He went from being one of the masters of horror (''Halloween,'' ''The Thing'') to putting out loads of horrifyingly bad movies (''John Carpenter's Vampires'' and ''Ghosts of Mars''). But before director John Carpenter turned his attention almost completely to scary fare, he directed Assault On Precinct 13, a tight, tense thriller in which cops and cons join forces in an abandoned police station to fight off a mob of revenge-minded gang members. Sure, the acting (from never-really-heard-from-agains like Austin Stoker and Darwin Joston) is suspect, and certain plot points -- such as the fact that the so-called assault actually takes place at Precinct 9, not 13 -- range from confusing to nonsensical. Still, Carpenter's eerie score and Douglas Knapp's stylish cinematography give this low-budget shoot-out all the weight of an urban ''Rio Bravo'' (although it should be noted no one here is named Stumpy or Feathers). And trust me, you'll never look at an ice cream truck the same way again.