Review Date: October 18, 2008
Released by: Kinowelt
Release date: 11/29/2006
Region Free, HDTV
Codec: MPEG-4 VC-1, 1080p
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: Yes
HD-DVD has officially been a declared a dead format since Toshiba announced ending its support. Even many of our own readers have made posts about what to do with their HD-DVD collection. Here's my suggestion: Enjoy them! The discs and players didn't melt when Toshiba made the announcement. I won't spend too much time on my soapbox here, but I do want to share my thoughts. The media will be available for years to come, as will hardware to play it on. I suppose it's easier for me since I've already experienced this with laserdisc, which ended around 1999/2000. To this day I still enjoy the laserdisc format. I didn't jump in until after the Toshiba announcement when the prices on hardware and software dropped dramatically. HD media for $5-10 a pop? You can't go wrong. While we will primarily focus on Blu-Ray here on the site, we'll certainly be reviewing HD-DVD titles too. Don't give up on HD-DVD. It had a short run but there's lots to enjoy with the format.
I am excited to be reviewing my first HD-DVD for the site. My previous HD reviews here have all been broadcasts that weren't unavailable for purchase. I've owned The Fog
in two other home video formats, the widescreen laserdisc released in 1995 and the special edition DVD released in 2002. While I'm always one to enjoy a three way, I will be excluding the laserdisc from comparison in this review due to its age and lack of interest. However, I will compare the HD-DVD and DVD directly in this review. The Fog
has yet to receive a domestic HD release, either on HD-DVD or Blu-Ray, with the latter being the only real possibility since Sony/MGM owns the rights here in the States. Lets take a trip to Antonio Bay and have a look at John Carpenter's The Fog
On the beach and surrounded by children, an old sailor (John Houseman
) tells the tale of the Elizabeth Dane, a ship lost nearly 100 years ago. As it was sailing towards land, a heavy fog rolled in and all visibility was lost. Suddenly, a fire from shore was spotted and the ship steered towards the light. The ship was doomed, however, as the light led them straight into rocks and the hull was torn in two. All the men aboard died, sinking to the bottom of the sea with the Elizabeth Dane. Fisherman and their fathers have since said that when the fog returns to Antonio Bay, the men at the bottom of the sea will rise up to avenge their deaths.
The town of Antonio Bay is finishing preparations for its 100th birthday celebration, headed by Kathy Williams (Janet Leigh
) and Sandy Fadel (Nancy Kyes
). A statue will be unveiled at the festivities that commemorates the towns' founding fathers for their hard work and dedication. Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau
) owns the local lighthouse, from which she runs a radio station. Its just after midnight and the town is now 100 years old. With the help of Dan (Charles Cyphers
), the local weatherman, Stevie sends a weather update to the Sea Grass, a small ship just off the coast. A fog bank is rolling in and headed straight for them. As the fog engulfs the ship, dark and hideous figures emerge from the fog and slaughter the crew.
Elizabeth Solley (Jamie Lee Curtis
) is hitch hiking her way up the coast on the way to Vancouver. She meets up with Nick Castle (Tom Atkins
), a local fisherman in Antonio Bay. The two spend the night together and the following day, Elizabeth tags along as Nick begins trying to piece together what happened to his friends on the Sea Grass. Meanwhile, Kathy and Sandy head to the town's church to pay a visit to Father Malone (Hal Holbrook
). Father Malone discovered his grandfather's journal in one of the walls. In the journal are details of his grandfather's encounter with a leper colony on a nearby island. The leader of the colony, Blake, was a wealthy man that offered the town vast amounts of gold in exchange for letting the colony relocate there. The town agreed but betrayed the lepers as they sailed towards the shore in the Elizabeth Dane. They lit a fire on the shore that led the ship straight into the rocks that caused its demise. As day leads into night, the celebration begins. Off the coast, a fog begins to roll into town. In it are Blake and the rest of his colony, back for vengeance.
