I’m normally not much of a John Carpenter fan, finding Halloween an overtouted mediocrity of a film even by B-movie standards. Yet I think The Fog illustrates where its captain-obvious teen-slasher predecessor went wrong. For in this later film—whose lukewarm critical reception puzzles me—Carpenter recognizes that evil is most terrifying when its source is supernatural and uncertain. Establishing the atmosphere of foreboding are two lines from an Edgar Allan Poe poem with which the film begins: “All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.” As we watch, our fear grows in proportion to the mist that closes in upon the coastal Californian town of Antonio Bay. A vague, indeterminate anxiety increasingly suffocates each breath we exhale, not knowing when or what creatures will emerge from the green glow that emanates from within this brumous blanket.
Both as a writer and director, Frank Darabont seems to have an affinity for adapting Stephen King’s stories to the screen. He’s only performed both those functions for three feature-length films—The Shawshank Redemption (1994), The Green Mile (1999), and The Mist (2007)—but all three have met with well-deserved general and critical acclaim. I would agree, however, with those who’ve argued that The Mist, based on a King novella, is not at the level of Darabont’s previous two directorial efforts.