Sam Strange Remembers: THE FOG

Hollywood legend Sam Strange recalls the time he made that Ghost Pirate movie.

Sometimes you just want to make a horror film. I don't know why. Probably because there are laws keeping you from stabbing people in real life which make stabbing people in real life too expensive.

John Carpenter's The Fog (you may know it by its theatrical title: Sam Strange's John Carpenter's The Fog) was fun to make, and it's a little fun to watch. Not every film has to change the world or teach you to start liking minorities. It's okay to make a film where Ghost Pirates stab six people and then go away. There is absolutely nothing wrong with making a scary movie about fog, goddammit, so stop trying to convince me that there is.

John Carpenter's The Fog opens on the idyllic coastal town called Castle Rock, Maine, where strange things are afoot. The earth trembles, car alarms go off, pay phones ring randomly, every TV channel goes out except for HBO because it's not TV.

It turns out that all this wacky shit is the result of an oncoming John Carpenter's The Fog. This John Carpenter's The Fog is different than other John Carpenter's The Fogs because it can disrupt electronics and move wherever it wants regardless of wind patterns or atmospheric aridity. This John Carpenter's The Fog simply does not give a fuck. You wouldn't either if you were filled with Ghost Pirates.

Before the John Carpenter's The Fog makes its presence known on land, it roams the ocean looking for fishing boats filled with drunken crusty dudes. After finding one, the John Carpenter's The Fog rolls up, nice and quiet, enveloping the drunken crusty dudes in a confusing haze, also known as a fog. Silently, the Ghost Pirates board the vessel. We can't see them completely, but we can tell by their outlines that each of them have Foghats. Before the three drunken crusty dudes can start making Ghost Pirate jokes, the Ghost Pirates stab them in the shoulders over and over again until they're dead. Then they go away.

Now is as good a time as any to meet our characters. First off, we have a priest named Father Callahan who occupies a rather large church all by himself. We meet Father Callahan during a crisis of faith. He no longer believes God exists, and has been taking solace in the bottle. He's also trying to write a book based on his childhood relationship with a retarded girl.

One of the quakes caused by the John Carpenter's The Fog shakes loose the bricking in Father Callahan's study and he finds his grandfather's long lost diary hidden in the wall. Page one of the diary details the calorie intake of that day's breakfast, how much of his exercise routine he got through before giving up, a list of The Most Underrated Dickens Novels, and thoughts on the decline of Romanticism. Page two details why there might be Ghost Pirates coming to town soon.

Next we have Nick Andros, played by Tom Atkins but without a mustache because I wanted him to appear vulnerable rather than super-powered like usual. Nick is an alcoholic writer who is friends with all the crusty sailors in town. So when three of his buddies turn up missing, he uses his alcoholic writing skills to investigate.

On the way he runs into a hot young hitchhiker named Patty Kroger, played by Toni Lee Curtis. Patty is running from her home because her dad and all his buddies sexually molested her for years. Nick hears this story, says "That's too bad," and then feeds her Coors Light until she has sex with him. After that, she's pretty much his old lady/surrogate daughter for the remainder of the film. She's also an alcoholic writer, but her books are all about non-supernatural things that happen to abused housewives.

The two go out on the ocean to find Nick's missing buddies. They only find one. His eyes are gone and it looks like he drowned months ago despite only being gone one day. At the hospital, the corpse stands up momentarily before falling down again. It's really scary because dead bodies aren't supposed to do that. They're supposed to stand up and actually do stuff.

In the tradition of Samuel L. Jackson in Do the Right Thing, Lynne Thigpen in The Warriors, and Minnie Driver in Grosse Pointe Blank, I wanted John Carpenter's The Fog to have a character who works as a DJ. People go to films to escape reality. The idea that you can grow up and be the only DJ at a small town's only radio station and you can play whatever genre music you want is the kind of fantasy I think people can get behind.

This DJ is played by the Adrienne Barbeau-Bot (© [adult swim]). She basically works 23 hours a day, whispering smooth nothings into the ears of Castle Rock, Maine. Occasionally she offers weather updates given to by a meaty chuck of fella who really wants to have her babies. She needs to be in contact with a meteorologist because the villain in this film is a weather pattern.

She also has a son named Danny Torrence. While frolicking unsupervised on some jagged ocean rocks, he finds a plank of wood and delivers it to her, hoping for some words of affection or encouragement. Instead she shoves him out the door because she works 23 hours a day.

The plank of driftwood has words scratched into it which keep changing, but are all illegible, so she never gets the drift. It will also randomly start flowing with water, so she has to keep it in the bathtub.

And finally, there's this old lady and her middle-aged lesbian lover. She's the owner of the town, and it's her job to facilitate the town's 100th birthday, which just happens to coincide with the appearance of the John Carpenter's The Fog.

This old lady goes to Father Callahan to ask him to bless the event. He refuses for two reasons. One, the bracelet on his ankle prohibits him from leaving his church. And two, the town was founded upon the murder of six innocent lepers. See, his grandpa and everyone else's grandpa didn't want six lepers to live in their new town, so they killed them on a foggy night and stole all their money. Therefore, Father Callahan cannot condone the centennial celebration. In fact, he thinks the entire town should disband completely. The old lady refuses because the town has made her rich, and she doesn't care what her grandfather did to anybody else's grandfather. If she did, she'd donate all her money to the NAACP.

All this happens during the day after the first John Carpenter's The Fog attack, which ran out of nighttime just as it reached land. Now, on it's second night out, the John Carpenter's The Fog knows better and starts out a little earlier. Once it hits the beach it turns off the town's telephones so no one can communicate with each other. Unfortunately, they don't know nothin 'bout radio and it's power to bring people together.

Adrienne Barbeau-Bot (© [adult swim]) sees the John Carpenter's The Fog and warns everyone to get home. It's difficult for them because it's so damn foggy, and you can't go two blocks without accidentally running over a Ghost Pirate. The Ghost Pirates themselves don't like getting hit much either, but their only power over cars is to break the windows, which just frightens people and makes them drive more recklessly.

Everyone we've seen in the film meets up at Father Callahan's church to try and figure out what to do. According to the diary, six lepers were murdered by the town, so the Ghost Pirates won't quit messing with their TVs until they claim six lives to settle the score. They already have three, so three more is all it will cost.

Nick Andros and Toni Lee Curtis round up the town's three biggest assholes and feed them to the Ghost Pirates. But because the Ghost Pirates enjoy being Ghost Pirates, they renege on the deal and turn into one gigantic Fog Spider. It seems like all is lost. But then God sends down a gigantic cat to eat the spider.

The crisis is averted, and the town was able to shed its six biggest assholes all in one night. The survivors go to the centennial celebration and have a great time. The next day they all quit drinking forever.

(three stars)