How does a director top a classic like Halloween
? Director John Carpenter never found the answer, but did prove to be more than a one hit wonder after releasing The Fog
in 1980. Written by Carpenter and his long time collaborator Debra Hill, The Fog
is a simple ghost story of betrayal and revenge. It doesn't have nearly the level of fright as Halloween
, but shows that, like Halloween
, vast amounts of gore aren't always needed to provide scares. While there are some cheap scares here (the commentary track, missing on the HD-DVD but present on the DVD and laserdisc, points to some studio tampering as partially to blame for this), such as a dead body miraculously falling out of a locker, it's really the atmosphere that makes The Fog
frightening. The shots of the ominous fog rolling into the bay, engulfing anything in sight; the use of color hues against the fog, such as when the crew of the Sea Grass is attacked; Blake and his crew, hooks in hand, emerging from the fog for vengeance, pulling the victims back in for certain death. Lets not forget the perfect ending, where Carpenter again proves he can not only end a film with suspense, but also with one final scare. Those all equal fine directing and movie making by Carpenter, creating that eerie atmosphere for this ghost story.
One area where The Fog
suffers is character development. While Halloween
had the tight-knit group of friends, led by Laurie Strode, being stalked by Michael Myers, The Fog
offers no such protagonist. In fact, The Fog
suffers from having too many characters, ultimately leaving the viewing unconcerned about their eventual fates. It is great to see genre favorites like Janet Lee, Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Tom Atkins all in the same film. Admittedly the performances all around are superb thanks to such a strong cast, but the abundance of characters for such a simple story ultimately proves to be a hindrance.
While The Fog
, it's bound to be forever compared to it. This review proved to be no exception, but I will admit that the two are also very different movies and it isn't necessarily fair to compare them. The Fog
is a tale of betrayal and vengeance, where the viewer is ultimately left sympathetic to the ghosts themselves, not the townsfolk. Halloween
is a tale of a psychopath with no reason to kill; he is just pure evil. And thanks to great character development, the viewer is left sympathetic to the babysitters in Halloween
In the end The Fog
is an enjoyable horror movie and proved to be just the beginning to long and successful careers for many of the cast and crew involved. If you enjoy a good ghost tale, don't miss out on The Fog
The HD-DVD was released by Kinowelt in Germany. It is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and is 16x9 enhanced. While the HD-DVD does offer improvements over MGM's domestic DVD, they aren't as significant as I expected. As expected with any high definition release, the HD-DVD does indeed offer a sharper image and greater detail. While there is slightly less grain present on the HD-DVD, there's a still a fair amount that appears in a handful of scenes. Print damage is minimal on both. What really sets the HD-DVD aside from the standard DVD is the colors, which are noticeably more vibrant on the HD-DVD. This is particularly noticeable when the use of green and red hues are used in some of the fog sequences, such as the attack on the Sea Grass. The Fog
has some beautiful cinematography; the daytime shots of the lighthouse and the seacoast looking absolutely stunning in high definition.
While the HD-DVD is the clear winner, it's not a blowout. That alone serves as a testament to just how good MGM did with the standard DVD back in 2002.
Kinowelt included an English DTS 5.1 track on the HD-DVD. There's little activity from the LFE and satellites, but that's to be expected on a movie like The Fog
, which has minimal action sequences. The track is sufficient; no distortion is heard and dialog remains crisp and clear. Carpenter's score has a techno feel to it and comes through strong on the track.
Nothing! What's more depressing is that there is a nice special edition DVD out there.
Those that enjoy this classic ghost tale from John Carpenter will appreciate the modest improvement this HD-DVD offers over the standard DVD. Just be sure to keep the standard DVD around for the extras, since this HD-DVD is about as bare bones as they come. For casual fans, you may be better off sticking with the standard DVD and waiting for the eventual Blu-Ray release from Sony/MGM.
*Because of the quality of the HD format, the clarity, resolution and color depth are inherently a major leap over DVD. Since any Blu-ray will naturally have better characteristics than DVDs, the rating is therefore only in comparison with other Blu-ray titles, rather than home video in general. So while a Blu-ray film may only get a C, it will likely be much better than a DVD with an A.
Movie - B
Image Quality - B+*
Sound - B
Supplements - N/A
- Running time - 1 hour and 29 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- French, German DTS-HD 5.1
- English DTS 5.1
- English, French, German, Dutch, Finnish, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian subtitles