Welcome to The Last Horror Blog, a biweekly column on all things horror.
New still from I, Frankenstein features Aaron Eckhart – I’m still not convinced that the film adaptation of the graphic novel I, Frankenstein is going to be any good, but here’s the latest still from the upcoming project featuring Aaron Eckhart and Yvonne Strahovsky.
In the film, Eckhart plays Frankenstein’s monster (now named Adam), who gets caught in a war between demons and gargoyles. Sounds… interesting.
New official Patrick trailer is filled with psychic hijinks – At long last, here’s the official trailer for the remake of 1979 cult classic Patrick. The update hews closely to the formula of the original (young comatose boy terrorizes hospital nurse with his psychic powers) and actually looks surprisingly decent. Granted, it’s not as good as the Italian knockoff Patrick Lives Again, but maybe someone in Italy will remake that one too. Mariangela Giordano could probably still pull off her role.
Awesome Evil Dead trailer mash-up brings the best of both worlds – Fede Alvarez’s updating of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead is now out on DVD and Blu-ray – and to help celebrate that event, one enterprising YouTube user has crafted his very own trailer for the feature. The catch here is that the new clip merges the audio of the original film’s trailer with imagery from the new film. It’s a mash-up sure to please fans of both films – except for the dearth of Bruce Campbell. Check it out below.
The Wicker Man: Final Cut is on the way – A few months back (May, to be precise), director Robin Hardy and StudioCanal put out a call to find the most complete cut of Hardy’s cult classic film The Wicker Man. Hardy’s original version was 102 minutes, but with no remaining negatives, that version appeared to be lost to history.
Except it wasn’t – Hardy and StudioCanal have revealed that a print has been found!
“I’m very pleased to announce that StudioCanal have been able to find an actual print of The Wicker Man, which is based on my original cut working with Abraxas, the American distributors, all those years ago. They plan, and this is the exciting bit, to actually release it. This version has never been restored before, has never been shown in U.K. theatres before, has never been converted to Blu-ray before. This version will - optimistically - be known as the Final Cut.”
The film will be out soon in the U.K. No word on when American audiences will finally see it.
Following up the phenomenal (and completely unexpected) success of Halloween wasn’t going to be an easy feat for filmmaker John Carpenter. I mean, face it -- anything short of another Michael Myers film was going to come across as unsatisfying to most mainstream audiences (most of who were yearning for a sequel based on the extremely open ending of Halloween). Undaunted, Carpenter and girlfriend/co-collaborator Debra Hill turned out 1980’s haunted-town flick The Fog -- one of the more underrated films in the director’s body of work.
Antonio Bay is a quiet, scenic coastal town on the California coast—but, like most small towns in horror films, it’s got a dark secret buried in its past.
As the film opens, we’re treated to a scene with Mr. Machen (John Houseman) telling a group of children a campfire tale—a story about the Elizabeth Dane, a ship full of lepers that crashed on the jagged coastline and sank 100 years before, killing everyone on board. Shortly after midnight, things start going berserk—car alarms go off, a gas pump begins running by itself, and phones ring with no one on the other end.
In a church, Father Malone (Hal Holbrook) discovers a journal hidden behind a wall—a journal written by his grandfather recounting the events that led to the founding of Antonio Bay. It seems that the captain of the Elizabeth Dane had come to the Antonio Bay area a century earlier seeking refuge and to build a leper colony nearby. However, the greedy townfolk not only didn’t want the lepers near them but also coveted the gold aboard the ship. They lured the ship toward shore with a false beacon, causing it to crash on the rocks, took the gold for themselves, and founded the coastal hamlet.
Now, tonight, exactly 100 years later, the dead lepers are coming back—looking to punish the ancestors of those who wronged them and reclaim the gold that is rightfully theirs.
Much like Halloween, The Fog tells a relatively simple tale. At its core, the storyline is no different than countless other ghost and pirate stories, yet Carpenter adds just enough flourishes to make it entertaining and original. The film itself suffers from having too broad a focus, as Carpenter keeps intercutting between various members of the ensemble cast. Is radio DJ Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau) the main character? Or is it Elizabeth and Nick (Jamie Lee Curtis and Tom Atkins)? We’re never really sure, and it sort of hurts the film as we’re continually switching between characters and focuses.
Still, the performances from the ensemble cast are lively and entertaining. Aside from the aforementioned stars, The Fog also showcases the acting talents of Janet Leigh (Jamie Lee Curtis’ mom), as well as Charles Cyphers and Nancy Loomis (both of whom were in Halloween). The acting here is surprisingly good, and it more than makes up for most of the story’s shortcomings. Also, pay attention early on and you’ll spot a very young John Carpenter playing the church’s janitor.
The story is relatively creepy, although not as intense as Halloween. Whereas that film was something of an exploration of the idea of the age-old boogeyman myth reset in modern-day suburban America, The Fog is something far more traditional—a standard small-town ghost story. Carpenter does a solid job, though, building the elaborate backstory, conceiving the idea for the undead to move about in the thick, soupy fog, etc.
