When it comes to John Carpenter, you really can’t go wrong with any of his movies between Halloween and They Live. That was the man in his absolute prime (though a few gems can be found post They Live) and one of his many accomplishments during this ten year span of pure concentrated awesome was Prince of Darkness. While it isn’t one of his best movies produced during this era of his career, leading it to be too often overlooked, it still remains a good movie among great movies.
Prince of Darkness (1987)
After discovering a mysterious demonic artifact hidden in an old abandoned church, Father Loomis (Donald Pleasance… HA!) turns to his old scientist friend, Professor Birack (Victor Wong) for some answers. Professor Birack assembles a team of researchers to study the ancient jar full of pulsating green liquid and what they find isn’t very comforting. Apparently, it is pure concentrated evil which they dub the “Anti God” (no, seriously). The Anti God’s time has finally come and it begins to seep into our reality, coaxing the hopeless into submission and raising the dead into servitude. The researchers have to find some means to prevent the Anti God from setting foot on Earth, lest the world end.
One thing I’ve always liked about John Carpenter movies is that he doesn’t like to screw around. When you pick up a Carpenter flick you can rest easy knowing that it’s gonna cut the crap and get straight to the point. By the end of what may be the longest opening credit sequence in history (I swear, the credits are still going by the ten minute mark), you know exactly where the film is going and the action starts immediately. But while Prince of Darkness doesn’t dilly-dally, there’s still plenty of build-up. Don’t expect the zombies to attack en masse until the one hour mark. Still, there’s lots of weirdness to hold you until then.
Prince of Darkness is a strange movie; in some ways reminding me of The Matrix. I mean that in how it’s constantly bombarding the audience with outrageous theoretical physics and philosophy; spinning yarns about reality perception, light-speed Jesus and tachyon transmitters. Granted, the clumsy pseudo-philosophy isn’t nearly as brutal and obnoxious as any of the stuff in The Matrix trilogy, but it’ll still leave you with a “Wait, what are they talking about again?” lingering in your noggin. The pseudo-philosophy does serve a purpose, though, particularly in regards to the ending.
So far as the horror goes, you’ve got some pretty creepy stuff going on in here. While zombies are zombies and the ones presented in this film aren’t especially impressive, Prince of Darkness isn’t really a zombie movie. Or, at least, they aren’t the crux of the plot. Prince of Darkness is more about Satanic reality-bending, which the zombies just happen to be a part of. One of my favorite scenes involves the corpse of a dead researcher returning to give a message of warning to the remaining heroes before swiftly collapsing into a pile of cockroaches. Freaky. The make-up effects used on the “Anti Virgin Mary” are very impressive, too, with her entire transformation being a pretty gross affair.
The cast assembled for the movie are all nice and fine. The hero of the hour (and forty minutes) is Jameson Parker who plays Brian. Maybe it was the moustache, but he reminded me a bit of Tom Atkins… if, you know, he worked out and was ten years younger. There’s also a supporting cast member in Walter (Dennis Dun) who seems to be the primary source of comic relief. Though he doesn’t overdo it, I didn’t really find any of his antics funny, save for the joke about the Jewish mother and the witch doctor. I gotta remember to use that one.
Donald Pleasance is Donald Pleasance, and that spells “awesome”. I swear, whenever that man screams something it sounds like the most important thing in the world. It doesn’t matter if he’s yelling about an escaped madman, decrying the birth of the Anti God or just ordering his breakfast at McDonalds. When Donald Pleasance raises his voice, everybody listens.
Alice Cooper plays the leading vagrant, which is cool, since the guy looks enough like a zombie without any makeup. Though for all the pimping, “Hey, Alice Cooper’s in this movie!” that I’ve seen going on over the years, he really has a very small presence. Don’t expect him to break out into a “Teenage Frankenstein” music video or anything. But do expect to see him impale some nerdlinger with a bicycle. Sweet.
When it comes to John Carpenter’s decade of glory, no, Prince of Darkness doesn’t rank at the top. I wouldn’t hoist it up alongside The Thing or even Christine. The pseudo-philosophy is a bit stifling and pretentious, and the movie is essentially a gussied-up remake of The Stone Tape, but those issues far from ruin the film. Like I said earlier, Prince of Darkness is just a good movie released during a string of great movies. Nothing wrong with that. And shit, I like it way more than Star Man.