The credits roll before the movie. Names I don't recognize. Music by John Carpenter... written by John Carpenter! There's a name I do recognize. Eighties vibe. Dark. Groovy. A set of characters sneaking onto the stage, a brick wall at their side...
The actipn's a bit toned down compared to the newer one, but in some ways it also feels more authentic. The crooks here are just as merciless as they were in the latter, with a twist: they're crooks. Well technically the big twist in in the new one, but watching these in reverse order as I am...
The story all starts at the old police station: Precinct 13, where our main character sergeant enters the scene and introduces himself. Nearby, a group of crooks shoot down a little girl, but the father chases them down and shoots one of them in desperation, then realizes what he's done and takes refuge in the police station, where everyone is now packing up and getting ready to move... and then the prisoner transport comes in.
The newer version of this movie might have been a bit better in a few areas, not least theatrics, but this one was impressive in its own way. There's a Bomb The Bass Megablast rhythm in the music. Sunshine. Rundown and dusty locales. Old cars. No-name characters all gathered inside a building fighting to stay alive, or get out of there. It shows you really don't need much to build something convincing, and yet the plot's not all linear either with people from all different walks of life coinciding at this one place and uniting in their one final stand. It ties together well.
I think the thing that really makes the menace so perceptible here is how you don't get to see anything from the criminal perspective. They are just there. Or they're not there, in which case the mood quickly gets even more brooding. They don't waste time on unnecessary justification speeches, they just start shooting, and then all is quiet. Silent but deadly.
I realize now that this is something I'm missing in a lot of newer movies, where they often over-explain things. They overact. They tangle themselves into a web of unnecessary dialog and clarification.
This may be budget but it's also free, and merciless! The good old American Seventies. I love the era, and this is one worthy contender from that time. It's one of Carpenter's earliest ones, on a budget, but not bad at all.
rated 4/5: fo shizzle