Director – John Carpenter
Cast – Jameson Parker, Donald Pleasence, Lisa Blount, Victor Wong, Dennis Dun, Susan Blanchard, Anne Marie Howard, Ann Yen, Ken Wright, Dirk Blocker, Peter Jason, Jessie Lawrence Ferguson
Release Year – 1987
Reviewed by John of the Dead
This was the only film from John Carpenters prime that I had yet to see, and it being part of his Apocalypse Trilogy (which includes The Thing and In the Mouth of Madness) had me assured that I would enjoy this one. While Prince of Darkness was not as epic as I expected it to be(Carpenter’s work demands high expectations), it is still a damn good watch that despite its very slow pacing and development succeeds on multiple levels thanks to Carpenter’s superb direction.
When the death of an old priest leads to the discovery of a long-held secret hidden in the basement of an abandoned church, a team of physicists are called in to decipher and make sense of the matter. however, this weekend long knowledge trek proves to be a costly one when an evil entity residing in the basement escapes, and brings forth the dawn of an apocalypse brought on by the father of Satan himself, an all-powerful anti-god.
I am not the biggest fan of antichrist themed horror, however religious horror in general has my attention when it involves the secrets of the Church. Thankfully, this antichrist story from John carpenter comes with many creative elements that make for a unique take on the apocalyptic theme. I loved the idea of a priest enlisting the help of a team of physics majors and professionals, and things only become sweeter when they find themselves trapped inside the old church with a powerful entity and nowhere to run from it. I was pretty surprised that the “antagonist” of the film was in the form of a green liquid within the large vial. I was iffy on whether or not the usage of the liquid would come off silly, and while it did seem silly at times the execution of the scenes was dead on and made for some surprisingly good horror. We get plenty of characters thrown in, which was a big aid to the films slow pacing given it provided for more deaths and more carnage. Watching the characters slowly fall victim to the entity’s possessive forces, via the emission of the green substance down the victim’s throat, which I know sounds really wrong, was great and added to the uniqueness of the story. As mentioned earlier, the pacing of this watch is very slow, and some may find fault in that. Personally, I no hate for the film’s slow pace and everlong development thanks to the unique storyline that kept me interested throughout. I did find some fault in the fact that the the main action sequence did not occur until the last 10 minutes of this 102 minute film, but thankfully the story came with enough action scenes thrown in during the long development process to keep my attention from straying. While the biggest balk to many will be the film’s slow pacing, I did find fault in the usage of our three main protagonists. Each was important in their own right, but none of them were used to full potential and would outright disappear at times for long periods of time. This was especially the case with the priest, who was vital to the story but received little screen time, which had me thinking he was mostly there for aesthetics given he was portrayed by horror legend Donald Pleasence.
Vital to any slow building story is good direction, and Carpenter delivers plenty of that. From the get-go his execution is awesome, setting the somber mood that would play out heavily throughout the entire film. The sets used were great, and the old church that serves as the main location for the film was great in providing creepy atmosphere, which carpenter exploited to give us some great horror. It was crazy to see him take simple ideas and get a good jolt out of me at times, which shows that good direction can make just about anything scary, especially the truly haunting dream sequences our protagonists suffer. We get good performances from everyone involved, which I found impressive due to nearly all of our many characters becoming possessed, which required the actors to portray seemingly two different personas, and with pretty good results. While the level of horror n this experience is lower than most of carpenters other works, the horror that we get is great, and he employs awesome live action FX that lead to much pleasure on my end.
Overall, Prince of Darkness is another great watch from the mind of John carpenter. The film is a slow one and takes much time developing, but creative story elements and awesome direction make this a good experience of horror sure to please those who enjoy carpenters work, which is most horror fans.