Assault on Precinct 13 - 1976
Turning a movie into one gigantic rollercoaster ride and make it work is something only a handful of directors can do. Lucky for us, John Carpenter is one of those. Other directors have attempted to do the same but in those cases the plot, and character development, usually gets in the way. Not with Carpenter though, he takes a simple theme throws in a bunch of people and lets it ride. Assault on Precinct 13, or better known as "John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13", does exactly that: A few unknown actors get put together and from there the ride begins.
The original Assault on Precinct 13 being a typical low budget action thriller, did not keep Carpenter from turning it into a masterpiece worthy to be mentioned with the likes of Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes and perhaps even the Romero's Dawn of the Dead trilogy.
In Assault on Precinct 13 the recipe consists out of a rookie cop, a drugs baron sentenced to death row and an old precinct at the brink of being relocated. Add to this a gang attacking the precinct in every nasty way one can think of, and you have Assault on precinct 13 for a main course.
Assault on Precinct 13 was one of the very first movies that were directed by John Carpenter. This fact is one that can't be missed, as the movie is far from perfect in several ways. There is dialogue that is flawed, technical imperfections, and the acting is far from great. No Oscar material there, but still he manages to set the right atmosphere for the events that are about to take place. The viewer gets a feeling of the type of pressure these cops must be under due to the fast pace of the events taking place, and while it takes well over half the movie before things really start to get ugly, throughout the whole movie the viewer actually gets to experience the feeling of being under constant attack which continues relentlessly. The movie may not be perfect but it gets the message across very effectively.
The movies main character is a rookie policeman by the name of Bishop, whose assignment is to transfer the old Precinct 13. As the skeleton crew is closing up shop and making their final rounds, a bus arrives carrying a selection of inmates that diverted to the precinct because one of the inmates appears to be sick. Meanwhile a father, who shoots a gang member because he killed his daughter, arrives at the precinct for shelter while being hunted by the gang that the killer was a member of. One of the inmates turns out to be a ruthless murderer sentenced to death by the name of Wilson, and so we have the setting of Precinct 13, while the siege by gang members begins. The cops are trapped with two murderers on the inside and a ruthless gang on the outside.
This basically sums up the essence of the movie. People trapped inside a building trying to leave without getting killed while trying. In this case the runtime of the movie which barely makes for an hour and a half works to the movies advantage, as a longer movie may have suffered from loss of the fast pace it now has. The way the movie was created we move from one fast paced scene to the next, which conveys the feeling of haste and pressure making it all very realistic. Every scene is necessary, and while some may be due for some editing as a whole it runs perfectly, with perfect timing.
John Carpenter is a director that reached cult status after his famous Halloween movie, and has a huge fan base because of it. He truly is the master of horror that people portray him to be. With Assault on Precinct 13 he created an original movie that manages to maintain its fast pace, and keeps the viewers attention at all times.