on June 30, 2004
An ancient evil has awakened, and it is in liquid form! Father Loomis (Donald Pleasance) receives a key from another, now deceased, priest, and with this key opens himself up to a whole new realm of knowledge that the Roman Catholic church has kept secret for quite some time now. Father Loomis enlists the aid of a brilliant physicist, Prof. Howard Birack (Victor Wong), and some of his graduate students to help him unravel this archaic mystery. Without knowing exactly what they are getting themselves into, several experts in the fields of chemistry, biology, and ancient texts set out to investigate the undisclosed enigma.
Deep within the sanctuary of a run down church lies a dirty little secret few know about. The Prince of Darkness, son of the devil himself, is being held captive in liquid form, and is guarded by only a few lucky priests and nuns. However, the time has come for the Prince to awaken and bring forth his father to wreak havoc. As the Prince, and thus his father, gains his strength, many of the more weak-minded are turned to do the biding of the dark lord. The zombie and bug counts rise as the plot thickens, and this group of science professors and students are in a race against time to stop the forces of evil from inflicting their ill will on the unsuspecting public.
Unfortunately, this film tends to be hidden in the shadows behind Carpenter's more famous "Halloween" and "The Thing." However, that does make this film all that much more of a gem. This is truly one of his great cinematic accomplishments, complete with his own score, a great cast, and stellar effects for the time. The characters are fairly well developed, yet Carpenter manages to accomplish this without dwelling on this aspect of the film. Instead, he submerges the viewer into the intrigue and story line, which there is plenty of.
The plot is completely original, which is something hard to come by in this particular genre. Though Carpenter enlists certain elements that may be stereotypical, such as the Romero-esque zombies and the notion of all-encompassing evil attempting to over-take good, Carpenter adds his own unique twists. One thing that's absolutely superb with regards to this film is that it never devolves into a gore or suspense filled vacuum, completely devoid of meaning. Hidden within the blatant horror facets are religious undertones as well as a love story. Though it may seem that this would not work well for a film of this genre, Carpenter pulls it off as only a horror master could. Interspersed throughout the film one can also find excellently cheesy comic relief, mostly in the form of poor jokes presented by Walter (Dennis Dun).
All in all this movie happens to be one of my favorite films, by one of my favorite directors. Thought the DVD is completely bereft of extras, I highly recommend this film to any fan of the genre!
on December 18, 1999
One of John Carpenter's last truly great movies, made before he lost his touch and began cranking out dreck like "In the Mouth of Madness" and "Vampires."
Not surprisingly this film tanked at the box office when released way back in 1987. It's script, a heady mix of quantum physics, religious doctrine, and questions about the origins of Christ and Satan, challenges everything viewers think they know about God, the Devil, and Man. But true horror film fans will appreciate it's intelligent script about Satan's return to earth and his attempts to bring along something even worse than him.
What could possibly be worse than Satan? Buy the movie and find out. You won't be dissappointed.
At its core, "Prince" is an old-fashioned horror film. A group of people, in this case, college grad students, their professor, and an emotionally shattered priest, are trapped in an old spooky place(a church) with something horrible. But the script's deft mix of science and secret scripture lifts it above cliche. Carpenter's skillfull direction creates a sense of claustrophobic tension that makes you feel as if you're in the movie.
There are few directors who can create this sense of menace even in daylight scenes but Carpenter pulls it off. The film's first scene establishes a sense of escalating dread that spirals into full blown terror by the movie's final moments.
You'll also be thinking about the film's bone-chilling last scene long after you've hit the rewind button.
on October 21, 2003
John Carpenter's "Prince of Darkness" is vintage Carpenter and one of the Master's greatest and most underrated outings, serving up a masterfully ghoulish, take-no-prisoners, heavy on the red sauce and liquefied pure green Evil little howler of a horror movie.
Consider "Prince of Darkness" as a fine Carpenterian wine (a merlot, of course---a deep *red* merlot), well aged---after all, 1987 was a good year, and this film is a fine vintage. The bouquet? Rich and heady, a fine distillation of "Assault on Precinct 13" and "The Thing." With that in mind, let's pop the cork on "Prince of Darkness".
When the last, venerable priest of an ancient and mysterious Catholic order dies, Father Loomis (played with aplomb by the great Donald Pleasence---possibly playing the brother of Mike Myer's shrink?), sent to gather the priest's effects and secure his crumbling parish church, discovers something green, liquid and nasty bottled up in the church basement, and it's not detergent.
Father Loomis calls in a team of physics students and linguistic researchers, who begin to suspect something Evil is afoot in the church basement, and It has plans of its own. Let the Smackdown commence!
