Prince of Darkness. A Film by John Carpenter.
When people talk about John Carpenter Movies they will invariably mention Halloween, The Thing, The Fog, Assault on Precinct 13 and rightly so as they are all examples of Horror and suspense at its cinematic finest. However, I feel that there is not enough noise made about one of his most underrated and overlooked pieces. Prince of Darkness.
Receiving poor reviews upon its release in 1987 the critics said that they found the piece surprisingly cheesy and that it was not up to Carpenter’s usual high standards. In short they tore it apart. I have to disagree with them entirely. From the opening scene right through to the end credits the feature has an eerie undertone about it. You find yourself constantly on edge and uncomfortable throughout as Carpenter creates what I think is a very intense atmospheric story.
The plot starts with the death of an old Priest from a secret sect called the Brotherhood of Sleep who have been guardians to an undisclosed item that has been kept hidden for centuries. An object so secret that even the Vatican is not aware of its presence. Another Priest is entrusted with the keys to an old church in the downtown Los Angeles area where he discovers an ancient cylinder, full of a strange glowing substance and the container is sealed from the inside. This same priest invites a University Professor with a group of Physics Students and Academics to study the strange object. Their studies uncover that the liquid inside is in fact sentient and is transmitting complex mathematical data to an unknown source.
At the same time news reports that the fallout from a Supernova that exploded thousands of years ago, light years away in deep space has now reached our planet and is causing adverse effects on our global ecosystem. As the story unfolds the liquid is set free and the group must fight for survival as members of their own group become possessed by the liquid. Their exit from the church is blocked by a gang of homeless people, led by Alice Cooper, (yes Alice Cooper!) who are being controlled by the life-force gaining power within. Anyone who tries to leave are set upon by the street people and murdered. All of this culminates in an ending that has such wonderful imagery that it still haunts me whenever I decide on giving it another viewing.
What I particularly like about the movie is the questions it poses in the Science versus Religion argument as the Priest and Professor both give their opinions on what is happening around them and what they can do about it. Ultimately they are both proven wrong. The idea of an ancient Religious artefact being awoken eons of years after its imprisonment by a natural phenomenon that occurred millions of light years away from Earth intrigues me. Is it just coincidence that the essence inside is becoming self-aware or was the explosion of the Star pre-empted by the being in the cylinder and it has been lying in wait for this moment?
The concept of what the substance within the cylinder is and its eventual goal are interesting ideas that have not really been broached particularly in any movie I have seen. If anyone out there knows otherwise please tell me so that I can check it out. I also love the idea of the task that the creature within is trying to achieve once it has been set free. The first time I saw Prince of Darkness it opened up a whole new level of thinking for myself that I had never considered before.
On a lighter note another thing to watch out for during the Movie is the incredible 80’s fashion and hairstyles. Mullets reign supreme and stone-wash Denim rears its ugly head sometimes in Jacket and Jeans combinations. Strangely enough the character in it that would have been called the stereotypical nerd back in 1987 is probably dressed in a style that would be called fashionable in this day and age. It would not be out of the question to see many a Hipster shambling around Shoreditch East London in the exact same outfit.
So in short, watch it, fear it and hopefully love it.