Prince of Darkness was the first film made by John Carpenter after his excursion into big budget Hollywood film making. He chose to mark his return to the low budget arena with a nifty little horror film about, well, you’ll soon see…
In the basement of a seemingly abandoned church in downtown L.A., something evil lurks. Imprisoned for centuries by a secretive order of Priests opperating outside of the Vaticans control, a vessel containing the “son of the Anti-God” lies waiting.
After the death of the last of the “Brotherhood of sleep”, a Catholic priest, a science professor, and a group of PHD students attend the church to study the vessel. But it is awakening. And it’s power grows, possessing those it can, and killing those it can’t. Can they prevent the “Anti-God” from passing over from the “Anti-Universe”, and destroying our world?
Prince of Darkness is a metaphysical horror film. By that, I mean it blends science & the supernatural treating them as both one and the same. The film posits that “Satan” was in fact an alien entity, from an “anti” universe, composed of anti-matter. The vessel in the church contains his son, who has been held prisoner by the church for centuries to prevent him bringing “Satan” back into our world.
The film uses a fair amount of “technobabble” to cover it’s slightly wonky use of science (lots of talk about anti matter, tachyon beams, etc). Yet the premise is intriguing. The notion that Christianity was set up to explain “evil” until such a time that science could explain it is unique.
As a film, it is a creepily effective one. Remarkably low on gore for a mid 80s horror film, it instead relies on Carpenters finely honed ability to cojure up dread atmosphere. Yes, there is some gore, but it is remarkably restrained in it’s execution. And this makes the fill much more enjoyable. Shot with anamorphic camera lenses, the film has a claustrophobic feel, slightly “otherworldly”. Apart from a few scenes early on set in USC, the film takes place almost entirely in the abandoned church.
The creepy basement is stunningly realised, lit mosty with candles. The modern scientific equipment makes for a wonderful juxtaposition against the prevalence of crucifixes dotted around.
The location of the church is alos quite eerie. Abandoned and boarded up, it is surrounded by decay. This is most evidenced by the growing army of the homeless who slowly surround the Church, seemingly in the thrall of the entity trapped within.
Prince of Darkness also ends much like The Thing, with a “did they or didn’t they” succeed motif. This ambiguity leaves you wanting more.
Prince of Darkness comes as a 3 disc set from Studiocanal. For your money you get the film newly remastered and restored on a 4k UHD Blu Ray. The set also features the film on a standard Blu Ray, and an extra Blu Ray full of bonus materials. The extras are as follows:
Malevolent: Unearthing John Carpenter’s PRINCE OF DARKNESS: A brand new retrospective documentary produced by Ballyhoo Motion Pictures and featuring interviews with Cinematographer Gary Kibbe, actor Peter Jason, actor Alice Cooper, composer Alan Howarth, script supervisor Sandy King, visual effects supervisor Robert Grasmere, stunt coordinator Jeff Imada, Carpenter biographer John Muir, film historian C. Courtney Joyner, music historian Daniel Schweiger and Producer Larry Carpenters.
Intro by John Carpenter – an interview with director John Carpenter originally recorded for a French DVD release in 2003
Scene Analysis by John Carpenter – Director John Carpenter analyses key scenes from Prince of Darkness, in an interview from 2003
Audio commentary with John Carpenter and Peter Jason Sympathy for the Devil: Interview with John Carpenter – from 2013
Horror’s Halloween Hallowed Grounds with Sean Clark – a fun tour of the film’s locations hosted by Sean Clark
Photo gallery incl. Behind the Scenes
Picture qaulity is superb. Despite having a budget of just $3m, the film looks exceptionally lavish in it’s presentation. Well lit, beautifully shot, and superbly acted, Prince of Darkness is truly an outstanding, and somewhat forgotten, gem in the filmography of John Carpenter.
5/5 Fiends. Absolutely essential.
Buy Prince of Darkness: Amazon.co.uk