Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) horror maestro John Carpenter’s tale of an retired and near abandoned precinct’s final hours and its desperate final battle against an increasingly deadly street gang seeking revenge and retribution for their fallen brethren is a tense film made even more memorable by its near perfect casting and solid acting.
As with all Carpenter’s body of works it is accompanied by a tremendous score; laying the groundwork for his excellent Halloween (1978) score which is one of the most atmospheric and well used scores in film. Assault’s simple rhythmic use of repetition encapsulates the growing tension inside the police station forcing the viewer to be for lack of a better term assaulted both visually and aurally as the story unfolds.
The main theme is atypical of the synth work used through his catalogue but here it is almost used as a character, urging the viewer to sense the coming threat as a metronome slowly sticks with a simple pulsing drum developing before morphing into a richer accompaniment becoming lodged into your brain ready to be manipulated as the film unfolds, a thing that Carpenter does throughout.
Track Division 13 is another variation of the theme but this song personally embodies the cop movie sound, it feels perfect when its played on screen with the action and routine of a police officers duty. This wouldn’t feel out of place in any 70s buddy cop film.
As this is one of the early Carpenter scores mainly due to budget constraints it fundamentally lays down much of the groundwork that he would later use on all his films alongside Alan Howarth making this and excellent entry level soundtrack for any Carpenter aficionado to devour to appreciate the thought and effort that is put into making a score.
The music in this film is as much a character as any of the actors and the prompts given in subtle uses add an incredible depth to some of the harder to stomach scenes, the ice cream van shooting is a perfect example of this childish jingle is played from the van as the main themes pulsing drums are underlaid setting up something sinister before stopping abruptly allowing relief from the tension only to rise again sharper and more threatening aurally as the threat on screen also develops.
The use of negative sound is as much a part of the soundtrack as the actual score and again shows great talent and passion that Carpenter has in creating these minimal yet masterful electronic scores.
The UK based recording label Death Waltz Records have released the full score on “vanilla Twist” (a beautifully ironic joke and one of the films most heart wrenching scenes) white and red splatter 180G Vinyl, accompanied by excellent artwork from Jay Shaw and extensive liner notes from Austin Stoker, Clint Mansell, fangoria’s Chris Alexander and John Carpenter himself making this an essential release to own.
Near perfection and the meat, bones and soul of every one of carpenter’s subsequent scores are embodied here in its rawest fashion waiting for them to mature and develop over his illustrious career.