Monday, November 15, 2010

Carpenter's Campfire Ghost Story

It was one of those nights where the air was crisp and fresh, slightly blowing against your face as the approaching winter was right around the corner. The darkened skies begin to fall upon you as the glowing hot campfire sparks with orange ember. It’s the perfect night for a ghost story and what better ghost story than an old sea legend; a tale of betrayal, revenge and retribution. This story is entitled The Fog and it’s one of the greatest ghost stories ever told by a film director. I never really noticed it until watching it again but… The Fog does a perfect job turning a ghost story into a film but still making it retain it’s ghostly aspects.

Ever since man first set sail upon the seas there have been stories of ghostly ships and manned by crews of the walking dead. Throughout history sailors and traders have seen eerie green lights and strange noises coming from the horizon of the oceans and these stories manifested themselves into old sea myths. Carpenter’s The Fog is exactly what one of these stories is: After stealing some golden treasure, Blake (he’s the head pirate) was killed and murdered along with some of his men after some conspirators decided to turn on him. Now, a hundred years later the town of Antonio Bay celebrates their 100-year anniversary honoring a group of killers. As an act of revenge, Blake and his men decided to kill the descendents of the original conspirators.

After the captain’s ghost story, the film seemed so surreal, picturesque and somber. Think about it: in most seaside ghost stories, it’s always a small picturesque town that has been subject to haunting. Carpenter does an excellent job of making you feel like you are in a real ghost story while paying homage to great ghost stories of the 40s and 50s. Aesthetically, the film uses a lot of blues and greens giving it that sea-like feel. It has fog of course, but it rolls in like a classic scene out of any given horror movie from the 40s. The ghosts themselves you never see, but rather silhouettes of their bodies. They are shrouded in the fog. There are some scenes that feel so noir-ish that it makes the film even more rich and spooky.

It’s a story about revenge and grudges, a perfect formula for a ghost tale, accompany that with the film’s slow eerie score, its ‘small town in peril’ narrative, and Carpenter’s love for ghost stories and you have one of the greatest horror movies of all time. As you watch it, you can’t help but feel like you are sitting around a campfire in the woods, listening to your counselor tell his fable and when it’s over… you look behind you waiting for somebody to pop out of the woods but it never happens. It lingers with you and you can’t help but feel a little chilly afterwards. It’s hard to explain because it’s a feeling based on the movie’s visuals, but if you want to feel that feeling… pop this movie in on any given cold, stormy night and you’ll see what I am talking about.


elgartcalago said...

I actually featured this movie on my blog about an hour ago. This is a great piece by John Carpenter. When it comes to horror he is definitely a brilliant one.

Better Duck said...

Excellent piece on one of my favorite movies of all time.

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