Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)

There are two films called Assault on Precinct 13. There’s the 2005 remake and the much better 1976 original that was written and directed by John Carpenter.

This film opens with a police ambush in which a number of gang members are killed. The gang members, being a less than stable bunch, make a blood pact with each other to take revenge. This, after a few detours, leads them to lay siege on Anderson police station — an isolated and lightly staffed station that is due to be closed down the following morning.

And it has to be said that plausibly generating this sense of isolation in the middle of a city like Los Angeles really is an incredible feat on the part of John Carpenter.

There isn’t a lot to the script, but there doesn’t need to be. The sight of a small group of people — a policeman, a couple of criminals, a secretary and a phone operator — trapped and isolated is both gripping and horrific. This is heightened by Carpenter’s score which is deeply unsettling in itself.

As a thriller, Assault on Precinct 13 is as good a demonstration of what this genre is capable as any, and it’s effective today as it ever was. Full of fear, tension and desperation, the film is both unrelenting and utterly gripping as we watch the main characters struggling to cope with the carnage around them and the hopelessness of their situation.

Assault on Pricing 13 is a memorably gripping and genuinely nail biting 90 minutes.