Odds and Dead Ends: James Herbert’s ‘The Fog’, is it time for an adaptation?

I’m a massive Stephen King fan. He’s my literary guru, and in terms of down-to-earth writing advice, he’s second to none. For honest, heartfelt dialogue, he’s unrivaled. He’s created some of the most iconic moments in horror, and we have much to thank him for. And it seems as if adaptations of his stories are planned before he’s even finished the first draft, even excluding his famous dollar babies.

Other writers are not as lucky as the King. Even Dean Koontz, King’s contemporary and somewhat rival, has had only a handful of adaptations, despite selling about the same amount of print copies. Clive Barker, mostly known for the numerous Hellraiser sequels and a dashing of others, has mainly adaptations of various stories in his Books of Blood, nowhere near King’s volume, even percentage-wise in relation to the amount written. Peter Straub has only had a few adaptations. Graham Masterton, for his entire volume of work, has (to my knowledge) had only two or three adaptations. And I don’t believe that Ramsey Campbell, one of the absolute giants of modern horror literature, has had more than a few either.

It seems that some authors, despite how influential their stories are, get missed, for one reason or another. One of these monsters is James Herbert. Don’t get me wrong, Herbert has had some adaptations in the past, so it’s not as if he’s been forgotten altogether (although I’m still waiting for someone to redo Haunted as part of a full David Ash film trilogy. Maybe Hammer can do them as a British answer to the Conjuring franchise). But all this aside, Herbert has written one of the biggest novels of 20th Century horror which, somehow, has yet to be translated to the screen; The Fog.

For those that have somehow missed this classic, it’s about a small town in England that’s hit by an earthquake, and from the fissure created by this quake is released a mysterious fog. Anyone who comes into contact with this fog goes violently insane. The fog spreads throughout the country and the chaos, bloodshed, and all things dark come to life. It’s not an incredibly complex idea, but it’s the form and structure which I think would make it a great translation to a television series, along with the content itself.

The Fog, along with his first novel, The Rats, uses a fairly distinct storytelling structure. His main character (John Holman), is the focus of alternating chapters. The other chapters focus on a variety of outside characters, who all eventually combine into the main storyline as the novel proceeds. To demonstrate, here’s a rough sequence with letters to stand for the character focus of each chapter. Holman is represented by the letter A. The novel proceeds something like A – B – A – C – A – D – A – B – A – D+C – A – E – A… and so on (I haven’t done that scientifically, so people who have gone through three copies, I apologise for getting minor characters in the wrong order). Now, to my eyes, that kind of structure is exactly how a series-long story arc plays out, cutting from scene to scene. Think of something like Castle Rock; that’s pretty much a carbon copy of the formula used.

Then there’s the content itself. There’s plenty of blood and guts to keep the horror fans happy. There are military sci-fi elements, similar to something like The Midwich Cuckoos or Quatermass, to keep the more casual viewer interested. It contains some magnificent set pieces to build episodes around. The characters themselves don’t have the greatest life off the page, and to be honest, are fairly stock in their presentation for the most part; however, this is where screenwriters can really dig deep and bring up some interesting nuggets to expand upon for great sub-plots. Added to the fact that there’s going to be a ready-made audience for it, because of the revered nature of the novel and Herbert in general, and you’ve got the groundwork for a solid product.

Then consider the television climate. Horror series are on the rise at the moment to boot. In short order, we’ve been given American Horror Story, Hannibal, Stranger Things, The Exorcist (tragically overlooked and canceled before its time; Ben Daniels was incredible), Ash vs. Evil Dead, The Haunting of Hill House, Castle Rock, Dracula, The Outsider, even Scream (which wasn’t incredible but had damn good moments), plus plenty of others. With Lovecraft Country on the horror horizon, plus new seasons of many of the shows aforementioned, it doesn’t look like the horror TV train going to stop any time soon. Now is the perfect time to bring The Fog to the masses.

