The Fog 4K Blu-ray Review
Love letter to an old fashioned ghost story
The Fog 4K Review
There's something in the fog!Flush from their success with Halloween, John Carpenter and Debra Hill decided to collaborate again on another horror film. The story was a simple one, from a simple idea by Carpenter; wouldn’t it be scary to have things coming to get you from a fog bank. From this initial idea, the story of ghosts coming back to haunt the town that caused their death and reclaim what is rightfully theirs was born. For that is really what The Fog is, an old-fashioned ghost story, like the thousands told around campfires in years gone by, a shrewd move on Carpenter's part, then, to open the film with that very scene. In it, John Houseman neatly tells us the entire premise and plot of the film, and delivers it with such presence it is a joy to watch. From the credits on, the film builds slowly, seemingly innocent objects becoming ever more dastardly. As the town prepares for its centenary, ever more peculiar actions take place - could it be that the very foundations of the town were the cause of all the ensuing madness? It seems the church holds a deadly secret, and once discovered, the original descendants of the town are in mortal peril, as the fog rolls in, concealing a horror that wants to reclaim what once was its own.
an old-fashioned ghost story
The film is generally regarded as a smaller gun in the Carpenter arsenal. The story itself has a ‘heard it before’ feel but is saved by a trademark delivery from Carpenter. The scares come thick and fast, though they are relatively tame, even by his own standards. Once initial principal photography for the film was over, Carpenter and Hill knew there was a problem and had to hastily re-shoot additional scenes to ‘beef them up’ a bit, principally to add more gore. And though these additions did address most of the concerns, there is still that feeling that something is not quite right. There is a fundamental lack of characterisation that leaves us unwilling to care for the fate of the characters. The only exception might be the delicious Adrienne Barbeau (at the time, Mrs Carpenter) as Stevie Wayne; it is on her shoulders that the film rests. However, during the climax, she is set apart from everyone else, rendering their own plight somewhat less in our minds, whereas this is where our focus should be since this is where the heart of the story lies. Yet, even with these flaws, The Fog still remains a decent ghost story, well delivered.
The Fog 4k Picture QualityThe Fog was shot using Panavision Panaflex Gold cameras on 35mm film. This 2018 release was made using the original camera negative which was scanned at 4K resolution, in 16bit, with the application of an HDR Dolby Vision workflow to the restoration process which resulted in the creation of a 4K DCP (Digital Cinema Package) utilised for the creation of this Ultra HD Blu-ray release.
The disc presents a native 4K 3840 x 2160p resolution image in the widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and uses 10-bit video depth, a Wide Colour Gamut (WCG), High Dynamic Range, and is encoded using the HEVC (H.265) codec for HDR10 and Dolby Vision. We reviewed the Region Free UK Ultra HD Blu-ray release of The Fog on a Panasonic 65DX902B Ultra HD 4K TV with a Panasonic DMP-UB400 Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
the film is supposed to be dark
It is interesting that, for this release, there is no mention of remastering, just a re-scanning and HDR application, and I think the picture bears that out. The Fog has always been a bit of a soft image, and the enhanced resolution does little to amend that, it’s simply the limitations of the source, but there are improvements to be had, however slight. Skin texture and clothing weaves show modest improvement, while landscape shots have slightly keener edges, look to the beach (sands and rocks), or Stevie’s walk down to her lighthouse. Crowd scenes, also, have slight improvements.
The application of HDR and the WCG have mixed results; colours are richly improved; check out Stevie’s deep red jumper in the beginning, or the orange of the jeep, the lush greens of the roadside trees, while the blue of the sky is just so dramatic. Flesh tones retain their natural state but have a new depth. But, the picture is very dark, far darker than I ever remember seeing it before, so much so that, even with the addition of the greater dynamic range, it appears to crush on numerous occasions. Now, The Fog has always been dark, indeed numerous ‘special editions’ have come out and all are very dark; the film is supposed to be dark, but I think this has gone a tad too far. The black level during the day and on night location shots is terrific, really adding punch to the image, but when it gets to the studio, the image becomes almost pitch at the expense of everything else. The climax has two scenes – the lighthouse and the church; the church has bright effects with the glowing cross (more below) while the lighthouse is dark – cutting between the two scenes those set on the lighthouse are so dark it is nearly impossible to see what is going on. No such issue with the white end, which adds some nice highlights, check out the sunlight glinting off the waves for example.
