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Assault on Precinct 13

Not really a horror film, but one that often comes up during discussions of George Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), this early Carpenter movie still holds up as one of the director's best works. A low-budget and taut update of the classic Howard Hawks western RIO BRAVO, set in modern-day Los Angeles, the story concerns a lengthy siege by a multiracial street gang on a soon-to-be-closed police station. The gang has murdered a young girl, whose father has run to the station for help. He's is in shock and cannot speak to the lone cop (Stoker) or to the two secretaries (Zimmer and Loomis) waiting for the moving vans to take what's left of the station's file cabinets. Unexpectedly, three death-row prisoners en route to the penitentiary are forced to stop at the precinct. One of the prisoners is sick, and the three inmates are put in holding cells until authorities can contact a doctor. As night falls, the gang attacks in full force, peppering the station with bullets shot from guns with silencers. The gang cuts the electricity and phone lines, rendering the station helpless in the center of the neighborhood. The inmates demand to be let loose so that they can defend themselves and prove to be honorable men. The shadowy photography, great editing, snappy dialogue, and a moody synthesizer score by Carpenter himself make this one of the most successful homages to the Hawks brand of filmmaking--and a very impressive film in its own right. The parallels with Romero's film are obvious (the street gang is reminiscent of Romero's zombies), and Carpenter, who often borrows character names and situations from films and filmmakers he admires, may well have intended it that way.