There are, of course, a couple of issues to be overcome. It’s not the greatest for presenting female characters, I have to admit; that was never Herbert’s strong point. There are passages that could be instantly posted as a meme for ‘how men write female characters in novels’. Some sections of the novel, especially the whole school section, would definitely need to be changed, as they do raise some eyebrows on how far thrilling violence goes towards bad taste. Not up to the standards of Laymon’s The Cellar, I’ll grant, but they’re pretty on the edge. That is part of Herbert’s style, admittedly, always pushing the boundaries of what can be published, but there’d still need to be some selective editing there.

And let’s not forget that we’ll have trouble distinguishing it from John Carpenter’s The Fog, both films, and both adaptations of King’s The Mist as well. Maybe specifically naming it James Herbert’s The Fog would work in terms of differentiating it from the aforementioned titles?

With some books, I’d prefer it if the meddling fingers of studios left damn well alone. This is especially true of the more ambiguous works of horror, such as Paul Tremblay’s recent run (though I believe adaptations of both A Head Full Of Ghosts and The Cabin at the End of the World have been announced, damn them), because certain media translates certain ideas and atmospheres better than others. And as much as I’d love to see Del Toro finally get his adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness, there’s just something that’s so big and primal about that story that part of me doubts it would work. It’s up to him to eventually prove me wrong.

The Fog, however, seems so perfect to adapt to television because it’s practically written as a television series. Some of the dodgier sections can be rewritten to bring everything up to date, nearly half a century into the future. It’s sat on everyone’s shelves, calling to be updated, translated to prey on new fears, and rediscovered for our modern audiences. There’s potential for some of the most striking, disturbing images ever put to celluloid. It’s seeped into the horror consciousness, sat there, and bided its time. Now it’s time to unleash it on the world.

 

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: @KJudgeMental

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Six: Big Legend

bigfootfiles

(Editor’s note: This review contains major spoilers.)

The 2018 horror film Big Legend, written and directed by Justin Lee, is a no-frills creature feature, meaning diehard Bigfoot fans should enjoy the 89-minute ride. I know I did.

Big Legend

Set in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Big Legend opens with couple-in-love Tyler and Natalie about to embark on a camping trip. Tyler (Kevin Makely) is a former soldier and hopes to make the excursion extra special for sweet Natalie (Summer Spiro).

However, romance transforms into tragedy during the first night. Natalie hears wood knocks and guttural growls outside their tent. Tyler leaves to investigate, a decision he’ll regret for the rest of his life. Some kind of beast grabs the tent and drags it along with Natalie into the darkness where she disappears.

Twelve months later, Tyler is dealing with survivor’s guilt on his final day in a psychiatric ward. He tells psychiatrist Dr. Wheeler that he believes Natalie was attacked by a bear although her body has never been found. Amanda Wyss portrays Dr. Wheeler. You may remember her as the iconic Tina Gray in the body bag, Fred Krueger’s first victim in the 1984 horror film A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Tyler doesn’t really believe Natalie’s disappearance is bear-related, and the anguished soldier discusses his decision to search for Natalie with his mother Rita. It’s the most heartfelt scene in Big Legend. Rita is portrayed beautifully and too briefly by another horror icon, Adrienne Barbeau. You may remember her as radio DJ Stevie Wayne in the 1980 horror film The Fog.

The authorities drop off a box of items, including Natalie’s digital camera, left behind at the campsite after the attack a year ago. Tyler starts flicking through the photographs and stops at a random picture with a shadowy figure lurking in the background. That was my favorite moment in Big Legend. It was perfectly eerie.

His suspicions almost confirmed, Tyler loads up his gear and returns to the scene of the Bigfoot crime. During his search for answers, Tyler encounters another hunter named Eli, portrayed by character actor Todd A. Robinson.

Bigfoot is protective of his territory, and the human duo faces off against the beast in a tense showdown that had me flashing back to the 1987 sci-fi horror film Predator when Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) tires of being the hunted and decides to challenge the alien.

The most important feature of a Bigfoot movie is the Bigfoot, and I’m pleased to report the makeup department of Angela Bulmer and Jill Colwell do a commendable job. Bigfoot looked suitably savage and realistic enough to me.

