PRINCE OF DARKNESS - Golden Oldies Finally On DVD
PRINCE OF DARKNESS
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Oct. 19, 2018
EDITOR’S NOTE: One of John Carpenter’s weaker fright flicks has been picked up by the Shout! Factory for a Blu-ray upgrade under its Scream Factory label. I wasn’t a fan of this one but it obviously has a following. Here’s my Oct. 28, 1987, Deseret News review.
Director John Carpenter is back in business with “Prince of Darkness,” his first film since “Big Trouble in Little China” and his first horror yarn since “Christine.” But fans are bound to be disappointed with this gussied-up, haunted house/slasher film. Or whatever it is.
“Price of Darkness, of course, refers to you-know-who – but Satan isn’t actually in the movie. And when we see his fingertips in one scene toward the end, he seems to be a rather hamstrung, ineffective fellow.
Actually, the film is about Satan’s son — I think — who is trapped, but evolving, in a bizarre canister of green liquid (which looks like a neon light) in the basement of an abandoned Los Angeles church, where he has been held captive and guarded by a secret order of priests in the Catholic Church.
But with the death of the last priest of this secret order, the evil spirit in the canister is apparently growing and reaching out to take over the world — or at least open a door for Dad to do so.
Victor Wong, left, Donald Pleasence, 'Prince of Darkness'
So an old priest (Donald Pleasence) asks a professor of physics to bring his top grad students to investigate the canister. If they can prove by scientific means that it really is the son of Scratch inside, the world may believe in the terrible power that is about to be unleashed. Mere faith won’t do it these days.
And it isn’t long before the standard slasher motif comes into play as the scientists and students are killed off one by one.
Among the cast are two actors from Carpenter’s “Big Trouble in Little China” — Victor Wong and Dennis Dun. They were both terrific in that film but here they’re both pretty bland. Even more boring, however, are Jameson Parker (late of TV’s “Simon and Simon”), Lisa Blount (“An Officer and a Gentleman”) and just about everyone else.
In fact, when the power of the devil in the canister starts turning people into zombies there’s no noticeable difference.
And just to keep themselves awake, members of the audience will likely begin ticking off titles of other movies that become recognizable here — “The Exorcist,” “Halloween,” “Night of the Living Dead,” “Poltergeist,” “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” “Creepshow,” etc.
There are some interesting individual scenes, and Carpenter does manage to build some suspense here and there (the special effects are good) but for the most part there is so much psychobabble dialogue and so many inconsistencies that you may completely lose track of what little plot there is. An awful lot of truly amateurish time-lapse transitions don’t help, either. (This may, however, be the first movie to have people turned into zombies by spitting unholy water into each other’s faces.)
I assume Carpenter wrote this film himself (or perhaps with a collaborator or two), since the script is credited to one Martin Quatermass, an in-joke for movie buffs apparently referring to the fictional British scientist of “Five Million Years to Earth” and other films. The press kit says Quatermass went to Kneale University — Nigel Kneale is the creator of the Quatermass character.
Sadly, nothing in the film approaches that bit of cleverness, and “Prince of Darkness” is miles away from being anywhere near as interesting as any of the Quatermass films. (It is rated R for violence, profanity and implied sex.)
On the other hand, it’s hard to hate a movie that has rocker Alice Cooper playing a zombie transient.