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The Films of John Carpenter

Dark Star

Assault on Precinct 13 (March 16/18)

Written and directed by John Carpenter, Assault on Precinct 13 details the violence that ensues after a gang of armed thugs attack a soon-to-be-closed police station (which is occupied by cops and civilians alike). It's perhaps not surprising to note that Carpenter does a superb job of immediately capturing the viewer's attention, as Assault on Precinct 13 is rife with the various touchstones one has come to expect from the prolific filmmaker - including a memorable, self-composed score and a decidedly distinctive visual sensibility. (The movie fares especially well in terms of the latter, as Carpenter delivers a sun-drenched, spare landscape that seems almost post-apocalyptic at times.) It's clear that the movie is at its best within its deliberately-paced first half, as Carpenter does a superb job of cultivating an atmosphere of palpable suspense - with this vibe heightened by a series of tense subplots and digressions (including the now-notorious fate of a little girl looking for an ice cream cone). Once the titular siege rolls around, however, Assault on Precinct 13 has disappointingly morphed into a watchable yet far-from-engrossing actioner devoid of electrifying moments (ie the action is decent but, generally speaking, not terribly involving). The dearth of compelling, three-dimensional characters perpetuates the arms-length vibe, certainly, and it's clear that the film's violent climax is ultimately unable to pack the punch that Carpenter has obviously intended - which does, in the end, confirm Assault on Precinct 13's place as a seriously erratic early effort from an otherwise masterful filmmaker.

out of

Halloween

Someone's Watching Me! (June 21/17)

Someone's Watching Me! casts Lauren Hutton as Leigh Michaels, a TV news producer who comes to the realization that she's being stalked by an increasingly sinister figure. It's clear immediately that the biggest hindrance to Someone's Watching Me!'s success is Hutton herself, as the actress delivers a painfully, obnoxiously over-the-top performance that remains a total distraction from start to finish - with the viewer's efforts at connecting to her character's plight, as a result, falling completely flat. There's little doubt, then, that it's John Carpenter's stylish direction that prevents the picture from becoming an all-out bore, as the green filmmaker injects the overly-familiar proceedings with appreciative bursts of style and it's clear immediately that Carpenter has been heavily influenced by Alfred Hitchcock's body of work (the North by Northwest-like open credits, the Rear Window-esque storyline, etc, etc). And although the climax is admittedly better than one might've anticipated - it's genuinely suspenseful and exciting - Someone's Watching Me! proves to be such a tough slog for much of its brief running time that periodic highlights like that are essentially (and ultimately) rendered moot.

out of

Elvis

The Fog

Escape from New York

The Thing

Christine

Starman

Big Trouble in Little China

Prince of Darkness

They Live

Memoirs of an Invisible Man

In the Mouth of Madness

Village of the Damned

Escape from L.A.

Vampires

Ghosts of Mars

The Ward

© David Nusair