September 30, 2021

Siege (1983): Like a Punch to the Gut

: Siege (aka: Self Defense)
Director: Paul Donavan, Maura O'Connell
Writer: Paul Donovan
Stars: Tom Nardini, Brenda Bazinet, Daryl Haney
Year: 1983
Length: 84 minutes (Theatrical) / 93 minutes (Extended)
Rating: R
Format Viewed: Severin Films Blu-ray

This is for the extended cut.
I had never heard of this movie prior to Severin announcing they were going to be releasing it on Blu-ray. After one look at the trailer I knew I had to have it. So, after getting it and letting it sit on the shelf for a couple of weeks, my fiancee and I decided to try it out. To say we were unprepared for the experience would be an understatement. Siege lands with the force of a heavy punch to the solar plexus. Even after that initial hit the impact lingers on for some time after the event. Yes, Siege leaves an impact and feels just as, if not more potent than the year it was released.

The story is a simple one and is set with the backdrop of an actual historical event. In 1981 the police in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, went on strike for 42 days. This left the city to be controlled by crime, not unlike the Purge, or as I would imagine. While the police strike is real, I have not done the research to see if any other story elements are based on fact. Whether they are or not, the movie feels real. The story follows a group of far right sociopaths as they raid a gay bar and proceed to murder nearly everyone there. One of the bar patrons manages to escape. He finds refuge in a sparsely populated apartment complex where a group of friends take him in and engage in an all night siege with the sociopaths outside. 

That is all there is to it. Where the movie excels, is in the atmosphere. Siege does an amazing job of building dread and maintaining the suspense. While the motives of those on the outside disgust you, there is also great work done at making those inside the apartment likable. I found myself become truly invested in their lives and their efforts to survive and fight back. 

Siege has a gritty realism to it that is only enhanced by the low budget nature of the production. Everything is played straight, this is not a cult film full of unintentional (or not) laughs or jokes, there is no humor to dissipate the tension. Everything is done to serve the realism of the story. Believe me when I tell you that it does succeed on that level. Siege drew me in and held me in its cold grasp for the duration. I honestly did not expect it to be as good and effective as it was, I really had no idea what to expect. What I got was striking and left a mark behind. 

Rating: 4/5


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