Digitally there is one curious anomaly; when Blake is taking back the gold cross and it is glowing, there is macroblocking in and around the scene and when it flashes at the very climax there is a prodigious drop in quality that I’ve never seen before. There is also an odd greying of the blacks, during cuts of this same scene, which is annoying and distracting. Other than that, the rest of the picture doesn’t suffer from any digital problems. The original source is clean and without issue, while for the most part the grain is kept in check, although, early on, particularly on the beach, it crawls a bit, but that’s always been the case.
The Fog 4k Sound QualityUnfortunately the disc has not been up-graded to the immersive surround tracks, so no Dolby Atmos or DTS-X, what we do have is the same DTS-HD MA 5.1 track that has adorned previous releases (be sure to select it, the default is LPCM 2.0). It’s quite a front heavy offering, albeit with a good deal of separation. The surrounds do pipe up to add the odd bit of ambience, ostensibly during the ghost attacks, but the various crowd scenes do benefit from some placement of effect. Bass is decent, LF effects are scarce but have weight, the climax being the best, but the score also benefits. Indeed the score gets the best of the surround environment with all the speakers getting in on the action. Dialogue is clean and clear and mainly held towards the front. The sea and waves are allowed some nice separation both left/right and front back as well. All told, a decent enough track.
The Fog 4K ExtrasThe UHD has no extras at all; but the overall package is pretty impressive. Listed below are the contents as provided by the advertising material; we have been unable to view them.
UHD – Film
Blu-ray – Film
Blu-ray – Extras
CD – Soundtrack
Retribution: Uncovering John Carpenter’s THE FOG: A brand new retrospective documentary produced by Ballyhoo Motion Pictures and featuring interviews with cinematographer Dean Cundey, production designer/editor Tommy Lee Wallace, photographer Kim Gottleib-Walker, make-up effects artist Steve Johnson, Carpenter biographer John Muir, music historian Daniel Schweiger, visual effects historian Justin Humphreys and assistant Larry Franco
The Shape of The Thing to Come: John Carpenter Un-filmed: A brand new featurette looking at the John Carpenter films that never were.
Intro by John Carpenter – Interview with director John Carpenter originally recorded for a French DVD release in 2003
Scene Analysis by John Carpenter - Director John Carpenter analyses key scenes from The Fog, in an interview from 2003
Fear on Film: Inside the Fog (1980) - A vintage featurette which includes an interview with John Carpenter
The Fog: Storyboard to Film – original storyboards
Audio Commentary - With writer/director John Carpenter and writer/director Debra Hill
Horror's Hallowed Grounds with Sean Clark - A ‘fun’ tour of the film’s locations hosted by Sean Clark
Audio commentary - With actors Adrienne Barbeau, Tom Atkins and production designer Tommy Lee Wallace
48 page book – with writings from celebrated film journalist Kim Newman
The Fog 4K VerdictThe Fog is John Carpenter’s love letter to an old-fashioned ghost story. Antonio Bay is menaced by apparitions hiding in the fog on the town’s 100th anniversary, as the corpses of a sunk trading ship return to exact their revenge for their untimely demise by the town’s founding members. With plenty of build-up, scares aplenty and a tense atmosphere, Carpenter’s piece ultimately lacks enough characterisation to really hit a home run, even if it has managed to gain cult status over the years.
The 4K UHD set, as a whole, from Studiocanal is pretty impressive; The native 4K picture might not be quite the upgrade the film deserves, being very dark with limited detail enhancement, and that odd climactic macroblocking anomaly, but the colours do pop and the highlights are good. The sound hasn’t had a make-over, being the same DTS-HD MA 5.1 track heard before, which is slightly front heavy, but the bass and surrounds get involved with ambience and the score. It is, however, with the extras package that the set excels: with all new material, 4 discs, including the soundtrack CD, booklets and artcards. Pretty much all you could want and a nice second release in the Carpenter salvo following on from They Live in 4K.
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