama of his exposure unfolds, his niece (TERESA WRIGHT) struggles
to protect her family at all costs.
Friday: THE THIRD MAN (Joseph Cotton & Orson Welles)
Saturday: THE LADY VANISHES (Alfred Hitchcock)

i

CINEMA GUILD

TONIGHT AT
7:00 & 9:00

OLD ARCH. AUD.
$1.50

A mysterious but definitely unfriendly
hand reaches out of the mist to claim
another victim in John Carpenter's new
supernatural thriller, "The Fog."
Those expecting more of the terror of
Carpenter's "Halloween" may be dis-
appointed to find "The Fog" closer in
spirit to "Invasion of the Seaweed
People."
enough to make you tremble and fret
over their suddenly imperiled existen-
ces. By contrast, The Fog's larger,
more geographically distanced assor-
tment of protagonists are such
meagerly-sketched stick figures that
you'd have to seriously ponder lifting a
finger to help any of them. Indeed,
these drab folks may not even
technically have right on their side;
whereas Halloween's killer was the
personification of Satanic evil, the
Elizabeth Dane's avengers are, after
all, merely seeking a equal retribution
for past injustice. It's an ethical dam-
per switch that effectively deprives the
viewer of relishing the traumatic
delight of the truly inexplicable
unknown; The Fog allows one to merely'
sit back and nod in judicial satisfaction
over just deserts, contrasting one's gut
recoil to the chaotic violence inflicted
upon Halloween's wholey innocent vic-
tims.
AND WHAT could have possessed
Carpener and co-scripter Debra Hill to
further de-fuse the suspense by injec-
ting the legal neatness of a six-victim
limit? What reasonable ghouls these
mariners are! The Fog has barely
begun before three citizens are sum-
marily dispatched, with two more
liquidated shortly thereafter. By the
time the movie reaches its frenzied
climax, complete withd ecomposing
hands crashing through church win-
dows and-fiery crosses self-immolating,
the viewer is safely insulated in the
sure knowledge that all but one of the
film's central characters are guaran-
teed to survive this grisly Armegeddon.
Was ever a monster movie more benign
toward its prey?
The Fog is the most old-fashioned of
movie exercises dressed up in neo-mod
scare garb. More's the pity Carpenter
has wasted his efforts on such a
wheezing enterprise, since he has
PITCHER
NIGHT
at
tI ouq
1140 South University
668-8411

I

Now Playing at Butterfield Theatres

WEDNESDAY IS
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$1.50 UNTIL 5:30
EXCEPT WAYSIDE

ADULTS FRI SAT SUN.
EVE & HOLIDAYS $3 SO
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MATINEES UNTIL 5 30
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CHILDREN 14£9 UNDER $1 50

MONDAY NIGHT IS
"GUEST NIGHT"
Two AdultsAdmittedj
For $3.00
EXCEPT WAYSIDE

V

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Campus
1214 S. Unive ity 668-6416
Mon. Tues. Thurs, Fri at7:30,9:15
Wed. Sat, Sun at
1:3005:00, 7:00.s9:15

IT'S COLD
IT'S WET
IT'S NEREI
(R)

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3020 Menow 434-1782
ENDS Tue, Thur. 7 & 8
THURSDAY wed. 1-3-5-7-9

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CAPTAIN
JOHN RfTER AVENGER
ANNE ARCHER MAKES
DUST
BUSTII
HELP
' IS ON
THE
WAY.
MGM
" "''TO OIDW""** ft ZR

ENDS THURSDAY
JOHN HEARD
Nick
Nolte
art'
Beat
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Mon, Tues. Thurs, Fri at 7:05, 9:30 Tues, Thurs. at 7:00, 9:15
Wed: Sot, Sun at:Wed. at 1:00-3:00-5:00-7:00-9:15
1-053.05,5:05,7:05,9:30 Wdat10-01~9
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Mon Tues. Thurs Fri at 7:00 9:15 Mon, Tue, Thur, Fri 7:05-9:30
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GEORGE SEGAL--NATALIE WOOD
The comedy
that fools around a lot!
'Ae- LAST
MARRIED
C-UPLE
affaaar

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!"A

A Revelation for Americans
Treasures of
Ancient Ni geria
lift" ' of 2,000 iWars
This unprecedented loan from Africa's
largest nation contains 100 exquisite
sculptures of bronze, stone, terracotta
and ivory. See Nok heads as old as
Greece's Golden Age, the first known

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Write to me at Duke Power
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