I recommend Big Legend to those of us who enjoy an outing with Bigfoot. It’s a gritty little movie with big aspirations. Seeing Wyss and Barbeau on the screen again after so many years was an unexpected delight. There’s even a cameo by horror icon Lance Henriksen (Pumpkinhead, Aliens) who drops by at the end to introduce an interesting twist to the story.

 

NEXT UP | Chapter Seven: Willow Creek. I review the 2013 horror film Willow Creek written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

LINKS TO PREVIOUS CHAPTERS OF THE BIGFOOT FILES:

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter One: The Idea of Bigfoot

THE BIGFOOT FILES| Chapter Two: Dweller

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Three: Swamp Monster Massacre

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Four: The Road Best Not Taken

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Five: Wood Ape

 

Rick Hautala and James Herbert RIP

portraitIn the month of March we sadly lost two big names in the field of horror literature. James Herbert passed away on March 20th and Rick Hautala passed away on March 21st, leaving behind some great horror novels. Back in the 1980s horror was one of the biggest genres in book publishing and you could easily find horror novels on every newsstand. Rick Hautala and James Herbert were two of the authors that you would find in every book store. Since both of these men left quite an impact on the world of horror, I thought it would be fitting to pay tribute to them.

James Herbert was born on April 8th 1943 in London England. As a kid he enjoyed telling stories to other kids on the playground and also had a love for drawing and painting. At 16 he enrolled in the Hornsey College of Art, where he studied graphic design, print and photography. He graduated and started working in the field of advertising and design.

At the age of 28 in 1974 he wrote his first novel called The Rats which was eventually turned into a movie called Deadly Eyes in 1983.  He went on to write 22 more novels along with several short stories and two non fiction books. James Herbert has sold 54 million books worldwide and in 2010 He was presented with the World Horror Convention Grand Master award by Stephen King.

James Herbert’s books ranged from the supernatural to science fiction but they all had elements of horror to them. James’s best known books include: The Survivor, Haunted, The Fog and The Secret of Crickley Hall. His last novel was released in 2012. It was called Ash and is the third in a series about a paranormal detective named David Ash. To find out more about James Herbert’s books visit his website at jamesherbert.com.

rickRick Hautula was born on February 3rd 1949 in Rockport Massachusetts. He graduated from the University of Maine with a Master of Art in English Literature. His first book was called Moondeath and was released in 1980. His third book was called Nightstone. It was released in 1986 and became an international best seller. Since then Rick has written 29 more books and  had several short stories released in anthologies.

In 2011 Rick Hautala won the Horror Writer’s Association’s Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement. He also served terms as Vice President and Trustee for the Horror Writers Association. Another honor he received was in 2000 when Barnes and Noble called his short story collection Bedbugs one of the most distinguished horror publications of the year.

In honor of Rick Hautala and to raise some proceeds to help support his family, several publishers are offering deals on his books with profits going to Rick’s family in their time of need . Some of those publishers include Cemetery Dance, Necon E books, Kings Way Press and Evil Jester Press. For more information on Rick Hautala, check out his website at: rickhautala.com.

British & European Horror News & Events – Episode 71

Reel Music Part VII – The New Blood.

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=140847549328945

REEL MUSIC is a club night dedicated to music from the movies. It takes place at one of central London’s premiere venues, the BLOOMSBURY BOWLING LANES. The next event happens on Friday October 28th 2011

It’s that time of year again, where the ghosts and ghouls come out to play, and on this occasion they come out to play the finest tracks from your favourite movies! Halloween is here and it’s time to put on your best horror movie inspired costume and join us for what will be London’s ULTIMATE HALLOWEEN PARTY – REEL MUSIC PART VII – THE NEW BLOOD!


