Any fan of horror movies is intimately familiar with Halloween even if they've not seen the actual film itself. The movie has been mimicked and parodied extensively and the cliches present have become embedded in pop culture.
The movie begins with the view from the eyes of a killer, who watches a girl have sex with her boyfriend. As soon as he leaves, he stabs her with a knife. The killer turns out to be her six-year old brother and is committed to a mental institution. Fifteen years later, Michael Myers (Tony Moran), returns to his old home to kill once again. His targets this time include three high school students: Annie (Nancy Kyes), Lynda (P. J. Soles), and Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis). Who dies next and who ends up living is the guessing game the audience gets to play (along with the characters).
Whether intentionally or not, the movie ends up having a moralistic message. All the people who are killed are involved in sexual acts. Michael Myers is portrayed as the embodiment of evil, as opposed to being a "normal" serial killer, and some of the things he does has a hint of the supernatural.
It's interesting that the movies Halloween inspired, in the slash-and-gore horror genre, borrow less from the Psycho-like feel present in the film and instead seek to showcase the scenes we don't see. There's little gore in the film and a lot of the fear is psychological. The movie is made more frightening simply because we don't see body parts splattered about. Yet later movies chose to abandon suspense as a means of achieving terror and sought instead to shock people by showing more blood and gore.
Halloween's status as a cult film is assured. The movie has several flaws, but the primary reason it has gained such a status has to do with director John Carpenter's minimalist distillation of the most pure, adrenaline generating, horror and suspense moments seen before in previous films. Definitely worth a rental on Halloween night.