Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)

Viewed March 7th

The skeleton crew manning a police precinct before its scheduled closing is put under siege by an evil street gang. 

Even in daylight, the world of Assault on Precinct 13 feels dreamlike. As a cop drives through a golden LA sunset on his way to the eponymous police precinct, he hears on the radio of sunspots causing strange problems. Meanwhile, a woman in another car pulls up next to him multiple times, looking at him, paranoid. Hiding out nearby, the leaders of a gang pledge revenge on the police by mixing their own freshly-let blood into a ritual bowl--a gesture straight out of a satanic horror film. Soon afterwards, they shoot a little girl at an ice cream truck--an act more evil than anything that seems normal in a cop & robbers action movie. Through these early scenes, every character is dulled, unconscious, as if they're technically saying things like jokes that fit human behavior, but not quite in the right way. The main cop, included. He's an odd guy--seemingly pleasant, but unconnected to anyone or anything. He is a cop, that is all. As night descends, we sink deeper into the dream. The gang and its endless number of stealthy, voiceless members come in through the windows like monsters. They operate with no logic other than a hazy bloodlust. People we've been introduced to as characters die and others survive, only to be gunned down in the next scene. It's all set to the film's driving, ominous theme music. The silencers on the gang members' guns create an absence. The blood spurts out of the bodies and we feel that, but as an emptiness, a blank spot in which we fall deeper into director Carpenter's noir world of dark, empty rooms. Has there ever been such a (literally) dark film? At one point, a character says we should pinch ourselves to make sure we're not dreaming, and the audience may notice how deep they've gone into this world. The actors are not stars, they don't permit absorption in their lives. Nor are there ideas about what's going on, cognition is not activated. Assault on Precinct 13 doesn't want you thinking, it wants you in the dream grip, in the rhythms and textures of the film. There is no moral order to consider,  all there is is the dream, all there is is to survive the night. When Carpenter moves out of that mode, as he does occasionally vis-a-vis light exposition, Assault on Precinct 13 suffers.