FrightFest Halloween All-Nighter.

http://www.frightfest.co.uk/2011corepages/frightfestfilms2.html

At the Vue cinema in London’s West End on 29th October. Line up is:

  • Bad Meat
  • Livid
  • The Human Centipede II
  • Faces In The Crowd
  • Cold Sweat
  • The Watermen

Electric Cinema All-Nighter – The Films Of John Carpenter.

http://www.electriccinema.co.uk/comingsoon.php

Our Horror All-Nighter is dedicated to one of the true fathers of the modern horror film, legendary director John Carpenter. Since the 1970s Carpenter has unleashed onto an unsuspecting public some of the most intense, imaginative, influential and downright terrifying films in American cinema. Our epic programme will pay fitting tribute to the master of the lingering take, the spine tingling score and the ruthless, relentless exploitation of our most primal fears.

HALLOWEEN + THE FOG, followed by ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK + THEY LIVE.

Disturbia – BBC Concert Orchestra Halloween Show.

http://ticketing.southbankcentre.co.uk/find/music/classical/tickets/disturbia-60930

As an alluring alternative to mainstream Halloween entertainment, the BBC Concert Orchestra weaves scintillating tendrils of sound with an unforgettable psycho-dramatic musical tapestry.

Horrorthon Film Festival.

http://www.horrorthon.com/

27th – 31st October 2011 at the IFI cinema, Eustace St, Dublin 2

Bram Stoker International Film Festival.

http://bramstokerfilmfestival.com/

Whitby, England from 28th to 31st October. Featuring a vampire ball, feast of blood and A Vampire Tale.

Village Of The Damned.

http://villageofthedamnedfilmfest.blogspot.com/p/about.html

Now in its second year Village of the Damned is a horror film festival held in
the sleepy Scottish village of Auchmithie. Our aim is to bring horror shorts to
a new audience and create a new event within the community. The films will be
screened over 4 nights on Halloween weekend along with an exhibition of horror
themed art and craft.

Weekend Of Horrors.

4th to 6th November in Bottrop, Germany.

The Fog 1980

The Fog is a John Carpenter Horror Classic that came out in 1980.  The film stars three classic women of Horror.  Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, and the woman best known for her shower scene in Pyscho, Janet Leigh. The cast also includes Hal Holbrock as Father Malone and even the director, John Carpenter, makes an appearance playing Bennet.

The film takes place in the sleepy town of Antonio Bay which is looking forward to their centennial.  The town is in full swing preparing for the event when events start to shake the festive mood in town.  Unexplained things began to happen such as televisions turning itself on and pay phones ringing simultaneously is enough to set a few nerves on edge.

As these odd events are happening Father Malone is in his study when a rock falls opening showing a hole in the wall. Upon investigation of this opening the Father finds a journal that was written about 100 years ago.  Inside the diary secrets about six of the towns founding fathers are revealed and only if they knew what would happen to the town because of their actions things may have been differently.

After we learn about the terrible deeds that the six men had committed on the clipper ship Elizabeth Dane, stranger things begin to happen around town.  A mysterious fog appears out to sea and begins moving toward land.  Three local men are out on their boat when the fog over takes them and something appears within the fog.  Two of the men cannot help but to investigate this strange fog and as they do what is hidden inside the fog ensures this will be their last night on earth.

The film continues on from this point as we are introduced to more townspeople. The local radio DJ Stevie Wayne (Barbeau) has her own early foreshadowing of what is to come when a piece of drift wood her son gives her causes a small fire at the radio station.

What makes The Fog a great Horror film is not just a great cast of actors but the use of foreshadowing that Carpenter is able to pull off in the film.  Also the menace of watching the fog slowly roll into town engulfing everything in its way adds to the excitement.  The ghosts within the fog coming out to kill those it can find adds to the excitement as we watch people try and run from the every growing fog.

The film does require viewers to watch the action and listen to the plot and things that go happen to help build some of the suspense.  The warnings that come from Stevie over the towns radio station are another element that help to add to the suspense of film.  Her cries and warnings to the townspeople almost begging them to get indoors and away from the fog as there is something there.  When you add in the fear of those trying to out run the fog and find a save place continues to bring you more and more into the desperation of those running.

The Fog is one of those films that combines many elements of a good story and plot devices into it at the same movie.  There is the suspense, the element of revenge, and a long hidden secret.  All of these entwined together make John Carpenter’s The Fog a classic horror movie.