Thursday, October 27, 2016

Horror Countdown 2016: Escape from New York (1981)

Escape from New York (1981) dir. John Carpenter, AVCO Embassy Pictures/International Film Investors/Goldcrest Films International

Maybe not a proper horror film, but Carpenter's 1981 thriller is just too good to ignore.  

1988-crime has skyrocketed 400%. The utterly bankrupt city of New York has been transformed into a maximum security prison, with the bridges mined and the rivers patrolled. The only rule: once you go in, you don't go out.

1997-the President of the United States (Donald Pleasence) is flying to a peace summit between the US, China, and the Soviet Union when the plane is taken over by hijackers. The plane is forced down right into the middle of Manhattan. The United States Police Force is mobilized, but Police Commissioner Bob Hauk (Lee Van Cleef) is forced to retreat. The President is captive by the criminals living in the city, and unless they want the Vice-President promoted they had better leave. There is another problem too; the President has with him a very special tape containing information vital to the summit. If they don't get it back within 24 hours the other players go home and the world goes down the toilet.

Hauk has a plan though, in the form of recently arrived convict Snake Plisskin (Kurt Russell). Snake's been sentenced to NYC for robbing the Federal Reserve, but if he can get the President out within 22 hours he'll get a full pardon. Snake, at length, agrees. Hauk's no fool though, and has Snake injected with two pellets filled with explosive set to go off in 22 hours, hence the time limit.

Gliding into the city, Snake tracks the President with a handy tracker, only to find George "Buck" Flower. A helpful cabbie (Ernest Borgnine) drives Snake to the Brain (Harry Dean Stanton) who turns out to be an old friend of Snake. Pity that Snake hates his old friends, especially ones who run out on jobs. Brain does have some info though, so Snake doesn't put a bullet in his head or through his gal Maggie (Adrienne Barbeau). The President has been captured by the Duke of New York (Isaac Hayes), so it should be easy enough to slip in and rescue the old bird, right?

John Carpenter knocks it out of the park. Every role is perfectly cast. The visuals, the music, everything just clicks. Easily one of Carpenter's best films and I think of the best films of the 1980's.

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