After a small boy murders his teenage sister with a kitchen knife, he is sent to a high security psychiatric hospital for life. But 15 years later, on the night before Halloween, he escapes and begins stalking a young babysitter and her friends.
Despite being a low-budget independent film, Halloween was one of the first mainstream horror movies of the 'slasher' boom. Along with Black Christmas (1974) it set the template for what would become the biggest trend in horror cinema during the late 70s and throughout the 80s. It features all the essential ingredients of a masked killer, horny teenage victims, jump scares, cat-and-mouse chase sequences, and a strong 'final girl' survivor.
I recently re-watched it after not having seen it for many years, and several things struck me. First of all, there are relatively few murders - we only witness 5 - and there is surprisingly little blood and gore. And the killings of the main teenage characters don't begin until 50 minutes into the movie. I always think of Halloween as being much more of a bloodbath, which is actually a credit to the film and its impact. Especially as, despite all this, it still kept my full attention and never felt like it was dragging.
John Carpenter's iconic score is used to great effect in maintaining the tension, and still gives me chills even if I hear it out of context. The adult Michael Myers (referred to in the credits as "The Shape") has a suitably intimidating presence, with the blank, expressionless mask giving him an emotionless, inhuman feel. Some interesting photography is used, particularly with the extended single-take shot at the film's opening, and in several later scenes where the killer appears in the background. For a low-budget film, the acting performances are actually not bad, and the teenage characters are generally quite likable.
Apart from the odd glimpse of amusing 70s clothes fashion, Halloween has dated well, and still has a great impact for a film that's about 35 years old. It is well paced, tense, fun, and I totally enjoyed revisiting it.