On October 31, 1963, six-year-old Michael Myers (Will Sandin) murders his fifteen-year-old sister, Judith (Sandy Johnson) with a large kitchen knife at their home in Haddonfield, Illinois. His parents arrive home minutes later and find him in a trance-like state. Michael is incarcerated in Smith's Grove Warren County Sanitarium, where he is placed under the care of child psychiatrist Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence). Eight years of treatment convince Loomis that Michael is pure evil. An additional seven years is spent trying to keep Michael locked up. However, on October 30th, 1978, Michael is to be transferred and prosecuted as an adult. As Loomis and his assistant Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens) arrive at Smith's Grove to take the 21-year-old Myers to court, Michael attacks the car nearly killing Marion, steals the car and escapes. Loomis goes in pursuit of Myers. He learns that Judith Myers's tombstone is missing, and is convinced that Michael will return home to Haddonfield.

Michael (Tony Moran), wearing a mechanic's coveralls and a mask, returns to his now derelict home in Haddonfield. There, he stalks teenager Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), and follows her and her friends Annie Brackett (Nancy Loomis) and Lynda Van Der Klok (P.J. Soles) as they walk home from school. Laurie becomes unnerved after spotting Michael several times that day, but Lynda and Annie dismiss her concerns. That evening, Laurie meets Annie, who is babysitting Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards) across the street from where Laurie is babysitting Tommy Doyle (Brian Andrews).

During the evening Michael watches Annie through the windows of the Wallace house. Annie later arranges to pick up her boyfriend, and takes Lindsey across the street to stay with Laurie. When Annie gets into her car, Michael emerges from the backseat, strangles her, and cuts her throat. Tommy sees Michael carrying Annie's body into the Wallace house and thinks he is the Boogeyman. Laurie dismisses this and sends Tommy and Lindsey to bed.

Lynda arrives at the Wallace house with her boyfriend Bob Simms. They learn that Annie and Lindsey are out, and have sex in the Wallis’ bedroom. Afterwards, Bob goes to the kitchen to grab a beer and is choked, pinned to a wall, and killed by Michael. In the bedroom, Michael (disguised as Bob - disguised as a ghost) strangles Lynda with a phone cord as she calls Laurie.

Laurie is worried by the telephone call consisting of muffled gasps. She walks across to the Wallace house to investigate. There she discovers the three bodies plus Judith Myers's missing tombstone. Myers attacks Laurie at the top of the stairs, but she falls down the staircase. Michael gives chase, but Laurie manages to escape back to the Doyle house. Myers gains entry to the house, but Laurie jabs a knitting needle into his neck. She goes upstairs to check the children but Michael has survived and followed her. She tells the children to escape and call the police, locking herself in a closet.

When Michael breaks through the closet door, Laurie stabs him in the eye with a wire clothes hanger, causing him to drop the knife. She then stabs him in the torso with the knife and he falls to the floor; Laurie exits the closet.

Loomis sees the panicked children running from the house and enters the Doyle house. Behind Laurie, Michael gets up and begins to strangle her. Loomis appears and shoots him six times, sending Michael through a window and flying off the balcony. Loomis assures Laurie that everything is all right. However, when he looks over the balcony, Michael's body has disappeared.

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“Halloween” is the perfect example of John Carpenter’s talents as a director. Carpenter builds tension through the constant suggestion that something terrible lurks just out of Laurie's and the audience's view, whether it's behind a bush or in a passing car. He also shifts to the killer's point-of-view, leaving the audience with only the sight of the unaware victim and the sound of Michael's breathing.

Shot in lush widescreen and with fluid use of the steadicam, the cinematography plays a large part in the creepy atmosphere that the movie creates, with Michael Myers subtly appearing at the corner of the screen.

“Halloween’s” noted lack of blood is made up for with the perfectly staged sequences in which Michael seems to disappear into thin air whilst he stalks his victims, making him seem to be more like a force of nature than an actual human being. With no dialogue and his face permanently obscured behind a mask, Michael makes for a suitably creepy villain, with impressive body language that somehow reveals so much about the character with just the tilt of his head.

Donald Pleasance, a late veteran actor whose career would have a second life through his recurring turn as Dr. Sam Loomis, brings authority, dignity, and vulnerability to his role. He is a man who once cared for Michael, who can't help but feel as if he still shares a bond with him, but who has grown wearisome because he now knows that there is no way of getting through to him.

In her very first screen appearance, Jamie Lee Curtis is perfect as Laurie Strode, unaffected and soft-spoken.The daughter of film stars Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, Curtis launched her film career as a "scream queen." After a nondescript supporting role on the TV series “Operation Petticoat”, Curtis rose to cult stardom playing Laurie. Upon appearing in the film's sequel and in such scary films as “The Fog” and “Prom Night”, she seemed in danger of being limited to blood-splattered horror films. But Curtis wasn't about to be typed this early in the game: with a meaty secondary role as a prostitute in the big-budget comedy “Trading Places”, she made the transition from imperiled teen type to knowing adult.

As Annie, Nancy Loomis is sarcastic and dryly humorous, ideally keying into the kind of person who always has to have the last word. And, as the energetic, sexually uninhibited Lynda, P.J. Soles is an utter delight for every second she's onscreen.

Violent but never gory, "Halloween" is a masterwork of sheer, unadulterated suspense, blanketing low-key, tastefully layered humanity in an identifiably peaceful setting with the kind of darkness that can, and does, exist in the real world. Classy, intimate and exceedingly tense, the film has the power and skill to remain as uncompromisingly scary and haunting today as it no doubt was in 1978. To call "Halloween" merely brilliant isn't giving it enough credit. As a horror film and as a historical milestone that single-handedly shaped and altered the future of an entire genre, it's downright transcendent.
One of the film’s greatest assets is its simple-yet-effective score, performed by Carpenter, which generates tension and alerts to the possible danger without the antagonist even being on screen.

Year after year, generation after generation, "Halloween" endures and garners new fans for one very straightforward reason: no modern day horror picture before, or since, has ever been better. Critics and fans alike have hailed “Halloween” as a masterpiece. Quite simply, what Carpenter captured on film was lightning in a bottle.
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