Assault on Precinct 13 (1978)

Updated: Mar 12

Review by Kelly


“An unlikely partnership between a Highway Patrol Officer, two criminals, and a station secretary is formed to defend a defunct Los Angeles precinct office against a siege by a bloodthirsty street gang.”

Assault on Precinct 13, the one from 1978 and not the 2005 remake, is written, directed and scored by John Carpenter. It is known as one of JC’s best work and one I hadn’t seen yet. I thought I would stick with his horror work this month, but there aren’t any left I haven’t seen! Since I enjoyed Escape from New York, I thought I should give this one a whirl.


The film opens with a gang of men being killed by police officers. We are then introduced to a few characters in the film through individual stories that all lead to Precinct 13. Sadly, it’s closing down which then leaves a desolate building populated with a few remaining employees with little to no security. Lieutenant Bishop (the star of the movie, Austin Stoker), leads a band of secretaries and criminals to fight against a gang, which has followed a man that killed one of their own to the relatively empty precinct. It’s time for avenging the deaths of everyone! Oddly enough, and culturally speaking, the gang is a mixture of races (and titled so in the end credits under names like “Oriental Warlord”, yikes) and all of them are men. They are/is a ”cholo” which means in the movie that they have taken a blood oath (which we witness), and they aren't afraid to die. They will stop at nothing to take down the cops (and everyone else) who killed their friends at the beginning of the movie. However, the internet is telling me that a “cholo” is either a derogatory word for a mixed race person or a person with Mexican or Hispanic descent. As the gang increases in numbers, they descend onto the precinct, killing many people, including Laurie Strode’s beloved friend, Nancy Loomis (or Annie, as we know her).


I was so thankful and happy to watch this movie because it was so fantastic. After the two other duds in JC’s filmography (The Ward and Ghosts of Mars), I was thrilled to find one I enjoyed. Carpenter is in absolute top form with his score and direction in this movie. It’s shot wonderfully with that gritty 70s look and feel. It was tense and compelling. There was a moment outside of the ice cream truck that made me gasp out loud as I really wasn’t expecting that to happen! It seems that I can still even be shocked. The imagery of these cold, remorseless, killing machines coming towards the building is actually quite terrifying. At first, I thought that the women in the movie, the two secretaries, were pretty useless which was really a downer but it turns out they both were pretty ruthless! Leigh, played by Laurie Zimmer, was a fantastic character but with very odd, monotone acting. She fought alongside the men (cops and criminals) and took a bullet to the arm without saying a word. I really enjoy, overall, the premise of cops and criminals fighting together to stay alive as you never know if the criminals are going to betray everyone. Even in Ghosts of Mars….


Sometimes branching out and watching a well-done action movie really hits the spot and I am really glad that I checked out Assault on Precinct 13. If you still haven’t gotten around to seeing it, do yourself a favor and watch it. Afterward, tell me what you think!


Next up Dark Star….

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