In John Carpenter's The Fog (1980), the hour between midnight and one belongs to the dead as the coastal town of Antonio Bay is visited on the celebration of its centennial by the long-dead men whose betrayal and murder made the founding of the town possible. A much-loved entry in Carpenter's filmography (if I had to choose only five horror movies to be able to watch for the rest of my life, The Fog would have to be one of them), The Fog enjoys a reputation as a great ghostly tale. But I contend that The Fog is less an old-fashioned ghost story than it is Carpenter's version of a zombie movie.
The shambling, leprous crew of the long-sunken clipper ship The Elizabeth Dane are not ethereal spirits. They're the walking dead, risen from their watery graves to exact revenge. Carpenter described The Fog prior to its release as being his tribute to EC Comics - beating Stephen King and George Romero's Creepshow to the punch in this regard by two years (even the seaweed-strewn ghouls of that anthology's "Something To Tide You Over" bear a close resemblance to The Fog's soggy seamen) - and if there's one thing that EC's tales were most known for it's the living dead.
The crew of the Elizabeth Dane may not be zombies in the Romero tradition but they keep perfect company with the Templar Knights of the Blind Dead series...
...as well as with the undead Nazi soldiers of Shock Waves (1977), a zombie gang that also arises from the depths of the ocean.
Unlike the Romero school of the undead, these cadaverous crews aren't randomly born from plagues or viruses. They aren't comprised of our family, friends and neighbors; instead they're part of ages old, members-only clubs.
The Fog's zombies also have a kinship with the resurrected son of W.W. Jacob's 1902 short story "The Monkey's Paw." As that story's grieving couple hear their slain son knocking on their door in the dead of night after he's been wished back to life, so to do the dead in The Fog insistently knock and wait for the unsuspecting occupants to let them in.
At the film's climax, though, the crew of the Elizabeth Dane forget to knock and mount a full-on siege on the town's church - a climax filled with imagery that's instantly identifiable as classic zombie movie iconography:
The grasping, rotting hands of the dead bursting through windows? The living desperately trying to man the barricades? That's a zombie movie! But let's take a closer look at what we're dealing with here.
I know it's hard to see in this darkly lit pic, but come on...
An undead face crawling with worms? In a police line-up, you couldn't tell that apart from a Fulci-style zombie!
I've blocked most memories of the 2005 Fog remake from my mind but I do recall that the new version gave the crew of the Elizabeth Dane many more supernatural abilities and let them dispatch their victims in more fantastical, less hands-on ways than Carpenter did.
I'm sure the makers of the new film (Carpenter and Debra Hill participated in the remake as executive producers but I would think their involvement barely extended beyond accepting a paycheck) thought it would be way more cool to have their CG-abetted ghosts be able to do more than just attack their victims with swords and hooks.
But that just shows how little director Rupert Wainwright understood the movie he was remaking. He thought The Fog was a ghost film, the poor dope, when it's always been a zombie movie in disguise.