In this corner: A team of physics grad students led by Parker Jameson (A.J. Simon from the TV series "Simon and Simon, of course!) and veteran character actor Victor Wong (from Carpenter's other camp classic "Big Trouble in Little China", here hamming it up and chewing scenery with furious abandon and with the help of a spooky eye), and of course with Pleasence bringing in the ecclesiastical heavy weapons.
AND in this Corner: Evil, incarnate as puke-green liquid encased in a translucent cylinder in the base of a decrepit L.A. church, and its zombified homeless minions, who are in turn led by Alice Cooper with extra ghoul make-up. Welcome to my nightmare, indeed!
As silly as all of it might sound, Carpenter has made a nasty, atmospheric, stylish and grippingly effective little horror movie, one that still disturbs me when I watch it---this is not a movie for the fainthearted. But more to the point, it's loads of fun; just look what you get---
*The Ultimate Evil---in a Can! It spews, it congeals, it defies gravity, and it infects its victims and makes them behave badly, right down to belching and personal remarks. This is nasty stuff, folks!
*Donald Pleasence, Jameson Parker, AND Victor Wong in the same movie---and all over-acting (which in itself should bring about the end of the world)!
*Some of the most merciless, nasty kills this side of "The Thing"---including death by cockroach swarm and my personal favorite, death by Bicycle (chain that thing, son)!
*Zombified homeless people, including a creepy-crawly Alice Cooper and a nice turn by veteran character actor Joanna Merlin (what's...that....in her alms cup?)!
*A trademark extra-creepy crawly Soundtrack composed by John Carpenter!
*Sexy physics grad-student pick-up lines and a happening romance between Parker and heroine Lisa Blount!
If I'm making this sound more campy than horrifying, then I don't mean to, because "Prince of Darkness" is Carpenter at his very best: sure some of the acting is a little raw (but remember: if you can afford lots of b-movie actors, you get more gory kills!), but the editing, sleek cinematography (by first-timer Gary Kibbe, who went on to become a regular Carpenter crew-member), and sleazy set design come together to underscore the film's subtext of Evil as dry-rot.
This is a brutal, relentlessly gory, and completely merciless little horror movie that doesn't pull any punches, and it does a fine job of painting its bleak, genuinely malignant atmosphere. There are some truly nasty touches here that will stay with you long after the credits roll: for instance, the 'radio broadcasts' (from another dimension? from the future?) gave me the crawls. If you like your Ultimate Evil with a side-order of nuclear physics, then "Prince of Darkness" is certain not to disappoint.
Thanks in large part to the frenetic efforts of John Carpenter, the horror film medium flourished anew in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Few fans of the genre need a reminder that Carpenter directed the classic "Halloween," an independent film that went on to great success and eternal status as a cult classic. While the tale about the merciless Michael Myers certainly didn't invent the slasher film (look back to Mario Bava's classic "Twitch of the Death Nerve" to see an earlier effort), it influenced many others to carry the torch in the following years. Carpenter's recent films just don't compare with his early fright fests. That's a darn shame, but for horror aficionados, watching the troika of "Halloween," "The Fog," and "The Thing" will always deeply satisfy. I suspect the last truly effective film Carpenter directed was "Prince of Darkness" in 1987. When I first watched this film shortly after it came out, I didn't enjoy it, but a recent viewing swept away all of my prior distastes for the film. I don't know why my thoughts about this movie have changed, but I now consider it a phenomenal effort easily comparable to this director's early work.
Something of unfathomable evil resides in the basement of a decrepit church in downtown Los Angeles, an object of such vast terrors that the mere thought of its existence makes one's flesh crawl and soul shudder. For Father Loomis (Donald Pleasence), the secrets of this object suddenly intrude on his consciousness when the last member of an enigmatic secret society called the Brotherhood of Sleep dies. Loomis finds the man's diary and learns part of the truth concerning this object. In order to discover more, the priest writes a letter to renowned quantum physicist Professor Howard Birack of the Doppler Institute in an effort to secure his services. Wong readily complies, bringing with him several of his best graduate students. Accompanying the good professor are a few other specialists, namely in the fields of chemistry and ancient languages. None of the students know exactly what is going on at first until the truth makes itself known in particularly gruesome ways.
