Following up the bizarre Dark Star, John Carpenter turned to a low budget police action movie, Assault on Precinct 13. The movie has more in common with a zombie film, as a raving mad band of gang members descend onto a soon to be closed police station for revenge. The wooden acting hurts, but the intensity of the action is unrelenting.
John Carpenter spares no one here, and during the somewhat long build-up, there are multiple chances to avoid the entire situation. When watching, you have go back in your head and see the mistakes that were made by the characters that lead to the eventual shootout scenes.
A group of inmates, cops, secretaries, and civilians end up inside a police station scheduled for closure in the morning. With limited supplies and a seemingly endless supply of gang members barreling down on top of them, they’re forced to stick together to figure a way out. The scenario is familiar, though it’s not typically done in this manner.
While the gang members are well-equipped, they’re not terribly intelligent. Repeated attempts to climb through the windows of the station lead to a countless number of them killed. It takes away from the otherwise realistic feel of the action, a credit to a movie not striving for realism.
Music dates Assault, as do the stock sound effects, which have more to do with the budget than anything. Still, there’s a hard edge to the action that even the cheesy sound effects can’t ruin. The growing tension of never knowing where the enemy is coming from makes for some great cinema, and the heavy gore adds to the proceedings.
Assault was fondly remembered enough to spawn a sequel which took liberties with the story. That said, both are fun for their own reasons and worth watching. For its style and intensity though, the original is the slightly better version even without the flashier style of its 2005 update.
With a low budget comes a transfer that represents the cost involved. Muddy, dirty, and filled with print imperfections, some scenes become hard to make out. The softness of the transfer denies the viewer much of the detail, and the colors seem to have faded with time. Black levels show no depth, and since most of the film takes place at night, this becomes a problem.
Muffled sound, presented in a stereo mix, doesn’t offer much. Bass is non-existent, and fidelity is low. All dialogue is audible, and it makes this mix serviceable if nothing else.
The disc cuts right to a chapter selection, and offers no extras or a main menu. (No stars)