Rates: * * * 1/2
Why did I watch it? On the classic film watchlist I drew up with fatiekitz.
In the meanest part of LA, a competent cop readies an old station house for closure; the precinct is moving up the street, and he is there to perform the last rites. But a peaceful final night is not on the cards. A desperate stranger arrives, and gang warfare comes with him; shooting a street gang member who murdered his daughter has brought the whole pack after him, and they will not be easily assuaged.
John Carpenter’s ultra low budget action thriller is like a version of ‘Night of the Living Dead’ made with op shop costumes, cardboard, duct tape, and a few mates. Our rag tag crew barricade themselves into the police station, and spend the bulk of the movie repelling wave after wave of street-punk attackers. It’s a classic movie trope, done with an askew sense of style.
The appeal of this film is in its DIY, can-do attitude, and you can feel the enthusiasm radiating out from every scene; clearly a movie made by real movie fans.
Objectively, the film is not super strong, although there are a couple of tense scenes. The murder of the young girl, blown away at point blank range, is genuinely shocking, and the gang’s initial stakeout and shoot up of the police station has a bit of crackle.
But the acting is really pretty bad; we spent some time going through the IMDB filmography of most of the cast, and none of them had careers. And the characters they are playing are just cardboard cutouts; Competent Cop, Smirking Criminal, Office Ditz, Psycho. Carpenter was learning the ropes, on the job.
The film’s modest means show at a few key points as well. The final showdown in the basement, where are two main heroes hide behind a bit of cardboard, is particularly goofy.
But whatever shortcomings the film has, really a fun watch.
This is a bona fide cult classic, and it has got a lot to offer for cult movie fans, including quotable, silly lines, crazy prop guns (my favourite was the pistol with a bazooka sized silencer), and amazing period clothing and hair.
A very hard movie to dislike, and there are legion of 5 star reviews on here to back that claim.