With the phenomenal success of HALLOWEEN/’78 and the tv movie ELVIS/’79 behind him, much was expected from writer/director John Carpenter’s follow-up project. But this tepid spooker, a loose collection of Terror Tropes in search of a place to park, made him look not ready for prime time. At heart, it’s your basic ghost revenge tale, with the reincorporated victims of a hundred-year-old crime returning under the cover of a wayward fog to Antonio Bay so they can have their way with the townie descendants who murdered them for their gold. Some of the effects have a plush look to them, belying the film’s tight budget, but Carpenter gets next to nothing from his actors. (They hardly seem to know each other.) And attempts at suspense boil down to ham-handed parallel editing or Carpenter (wearing his composer hat) raising the key & volume on one of his signature repetitious little themes.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: The film turned out to be a temporary misstep as Carpenter swiftly moved on to his best work: ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK/’81; STARMAN/’84; BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA/’86.