However, he throws in several ideas that are used, then quickly discarded, as if they seemed like good ideas at the time but ultimately didn’t work, so he simply abandoned them. For instance, in one sequence, one of the victims comes back to life—only to collapse in a heap on the floor seconds later. Why did he come back to life? Why didn’t any of the other victims come back to life? No one knows, because it’s never discussed.
Equally bothersome is the idea that the ghosts are back to take vengeance on the descendants of the town’s founding fathers—yet they murder numerous people who clearly have no connection to the town’s past, while letting others go (such as Janet Leigh) who do. Factor this lack of focus in with an ending scene that seems tacked on for nothing other than cheesy shock value, and you can see why the film falls just short of classic status. One interesting side note about the script: Carpenter named many of the characters after people he’d worked with or admired. Dan O’Bannon is the name of the guy who wrote Alien, Nick Castle was the original Shape in Halloween, and Tommy Wallace was the production designer/editor of that same film.
Carpenter wrote the score himself (as he does on most of his films) and it’s another simple, yet atmospheric set of tunes that demonstrates the importance of good music in an effective horror film. Also, during one of the early radio station scenes, Barbeau mentions that a song is by the Coupe DeVilles, which astute Carpenter fans will recognize as the name of one of Carpenter’s musical groups.
Unlike big brother Halloween, a film that largely eschewed showing any kind of on-screen carnage, The Fog delivers some wonderfully gory sequences. There are numerous stabbings with hooks and sickle-like bladed objects, an eye gouging, and more. Not to mention that the leprous zombies are pretty cool looking too. Gore fans should be pleased with what they find in this film.
Like most of the early Carpenter films, this one has a unique and intriguing look, largely due to the work of cinematographer Dean Cundey. For years, the power of the cinematography was all but destroyed by cruddy pan-and-scan copies on VHS tapes. Things improved with the release of the film on DVD, but it’s only now that The Fog debuts on Blu-ray that new fans can really see the visuals Carpenter and Cundey crafted in all their glory.
The new disc is the most recent hit for the folks at Scream Factory – Shout Factory’s horror imprint. They’ve already carved themselves a spot in the heart of horror lovers, and this release will only tighten their hold.
The disc looks and sounds great. The new transfer features sharp images and vibrant colors yet retains enough of the original print’s grain to feel authentic to its time period. The soundtrack is equally impressive, offering up 5.1 and 2.1 options that will give your surround sound system a nice workout.
For as great as that news is, where this disc really shines is in the extras, a mixture of supplements from earlier versions of the film mixed with new behind-the-scenes features. Fans get two commentary tracks – one with Carpenter and the late Debra Hill, the other with Barbeau, Tom Atkins and Tommy Lee Wallace – plus multiple featurettes, a 20-minute piece with cinematographer Dean Cundey, storyboards, outtakes and more. If you love The Fog, this is hands down the definitive version of the film.
Kudos to the people at Scream Factory – they killed it on this disc. At this point, it’s officially safe to get excited for each one of the company’s new releases. Their track record speaks for itself and it’s clear they love these films as much as the fans do.
While The Fog falls just a bit short of the classic status that’s been bestowed upon Carpenter’s masterworks—Halloween and The Thing—it’s still a fantastic little horror film that boasts a great ensemble cast, a fine score, the typical Carpenter visual style, and an almost palpable sense of menace. Despite some of the loopy logic and a few plot holes in the script, it’s still an intense and entertaining exercise in ghostly horror. If you like ghost stories, John Carpenter’s films, or ‘80s horror flicks in general, then you should run out and grab Scream Factory’s Blu-ray. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.
Horror on the Horizon
More theatrical horror in July? Pinch me – I must be dreaming.
Hot on the heels of The Conjuring, the week of July 26 brings us two more genre offerings. The first is the wide release of haunted-apartment flick Apartment 1303. Rebecca De Mornay headlines this tale of an evil high rise. Not sure what to expect – the film doesn’t seem to be getting a lot of push.
If you’re lucky, you’ll also have another option this weekend, a limited release of Richard Raaphorst’s long-awaited Frankenstein’s Army. If you don’t get it in your area, don’t fret – a home video release probably isn’t far off.
August kicks off with the limited release of British zombie flick Cockneys vs. Zombies, which has garnered a lot of positive buzz and should appeal to fans of accents and the undead.
On the homefront, July 30 sees the release of the Blu-ray for The Fog reviewed above, as well as Scream Factory’s The Incredible Melting Man.
The Scream Factory train keeps rolling in the first week of August, too, when Wes Craven’s Swamp Thing makes its Blu-ray debut. Other notable releases that week included Brandon Cronenberg’s Antiviral, Amityville documentary My Amityville Horror, and Aftershock.