Thursday, October 27, 2005

"Ah the sea! It's like a big blue ... watery thing!"

What is it, I ask you, about quaint little seaside towns that draws the supernatural like leggy supermodels to ugly rockstars? Anyone who has ever read Poe, Lovecraft, King or Koontz or seen any of thousands of cheap horror flicks knows that ghosts just love to vacation by the shore. Is it the fresh sea air? The stirring vistas? Maybe spooks just dig chowder. Or maybe it's just that it is so damn easy to hide in...

The Fog

The Fog was made in 1979 by John Carpenter. Right after he made the smash hit Halloween. Now, before you ask, no - I am not going to include Halloween in my Halloween movie reviews. Yeah, I know it seems the obvious choice, but I have always felt it was more of a psycho type slasher film than a tale of the supernatural. And the prime criteria for my Halloween movies is that they deal with the supernatural. Don't agree? Too bad. It's my blog.

The Plot:

The citizens of Antonio Bay are getting ready to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of their quaint little seaside town. When the clock strikes midnight on the morning of Founder's Day, strange things start to happen and a mysterious fog approaches...

The Hook:

Unknown to the good townsfolk, Antonio Bay was founded with funds stolen from the estate of a certain Mr. Blake. Blake was a wealthy merchant captain and the leader of a group of lepers. Blake asked the people living in what was to become Antonio Bay if he could found a leper colony near their settlement. Six prominent citizens agreed that this would not do. Everyone knows lepers lower property values. So, 100 years ago, when Captain Blake saw the light of a bonfire through the thick fog his ship full of lepers was trapped in, he assumed it was the settlers guiding him to safe harbor. But it was a trick. The fire was set by the six conspirators, and led Blake's ship onto the rocks offshore. All of Blake's people died and the conspirators got his gold.

You can see what's coming a mile away, can't you?

Well, one of the reasons The Fog is such a good little ghost story is that the entire picture I have laid out for you above is only slowly revealed to the audience. Just a little bit at a time. That gives us time to meet some of the people of Antonio Bay.

Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau - the future Mrs. John Carpenter) is a single mom from Chicago who owns and operates, and is the sole DJ of, the local radio station that broadcasts from the lighthouse. Her son Andy, amazingly enough, is not an annoying little brat.

Elizabeth Solly (Jamie Lee Curtis - Carpenter wrote a part for her because he liked her job in Halloween) is a hitchhiking artist who is picked up by fisherman Nick Castle (Tom Atkins) and immediately jumps in bed with him! Yeah! 1979 rocked!

Kathy Williams (Janet Leigh - Jamie's mom) is the prime mover in the anniversary celebrations.

Father Malone (Hal Holbrook - for once not playing Mark Twain) - the drunk priest of the old (meaning original) town church.

These are the main characters that help move the story along. The other townsfolk we meet are just undead leper chow. Mmmm...undead leper chow!

Oh yeah, there is one more very important character. The fog. That is the way Carpenter envisioned it; that the fog itself would be a central character in the film, and he did a good job of achieving that vision.

The Goodies:

Well, after the weirdness at midnight (phones ringing, lots of mysterious shaking, lights going on and off, car horns blowing, TV going on by itself, things moving around without the aid of people, etc.) Father Malone finds his grandfather's journal. It was hidden inside the wall of the church and dislodged by the shaking. Turns out Father Malone's grandfather was also a priest, and as we soon learn, one of the six conspirators. Okay, so a priest's grandfather was also a priest? Do yourself a favor and don't think about that one too much.

While Father Malone learns the horrible truth, starts drinking and moans, "We're all cursed!", a fishing boat is the first to encounter the strange fog. What's so strange about it? Well it glows and it moves against the wind. When the fishermen go on deck to see what they can see, they see an old seaweed covered sailing ship running alongside. You see? Hmm, spooky fog bank, ghostship - yeah, this ain't going to turn out good.

Once the sun has come up, Andy spies a gold coin in the surf! But when he goes to get it, it turns into a board with the word 'DANE' inscribed on it. He takes it to Stevie, who naturally takes it to work. Once at the radio station, the board oozes seawater, bursts into flame and changes to '6 MUST DIE' while a phantom voice on the tape player suddenly says "Damn them all!" When Stevie puts out the fire, the board reads 'DANE' again. Scared and confused, Stevie checks with the weather station to see if that odd fog bank is still around. She gets to listen while the weather guy says that the fog has just reached his post - and then she hears him killed!

Meanwhile, Father Malone tells Kathy what happened 100 years ago to the lepers on Blake's ship the Elizabeth Dane. "Our festival is a travesty," he says, "We're celebrating murder!"

The fishing boat is found adrift with all the crew dead. The doctor says that the man he examines looks as if he has been underwater for over a week! The doctor's name is never said, but in the credits it is listed as Dr. Anton Phibes! Hee hee hee!

Another horror reference is made when people refer to 'Arkham Reef'. Don't get it? Google the word arkham.

The fog moves inshore and disables the phone lines and powerplant! Stevie uses her radio station to warn people about the fog, giving directions so that they can stay away from it. She eventually tells them to get to the old church if they can. Well, guess where the fog ends up?

The Fog is a great little modern ghost story. It is well paced and for the most part well acted. Many of the fog effects that have since become common in films were used for the first time. The music does a good job of building tension and is similar to the music in Halloween. Not a big surprise as John Carpenter wrote most of the music for both movies. In fact, his group, The Coupe DeVilles is actually featured on a record played by Stevie!

The Fog did not do all that great at the boxoffice. This is probably due to it not being seen as innovative as Halloween. That is a shame because The Fog is a great spook flick with just as many scares as Halloween and cooler antagonists. Watch it at night with the lights off!

Yuengling - oldest extant brew in 'Merica!

Yuengling (YING-ling) Traditional Lager is brewed at D. G. Yuengling & Sons, Inc. in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. The brewery was founded in 1829 and is the oldest extant brewery in the United States.

ABV = 4.90% IBU = 10 to 20 I would guess.

Color: A rich amber, not quite ruby colored but darker than most lagers.

Aroma: Soft, malty with just a slight hint of hops. Some reviewers say that they detect a corn component in the aroma.

Yuengling Traditional Lager forms a nice foamy white persistent head with small dense bubbles.

The taste is very clean and mellow, crisp and refreshing. There is a slight sweet malty character which gently moves to a not too bitter hop finish. The aftertaste is mildly hoppy and lasts for a moment or two after you swallow.

Yuengling Traditional Lager is made in the style of American lagers of the 19th century, before the least common denominator rule of judging lager taste became prevalent.

Yuengling Traditional Lager is a great beer for introducing friends to American micro or "craft" beers. It is close enough to mass market lagers that it will not frighten less adventurous beer drinkers, but different enough to let them get an idea of the kind of variety that can be found in American beer.

Highly recommended.

Just four more days until Halloween!


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