It turns out that the evil object in question is a dark canister containing some inky substance in a perpetual state of flux. Ominous clues about this fluid pop up with frightening regularity. One of the students learns there is a lock on the inside of the canister, certainly one of the last places such a device would be under normal circumstances. Moreover, a computer scan of the fluid reveals a plethora of unknown mathematical equations. The ancient language student studies a massive tone found in the canister's chamber and makes frequent heart stopping pronouncements about what she finds. The secrets uncovered about the canister are shocking, providing an entirely alternate account of Satan, Jesus Christ, and the nature of evil. Additionally, the dark fluid looks as though it is about to wake up somehow, an awakening with dire results for the hapless band of students roaming around the abandoned church. To make matters worse, a gang of zombie-like homeless people gathers in silence around the outside of the building. Anyone who attempts to leave the church dies especially gruesome deaths, such as the disbelieving student who disintegrates into a mass of roaches or another escapee who meets his bloody end with a bicycle. The situation inside isn't much better as the fluid infects several students who then promptly murder their companions. The ultimate evil is horribly close to spreading into the outer world, and it is up to this unlikely band of heroes to save the planet.
"Prince of Darkness" works because it is an attempt at a cerebral foray into the world of horror. Perhaps some people will not appreciate the heavy reliance on physics here, but I found it quite refreshing when mixed with some nice, down to earth gore effects. The performances worked as well, especially Donald Pleasence as the frightened Father Loomis (perhaps he is the twin brother of Pleasence's character in "Halloween," Dr. Sam Loomis?) and Victor Wong as the incredulous professor. The conversation these two have about the underlying scientific principles of the object is massively entertaining even if it is complete malarkey (actually, I don't know if this stuff is malarkey or not since I know nothing about quantum physics). As for the students, we spend most of the time learning about the burgeoning relationship between Brian Marsh (Jameson Parker) and Catherine Danforth (Lisa Blount). I always frown on the obligatory love interest elements of a horror movie, and I did the same here even though it is necessary for us to care about Danforth due to her heroism at the end of the film. But, if I had to list just one factor I liked best about the film, it would definitely be the weird dream about the dark figure emerging through that doorway that everyone in the church seems to have at one point or another. This creepy effect takes on an even greater sense of dread when we learn about its possible origins.
"Prince of Darkness" is definitely an oddity as far as horror pictures go, but it is a must see for John Carpenter fans as well as those viewers who appreciate films that require you to think. The DVD release could have possessed some decent extras, but at least the picture quality is good. The movie may be a little off putting at first due to heavy scientific themes and occasional bouts of confusion. Give it a chance, though, because you may be presently surprised with the results.
on October 12, 2013
Prince of Darkness, like so many John Carpenter films is criminally underrated. It is not up there with Carpenter's greatest like The Thing, The Fog, In the Mouth of Madness, Halloween, etc., but it is still a fantastic horror film. The story is very imaginative; it has a great cast, a great premise, decent effects, and a great atmosphere. I will say that this is probably one of the most imaginative horror films I've seen. The story is reminiscent of many horror films involving the Devil like The Omen. However, out of all the films I have seen like that this film is the best and definitely the most imaginative. In my opinion, this film is better than films like The Omen or The Exorcist, but those films get all the praise in the universe while this film gets ignored.
The plot is fairly complicated and confusing if you do not pay attention. A priest named Father Loomis (Donald Pleasance) finds a mysterious canister filled with ooze in the basement of a n old church. We find out that this ooze is actually the essence of Satan himself. Loomis brings in a team of scientists to study the canister. The ooze eventually gets loose and turns everyone into zombies one by one. While that is happening it seems like people are being possessed and tuned into zombies on the outside world as well. Soon a whole mob of zombies surrounds the church and prevents them from escaping. Satan intends to possess a body in order to free his father who is deemed Anti-God. The survivors must defeat Satan before the apocalypse happens.
The film is very imaginative and has very unique ideas especially compared to today. Today's horror films consist of remakes, sequels, torcher-porns, sequels, basic slashers, and lame found-footage films. One of the things I really like about John Carpenter is that he has many unique ideas and is not afraid to see them through. He tells the stories he wants to tell instead of making movies that focus groups want to see.
The film has a great cast. You have the late Donald Pleasance (R.I.P.), Victor Wong, Jameson Parker, and Dennis Dun. They all do great work. The film has a terrific atmosphere which is helped by a fantastic score. John Carpenter can not only write good stories, but he can also compose great scores like nobody's business. The effects are pretty good for 1987 and some scenes were pretty creepy.
Overall, Prince of Darkness is a highly underrated horror flick. It has great performances, great atmosphere, amazing score, intriguing premise, great effects, and much suspense and fun. If you have not seen it yet then go give it a look.
on June 21, 2013
Atmospheric and thought provoking, PRINCE OF DARKNESS is a unique experience, a narrative wherein hard science collides with religious dogma. Donald Pleasence once again brings his A-game to a Carpenter vehicle, with Lisa Blount and Jameson Parker convincing in their roles as graduate students examining a container of liquid. And what exactly is that liquid, and why is it affecting changes in the environment and people in its immediate vicinity? A classic, standing shoulder to shoulder with HALLOWEEN and THE THING, in this reviewer's opinion.
on February 6, 2005
Prince of Darkness is messy. It's all over the place and reminded me a bright kid who refuses to apply himself in school. The talent is there, the skills are there but it doesn't quite come together. However, the good parts of Prince are darn near brilliant.
