Review : Assault On Precinct 13 (1976)

To celebrate the 40th Anniversary of John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13, Second Sight is releasing a limited edition boxset on November 28th, 2016. When it comes to John Carpenter, who is one of my favorite directors, I am more familiar with his horror films. Halloween, The Thing, They Live…you name it, I’ve probably seen it and loved it ! I had never seen Assault On Precinct 13 so I was quite eager to finally discover it.

An LA gang’s revenge-fuelled killing spree leads them to a half-abandoned police station in the throes of closing down. Under siege with power and phone lines cut, lone cop Ethan Bishop, and his skeleton staff, including two secretaries, recruit a condemned killer from the cells in a desperate battle to survive the night (Source : Aim Publicity).
Assault On Precinct 13 is the film that catapulted John Carpenter into the mainstream which is not surprising since his talent and his style are already very apparent in this (almost) directorial debut. When you hear the first notes of the score, you immediately know you are watching a Carpenter film. In all his films, he finds a unique way to incorporate music into scenes transforming it into a vital element of storytelling. Assault On Precinct 13 is no different as sound plays a major role into creating a tense atmosphere.

The first half of the film focuses on the characters, introducing every single one and giving the viewer all the information needed. The assault actually starts quite late but when it does, you know the main characters by name and you already care enough about them to feel concerned by their fate. I really liked the main trio, especially Bishop (not an android) and Wilson (not a volley ball).

I was pleasantly surprised when the assault on the police station began. The assailants use silencers so despite the chaos happening on screen, it is all very quiet which is quite unsettling. The police station is located in a big city so the assailants’ efforts not to make sound and to go to the extent of hiding the bodies of their victims was a very smart way of creating a sense of isolation for our main characters despite being surrounded by the city life. The entire second act of the film is filled with tension. When the precinct is under attack, you are worried about characters getting shot and when nothing happens, you are worried the calm is just a sign of something terrible happening.

The film is directed by John Carpenter so of course, it is beautifully shot with some amazing ones such as the gun sticking out of the car window or the telephone booth  in a deserted landscape, just to name a few. Assault On Precinct 13 is a very well-made action thriller which relies on its characters rather than mindless action scenes. I highly recommend it.

Second Sight has done an excellent job with the restoration of the film. The 1080p transfer offers a great video and audio quality which allows you to be fully immersed in this fantastic action thriller. The limited edition Blu-ray boxset includes a CD soundtrack and art cards. I especially enjoyed the numerous interviews, especially the Tommy Lee Wallace one which gives a lot of interesting information about the production of Assault On Precinct 13 and working with John Carpenter. But that’s not all as you will find a nice little gem on this disc : John Carpenter’s student film, entitled Captain Voyeur.


One thought on “Review : Assault On Precinct 13 (1976)

  1. This is one of my favourite films. This was the first film after Halloween I saw of John Carpenter’s. I’ve been a fan of his for many years.

    I’m hoping his involvement in the new “Halloween” will bring create some of what made the first in the series so brilliant.

    Thanks for reminding me how grate “Assault On Precinct 13”.


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