Connect with us
John Carpenter Spotlight

Film

‘Assault on Precinct 13’ Ranks As A Cult Action Classic

John Carpenter Spotlight

Assault on Precinct 13 is essential viewing for fans of John Carpenter

Following the release of his first feature, Dark Star, John Carpenter was given carte blanche on his next film. The only catch was he had to stick within the limitations of a very small budget. Carpenter wanted to direct a Western, but he knew he wouldn’t have enough resources to make a period piece, so instead, he wrote the script for Assault on Precinct 13 – a highly stylized, modern-day take on Rio Bravo, with a nod to Night of the Living Dead.

Although not a straight remake of Rio Bravo, the plot owes a lot to the classic Howard Hawks western. An officer, with the help of a secretary, and a convicted killer, are forced to fight off a mob of murderous gang members while stuck in a soon-to-be-shutdown police station, now under siege. Assault on Precinct 13 is a remarkably confident sophomore effort, considering Carpenter wrote the screenplay, edited the finished product, and composed the music for the film. And while it isn’t his first feature, Assault on Precinct 13 was technically John Carpenter’s first incursion into professional filmmaking.

As an editor, Carpenter does an excellent job, tightly knitting the action in ways that blend an old-fashioned patient approach with more contemporary methods. Assault on Precinct 13 is a tense, tightly constructed series of action and escalating tension and Carpenter quickly establishes his characters without wasting time upon unnecessary exposition. It is a narrative designed to quickly grab your attention and hold onto it for 90 minutes. (It should be noted, Carpenter used the pseudonym of John T. Chance for his film editor’s credit, which was the name of John Wayne’s character in Rio Bravo).

As a director, Carpenter wrapped up principle shooting in just 20 days, an unmistakable success, given the lack of experience behind the camera. Of all of Carpenter’s films, Assault has one of the strongest social commentaries, and Carpenter allows the film to manipulate the audience’s emotions without insulting their intelligence. There is no mistaking the modern racial and sexual moral codes of behaviour encoded in this ultra-gritty, urban siege thriller. The Street Thunder Gang are no different than the zombies in Romero’s classic, and the occupants held up within the police station are forced to fight side by side, regardless of age, sex or race.

As a composer, Carpenter’s moody synthesizer sounds are minimalist but bleak. The music is simple, but suits the steady pacing and is incredibly effective in helping ratchet up the tension. Reunited with Douglas H. Knapp, his cinematographer on Dark Star, Assault also features superb photography which does a fine job in absorbing the space of the location and allowing the camera itself, to appear as the point of view of an additional occupant. Assault on Precinct 13 is a masterclass in tight, tense low-budget action filmmaking, where not a single frame is wasted in conveying suspense and drama. Even in the earlier scenes which run longer than necessary, by design, generate a seductive air of impending doom. Assault is lean, sometimes shocking, tense, taut, and ranks as a cult action classic. This is essential viewing for anyone tracing the career of John Carpenter.

– Ricky D

Written By

Some people take my heart, others take my shoes, and some take me home. I write, I blog, I podcast, I edit, and I design websites. Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Goomba Stomp and Tilt Magazine. Host of the Sordid Cinema Podcast and NXpress Nintendo Podcast. Former Editor-In-Chief of Sound On Sight, and host of several podcasts including the Game of Thrones and Walking Dead podcasts, as well as Sound On Sight. There is nothing I like more than basketball, travelling, and animals. You can find me online writing about anime, TV, movies, games and so much more.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Facebook

Trending

Godzilla vs. Gigan Rex Godzilla vs. Gigan Rex

Godzilla vs. Gigan Rex Review: One of Godzilla’s Finest Recent Outings

Culture

Lost Bullet 2 Lost Bullet 2

Lost Bullet 2 Delivers The Finest of Vehicular Mayhem

Film

Greatest Film Noir Movies Greatest Film Noir Movies

Noirvember: 50 Greatest Film Noir Movies Part 1

Culture

Long-Awaited 5-25-77 is a Coming-of-Age Triumph 

Film

Noirvember: 50 Greatest Film Noir Movies Part 2 Noirvember: 50 Greatest Film Noir Movies Part 2

Noirvember: 50 Greatest Film Noir Movies Part 2

Culture

Blockbuster, photo via Netflix Blockbuster, photo via Netflix

Blockbuster: Netflix’s Latest Workplace Comedy Misses the Mark

Culture

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Personifies A Duel for the Ages

Culture

Good Night Oppy Provides Cheer From Another Planet 

Film

Streaming services Streaming services

Streaming Wars and Streaming Headaches

Culture

Prince Namor The Submariner Prince Namor The Submariner

Who is Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner in Wakanda Forever?

Culture

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio movie review Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio movie review

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio Breathes New Life into the Classic Fable

Culture

Netflix's The Watcher Netflix's The Watcher

Netflix’s The Watcher (2022) and Thoughts on Ambiguous TV Mystery Endings

TV

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) review Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) review

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a Flawed but Worthy Follow-Up

Film

my house walk-through my house walk-through

11 Unsettling Short Horror Films to Creep You Out This Halloween

Film

A Dickensian Disaster: Spirited is a Practically Unwatchable Take on A Christmas Carol

Film

Philadelphia Film Festival Philadelphia Film Festival

2022 Philadelphia Film Festival Feature Roundup

Film

Connect