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Q: Is Evil Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral? A: Liquid!,
This review is from: Prince of Darkness (DVD)
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.