An old sea captain (John Houseman) sits before a group of bug-eyed children at night next to a roaring fire and tells them the story of a ship laden with gold, which crashed on the rocks over a 100 years ago. It is said that the six ghosts of the victims will return to their town of Antonio Bay. And so they do, arriving in this community on the northern California coast with the fog.

During 1978 John Carpenter's small-budget movie Halloween (a scare story about a crazed killer of teenage girls) was a smash box-office success. The gory violence was a real turn-on to the high school and campus crowd. The Fog is a better movie in that it works its jitters magic without an express of overt mayhem.

Adrienne Barbeau (Carpenter's wife) makes her screen debut as the resort's town disc jockey who broadcasts from her home atop a lighthouse. A trucker (Tommy Atkins) picks up a hitchhiker (Jamie Lee Curtis); the town activist (Janet Leigh) and her sarcastic aide (Nancy Loomis) make plans for Antonio Bay's 100th birthday; and Father Malone (Hal Holbrook) discovers a diary containing the secret of why the town is cursed. The avenging ghouls arrive at midnight and attack with all the rage of the living dead.

Carpenter handles this ghost story with just the right balance of special effects artistry, menacing music, and visual poetry. Although the characters are under-developed and the ending a bit of a dud, the writer-director-composer proves that he deserves the rave reviews he has received during the past two years.