Prince Of Darkness
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Master of horror John Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing) directs this terrifying battle between mankind and the ultimate evil.
A group of graduate students and scientists uncover an ancient canister in an abandoned church, but when they open it, they inadvertently unleash a strange liquid and an evil force on all of humanity. As the liquid turns their co-workers into zombies, the remaining members realize they have released the most unspeakable horror of them all. Terror mounts as the team must fight to save the world from a devilish fury that has been contained for over seven million years.
Starring Donald Pleasence (Halloween), Jameson Parker (Simon & Simon), Lisa Blount (Needful Things), rock icon Alice Cooper (Roadie) and Victor Wong and Dennis Dun (both from Carpenters Big Trouble In Little China), this ingenious twist on classical occultism (Science Fiction, Horror And Fantasy Film Review) will scare you witless!
Though regarded by many as one of writer-director John Carpenter's lesser efforts, Scream Factory gives Prince of Darkness the deluxe treatment with this Blu-ray presentation. As with previous releases from the Shout! Factory imprint, the supplemental features on Prince of Darkness are a mix of new material recorded specifically for the disc and extras from previous DVD releases. Chief among the latter is a commentary track featuring Carpenter and veteran character actor Peter Jason (Deadwood), who made his first of seven eventual collaborations with the director on this picture. Carpenter is typically phlegmatic if informative, discussing in detail the initial concepts for the film, as well as its locations, special effects, and his score with Alan Howarth. Carpenter is also quite frank in his opinion of Darkness, which he seems to regard (like many viewers) as somewhat incomprehensible (despite the fact that he wrote it as Martin Quatermass). But his rapport with Jason is enjoyable, and Carpenter provides even more detail on the film's inception and execution in the ten-plus-minute interview segment Sympathy for the Devil, which features, among other comments, the scientific and philosophical origins of the project, as well as his interest in retaining greater control over his work. Rocker Alice Cooper, whose involvement with the film came through his manager, executive producer Shep Gordon (whose company, Alive Films, co-funded the picture as well as Carpenter's They Live and Village of the Damned), is front and center in a lively nine-minute interview piece that focuses on his love for horror movies and his brief acting turn in the picture. Co-composer Alan Howarth gets the spotlight in a ten-minute interview that provides some insight into his musical collaborations with Carpenter, while actor/special effects supervisor Robert Grasmere, who played the doubtful member of the investigative team while also wrangling the massive canister, which apparently leaked on a regular basis, earns his own interview. A segment of Horror's Hallowed Grounds has host Sean Clark revisiting many of the film's locations, including the church and control center (now a movie theater).
The rest of the extras are an interesting mixed bag of promotional material--numerous advertisements and promotional stills, as well as a radio spot and theatrical trailer--and a pair of rare items: the alternate opening from the TV broadcast version, which intimates (in a very obtuse manner) that the events in the film might be a dream, and an Easter Egg (easily found on the bonus menu) that reveals a Q&A session with Carpenter about the picture at a 2012 screening at Screamfest. --Paul Gaita
Sympathy For The Devil: An all-new Interview with Writer/Director John Carpenter
Alice at the Apocalypse: An all-new interview with Actor & Rock Legend Alice Cooper
The Messenger: All-new interview with Actor & Special Visual Effects Supervisor Robert Grasmere
Hell On Earth: A look at the film’s score with Co-Composer Alan Howarth
Horror’s Hallowed Grounds with host Sean Clark
Alternate Opening from TV Version
Original Theatrical Trailer
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Between Big Trouble in little China (1986) and They Live (1988), John Carpenter released The Prince of Darkness (1987), a chilling story that asks the question is the devil a concept created by humans or is it a real, living, breathing entity?
After the death of an elderly priest, one who turns out to be a member of an ancient and once powerful sect within the Catholic Church, a key is found among his meager possessions by Father Loomis (Donald Pleasance). The key unlocks a door within a deserted church, a door that leads to an older area containing a large cylinder with a greenish, swirling liquid. Father Loomis, sensing the stirrings of the contents of the container, contacts Professor Howard Birack (Victor Wong) and enlists his aide in determining the true nature of what is within the cylinder. Professor Birack gathers a group of graduate students to investigate, including Brian Marsh, played by Jameson Parker, who many may remember as A.J. Simon from the television show Simon & Simon.
As the group begins to investigate, strange things begin to happen, homeless people gathering around the derelict church, the appearance of large amount of bugs and worms where the were none, etc. Soon various members of the group fall victim to the power of what is in the cylinder, and become pawns in a desperate struggle for the very soul of humanity.
I did enjoy this film much and all the little, well thought out, elements that enhanced the story, focusing on the characters just enough to allow the audience to develop empathy for them, but not getting bogged down. There were a number of characters involved, and some could argue they were mostly fodder for the horror, but it didn't always appear such. Some aspects of the story may be lost unless particular attention is paid as the plot unravels, but I found it fairly easy to keep up, as I think most viewers would. I really enjoyed the idea of the use of advanced science to validate what couldn't be seen for so many years. Sometimes the story dragged a bit, but it felt deliberate, as if Carpenter was trying to build suspense leading up to the final confrontation. The inclusion of the 'dream' messages was quite nice, as I missed that when I first saw this movie so long ago. As always, Carpenter also managed to inject a small amount of humor to ease the tension before shocking back into the reality of the film. Some of the effects were lackluster, but that was easy for me to overlook, as I was riveted to the story and thoughts of what would happen next. I don't feel this was one of Carpenter's best, but I think it's much better than people give it credit for, and deserves a bit more recognition that it has gotten in the past.
I was happy to see such a wonderful looking print used on the film, but I thought the audio could have been cleaned up a bit. Sometimes it got a bit `soft', and I relied on subtitles to fill in the blanks. A trailer for the film is included, but that's it for special features. I would have enjoyed a commentary, but I am thankful that Universal saw fit to re-release this on DVD, as the original release has long since been out of print and much too expensive to acquire.
If only the visuals and feeling between the characters were as effective as POD's truly superior soundtrack -- what a keeper it could have been!
About that score: It is a refinement of the Halloween synth motif, simple yet layered, with an evocatively implacable rhythmn. Doom and gloom with plenty of synth sighs and choral color that perfectly matches the ruined church of the action's setting. If you give it a fair listen the damn thing will stick in your head for hours. Followed me home all the way from Times Square the first night I saw this sucker in the fall of '87!
Otherwise, there are many other qualities to admire about Prince of Darkness: The decrepit church's creepy corridors, the candlelit basement chapel, that cruddy ancient cannister, (yeah, even the fakish green swill is kinda cool!). I particularly dig that one low angle shot when a certain radiologist rises... Not to mention the video dream broadcasts - a great idea! (even though it was lifted from TIMESCAPE by Gregory Benford, Nebula Award winner of 1980).
But most memorable is the ending, heartrending for those who care to ponder it. There, in that last scene, is the essence of what honest, true horror has always been about. No way out? A choice that is no choice at all?
Thankfully, John Carpenter chose to leave off his imperfectly told story on so dreadful and perfect a note.
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An impression of silliness. Yes, silliness: the entire setup and gimmick struck me as silly.Read more