Our celebration tonight is a travesty. We're honouring murderers.
200At a time when Steven Spielberg (who dissected American suburbia from a slightly different, and altogether more optimistic perspective than Carpenter) was showing people looking up into cosmic beauty and wonder, enraptured by life-changing events epitomised by bright lights, in The Fog Carpenter was constantly depicting them facing a wall of impenetrable, almost living vapour, their queasy wonder ushering them towards life-endangering events. Both directors enjoyed bringing the fantastic into the lives of the everyman and seeing how he well fared. Spielberg offered answers and hope, whilst Carpenter never gave any secrets away, and usually quashed all sense of redemption or salvation. His cynical attitude, so totally birthed by a sense of rebellion and an innate distrust of authority, actually works well even within the parameters of a ghost story. Swap the Senate and the Nixon/Carter administration for Antonio Bay’s town elders and you have the seeds of “what goes around, comes around,” the very town festivities a misguided sham that will turn about and bite the innocents on the ass whilst the guilty hide away. Carpenter almost reveals a pathological cruelty towards small-town communities with the amount of grief that he puts them through. And yet this actually translates to an eventual victory of sorts ... a time of reluctant camaraderie and courage under fire. But he certainly revels in putting close-knit circles through the wringer, as he’d prove with the paranoia of The Thing.
One final thing, listen properly to the main theme that plays over the end titles. Some claim that it is a sub-par riff of Carpenter's own score for Halloween. No way. It is trademark Carpenter-synth-doodling to be sure - simplistic in its metronomic repetition, hypnotic in its chiming cadence, and it is very definitely modelled and structured, almost to the very beat, upon the Haddonfield Opera . But I think it is wonderfully catchy, strange and melodic. It lyrically captures the bracing sea air and the isolation of a coastal community. Listen a little closer - and with some sound-systems it may not come out too clearly - and you'll hear a continuous effect in there that is not unlike the sound you get from a shell pressed to your ear. Now, that's poetic. Get it? Poe-etic.
It can’t mask its shortcoming inside The Fog but Carpenter’s swansong to the nihilistic seventies gets better each time you see it. Simple, assured and downright spooky, this rose from the flotsam of a beached first cut and has since sailed on a brighter voyage of greater genre credibility and respect.
The Fog is a class act from someone who once owned the genre.
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