Prince of Darkness is another film by John Carpenter. UMU’s Rob takes a look at this next John Carpenter film in his weekly series, “Sunday’s with…”
I would just like to take a moment and thank everyone who has read, shared, or posted my previous editions. The support has been great and I truly appreciate it. With the sappy stuff out of the way, ramblers let’s keep rambling…
PRINCE OF DARKNESS
Release Date: October 23, 1987
Run Time: 101 minutes
Starring: Donald Pleasance
Director: John Carpenter
Robs Score: 6/10
“I’ve got a message for you and you’re not going to like it.”-Wyndham
Prince of Darkness opens with a dying priest clutching an intricate box on his chest. The priest was a member of a secret order known as the Brotherhood of Sleep, and the box housed a key to the basement of a dilapidated church. Donald Pleasance (who portrays a nameless priest) inherits the key and unlocks the mysterious basement door only to find a candle-lit shrine that housed a giant container of green whirling ooze, and a bible that has been re-written in numerous ancient languages. Upon entering the shrine our priest is overwhelmed with a feeling of true evil. The priest contacts Professor Howard Birack in an attempt to understand and test the liquid housed in the basement. Professor Birack brings a team of his finest students, ranging from technicians to physicists to ancient translators, whose goal is to discover what the liquid is, and the effects it can have. As the team arrives at the church, the amount of the homeless gathered outside watching is very noticeable; the evening goes on the numbers highly increase. As the team begins their long weekend of research, strange events start to unfold and the liquid in the container is unleashed, causing terrifying mayhem. Prince of Darkness is the second of Carpenter’s “apocalyptic trilogy”.
Prince of Darkness, in short, is an odd film and that is not necessarily a bad thing. This is a real genre-bending film merging pure satanic and demonic horror with themes of science-fiction. From the start we are presented with the typical tropes of demonic horror films. We have a secretive order of priests, ancient texts, and the impending horror of having the “anti-god” resurrected to conquer the earth. However, what makes this film unique is that these themes are quickly met, and even explained with a heavy scientific approach. Whenever science meets religion we expect the fact vs. faith argument, and this film is no different. We have the devout priest and the secular scientist having a conversation, however it is minor, and that is a breath of fresh air as many films concerning this topic have the same played out argument that rarely causes the viewer to think. Prince of Darkness merges these two different and often stubborn fields of thought: the evil in the basement is real and powerful, but it is powerful because of scientific reasons. Most of the characters in this film accept this quickly and it helps push the movie forward. That being said, there are a lot of sub plots going on here. Aside from the evil destroying the team, we have shared dream experiences, possession, resurrection, swarms of insects and even time travel to a certain extent. Not all of these plot points are smooth throughout and sometimes cause confusion, but in the climax of the film everything is wrapped up.
Prince of Darkness sees Carpenter reuniting with many familiar faces including Donald Pleasance, Victor Wong, and Dennis Dun (the last two we will meet again in a future Sundays with…). The acting is solid and cheesily eighties-tastic all across the board, especially Victor Wong who in my humble opinion was great. We even get a cameo by a certain shock rock legend that gets to commit a pretty awesome impalement.
Carpenter once again takes the musical helm. This is one of his strongest efforts, as the music evolves as the film does. The film starts with the typical bass heavy groove of other Carpenter films (see They Live), but as the story of the film evolves the music becomes much darker and adds hints of church choirs. The music absolutely set the tone of the film. There are several scenes in this film that are visually stunning, namely the climax at the church and the creepy “dream” sequences. Both the prosthetic, monster and even voice effects are done very well, and are actually pretty creepy.
Prince of Darkness opened to poor sales, and even worse reviews, and unlike most other Carpenter films, this one hasn’t reached the level of cult status. This definitely wasn’t Carpenter’s best output however there are a lot of good scenes and effects in there that will still entertain and even creep you out. I wouldn’t call this a classic; however I would absolutely recommend a watch for those who have never seen it, or a re-watch for those who have.