[One of my Buzz18 DVD Reccos]
Film: “Prince Of Darkness” (1987)
Director: “John Carpenter”
Ever seen a horror film you could easily describe as intelligent? Hollywood sci-fi/horror maestro John Carpenter, already well-known for making The Fog, They Live and Vampires delivered a spookfest for the intellectuals when he made Prince Of Darkness (1987). The film is the second installment of Carpenter’s ‘Apocalypse Trilogy’, the first being The Thing and the third being Into The Mouth Of Madness.
Priest Father Loomis (Donald Pleasence) seeks help from Professor Howard Birack (Victor Wong) and some of his students to investigate a mysterious cylinder that contains a constantly swirling, green fluid, in the basement of an abandoned Los Angeles church. The group researches some text found in the basement next to the cylinder, and realise the liquid is Satan. What they also learn is Satan is the spawn of an even more powerful evil force, one that is trapped in another dimension, waiting to come over to this side.
The green liquid is sentient, and produces increasingly complex data that is revealed by computer decoding to include differential equations. Things start getting spooky when the people who desert the group leave the church, but die immediately after. The trapped ones start receiving strange signals and messages, and warnings in the most morbid fashion. The strongest message or warning, comes in the form of a recurring dream everyone who falls asleep has…a shaky video sequence that begins at the gate of the church they are trapped inside, and a mysterious, shadowy figure in black emerging from the front of the church.
Shot in 48 days, Prince Of Darkness was an idea that came to John Carpenter as a result of his having studied theoretical physics and atomic theory.
Although the movie has Carpenter’s signature style, which is showing a bunch of people trapped or outnumbered by evil forces, Prince Of Darkness stands out because it isn’t packed with mindless horror. In fact, there are scientific explanations for all the strange things that are happening, and the story is definitely very convincing.
Transients and zombies surround the abandoned church, and kill those who attempt to escape. The green liquid as the essence of Satan is a great twist to the ‘good vs evil’ subject, and the devil being a part of every single atom is a bloody good idea.
While transients (rocker Alice Cooper is their leader!) killing those who try to escape sounds good, the real fun begins when researchers start missing inside the church. When the group realises someone is missing, they go in search of them, only to discover the ones who go missing end up possessed, overpowered by the green liquid.
John Carpenter assembles a thick cast of people he has previously worked with, to be horrified, possessed and eventually killed. He has not only produced and directed the film, but has also written the screenplay (under an assumed name) and composed the music. And it is the music which creates just the atmosphere that is required while watching this horror classic. The slow pace makes the experience even more gripping and it gets more and more spooky towards the end, and will definitely scare the daylights out of you, especially if you watch it at night. You probably won’t go near a mirror for a long time…
What sets Prince Of Darkness above other horror movies is the excellent premise, and Carpenter’s film will leave you petrified, as you see the main possessed female researcher (the one who gets mysteriously impregnated by demonic powers earlier) use telekinetic powers and throw objects about using mental force.
Prince Of Darkness is a cult horror classic, and despite being terribly underrated, it is the film that cements John Carpenter’s position as a master of his craft in this genre.