Here's the good stuff:
Dennis Dun, as the one of the students. The scene where he finds himself trapped in a closet while the antichrist wakes up is priceless. Dunn reacts just like a normal person would. He freaks out and is actally saved in part becuase of that hysteria.
Donald Plesence as Father Loomis. Father Loomis is scared to death and does what most audience members would do if confronted with the devil and zombies. He hides. He spends the second half of the movie avoiding trouble and finally when he finally gets his courage up it's wonderful.
Victor Wong as the professor. Wong is just plain great all the time. His character is basicly Van Helsing by way of China.
The possessed street people. They were quite scary and Alice Cooper's message never fails to provide a jump in your seat moment.
The music. The soundtrack is excellent and keeps you on edge.
The "you will not be saved" scene. The next time you see someone intently typing you might be tempted to walk on by without calling attention to yourself.
The ending. C'mon, admit it. You didn't expect that, now did you?
Here's the bad stuff:
The heroine is bland. I didn't care about this girl one bit and since a major plot twist rests on her shoulders that a flaw.
The "hero" is Jameson Parker (He played the preppy brother on Simon and Simon). He's so laid back and slow that it's like watching rice pudding dry up. Plus that mustache was silly looking. The hero can not look like a dork unless it's a comedy.
The students. They're all supposed to be brilliant but they behave as stupidly as the kids from Jeepers Creepers.
The devil. The monks have had the devil trapped in a glass tube for centuries. This means that some monk without the aid of TV, modern science or computers or any of the stuff our heroes use managed to catch Old Scatch and keep him in goo form all this time. Plus, we later see that he has fingers like a deformed Mickey Mouse. Oh. Obviously it's not Victor Wong and the Scooby gang that's needed. Father Loomis should've found a little old monk who was prepared to get medieval.
The plot. I love John Carpenter but this plot is full of holes and just seems sloppily thrown togehter.
So there you have it. Prince of Darkness is highly flawed but it has some really creepy scares.
on April 16, 2016
Director John Carpenter returned to low-budget horror and complete creative control with this intriguing attempt at intellectual chills. Donald Pleasence stars as Father Loomis, a Catholic priest charged with investigating a book, key and other cryptic clues left behind by a fellow priest who passed away. In the basement of a decaying Los Angles church, Loomis finds a cylinder that seems to be holding a green energy force inside. A physics professor, Edward Birack (Victor Wong), is intrigued by Loomis' discovery and brings a team of grad students to the church for a weekend study and analysis session. They learn that the energy is the son of Satan, preparing to unlock himself and bring his evil father back from an other-dimensional prison. As an army of possessed vagrants (led by Alice Cooper) assemble outside the church to prevent anyone from leaving, the team members begin having the same dream, which turns out to be a horrific transmission from the future.
on August 30, 2014
You can call it whatever you want. You can point out that it's got Alice Cooper and the guy from the SIMON & SIMON TV show. You can question it. Does evil really live in a septic tank in a church in South Central Los Angeles? Yes, its got goofy stuff. But it's also REALLY creepy and unsettling. The obtuse nature of how the story unfolds is part of that atmosphere.
I saw it in theaters when I was in High School, and I remember I could not shake that image of the 'dream message' from the future... Had Satan won? CREEPY! One of my favorite Carpenter movies. The Blu ray is well done and looks great in its 2.35:1 Scope ratio. If you didn't see it in theaters, odds are you saw the Pan & Scan version that loses 40% of the image. The images are meticulously crafted, so treat yourself and see the Blu ray.
on June 15, 2013
I first watched this movie as a teenager and wow! It did scare me, but not because of the gore or special effects. This is a story based movie that predates films like Event Horizon, and The Sixth Sense. The depiction of the esoteric and mystical interpretation of possible scientific principals is very compelling. Is is possible that it is this kind of story that has inspired such recent books as Dan Brown's Langdon novels (Angels and Demons, The Da Vinci Code and, The lost Symbol), The ultimate message is the search for truth even if that leads to the need to fight a foe of incalculable strength and knowledge. As mentioned the special effects are not the greatest by today's standards but still hold up considering the time frame that the movie was produced. There are references to Noetic science which has been around for awhile, based on such theories, as Heisenberg's uncertainty principal, as well as many religious and philosophical disciplines. Overall the film is well paced and contains significant substance for those who like stories with scientific and theologically based aspects. A twist