Prince Of Darkness
Directed by John Carpenter
Available Now on Netflix Instant (And DVD, VHS, etc)
There’s something odd about St. Goddard’s Church.
I’ve always been a John Carpenter fan. I didn’t always know which movies were his, but I certainly knew that there were some movies I loved that just looked… different. This was one of those movies I passed over several times, never really giving it a chance.
A while back, my dick brother and I got to talking about good horror flicks, which seem to be incredibly hard to come by. He brought up Prince of Darkness, which immediately called back two memories. One. The devil is made of green water. Two. Wong from Big Trouble in Little China is in it and he’s gay.
I knew it was on Netflix streaming. I knew John Carpenter directed it. It’s the perfect recipe for a “your fiancee’s out of town, you need to watch as much horror and action movies as you possibly can” stew. So I did.
The movie starts with Father Loomis (Donald Pleasance of Halloween fame) receiving a dying priest into his mission. Shortly after the priest passes, Loomis begins to ask questions. Why did the man come here? Who was he meant to see? What is in the small silver box he carried with him?
He visits his old friend Professor Birack (Victor Wong of Big Trouble in Little China and 3 Ninjas fame) for some help. Loomis leads the professor down the steps to what appears to be a small chapel or worship room. At the head of the room is an old reliquary filled to the brim with a swirling, green liquid.
Loomis says that he can feel the world changing, that the power is shifting. Getting stronger.
Birack brings in his students, who I believe are going for their doctorate. The goal is to substantiate the threat of the reliquary through physical science. To this point, all they have are warnings from a mysterious book written and re-written in several different languages.
As night descends around the church, the students become more and more aware of the schizophrenic homeless (famously led by Alice Cooper) that are gathering around the church, driven and possessed by some unseen force.
When members of the team start disappearing and others begin to act unlike themselves, the remaining students will have to solve the riddle of the glowing liquid that lies in the heart of the church or be consumed by its unholy fire.
Well, How Is It?
This film was an independent venture on the part of Carpenter, whose successes seemed to go up and down despite how well they are received today. This was shot in 1987, about a year after Big Trouble, which I think is reflected in the score. Both were composed by Carpenter (as per usual) and sound similar in synthy synthular synthiness. There’s some synth, if you get me. It adds a cruel sense of action to the film that keeps everything moving forward constantly.
You’ll also see some familiar faces. We’ve already mentioned Donald Pleasance and Victor Wong, but you’ll also see Dennis Dun famed for playing the super cool kung fu restauranteur Wong in Big Trouble. He’s less cool here, and spends most of the movie bitching.
We also have this guy, who is sort of the hero of the film, but he’s no Jack Burton or Snake Plissken. I guess he’s no Kurt Russell, really. The guy’s a science nerd with a moustache and while he holds his own once or twice, you never really get behind his underdeveloped character.
Which brings us to another point. Characters. As in, how many do you need? The twelve people in the above photo don’t even represent everyone present in the church. It’s not necessarily hard to keep track of who everyone is, but often I found myself forgetting who did what field of science and why they were important. More personally, I didn’t care much about most of them. The acting is decent, with a few over-acted bits here and there, but for the most part everyone is quite capable. I think Victor Wong stands out the most. If you get the chance, read up on this guy. He’s kinda awesome for a lot of reasons.
As far as the plot, I dug it. It’s got sort of a zombie-like setup, with people trapped inside of some kind of building with things outside trying to get in and a few things inside trying to kill you.
There’s a few things to separate it from zombie-style flicks, though. One is the use of an accessible location. These people aren’t trapped in a barn in the middle of nowhere or in a shopping mall while it’s World War Zed outside. The rest of the world is within earshot, in a busy area in downtown Los Angeles. It does add to the creepiness, but also makes you wonder why they don’t just scream for help. At one point in the film, they sort of just brush it aside, saying no one out there could help them.
The other is the use of pseudo-science as a driving force of the plot, which was fun. They try to rationalize and explain certain bits of Christian mythology through science and make reference to things that modern pseudo-science writers use pretty regularly.
You’ll hear the words “quantum” and “tachyons” a few times, and I know you sci-fi nerds get what I’m saying. Today, writers like Warren Ellis can use those because there’s an incredible wealth of information about them and availability through the internet makes it easy to access. Back then, Carpenter would have had to do at least some amount of research and he never gets so complicated as to make you think he really wants you to believe it.
For instance, when several characters begin to have the same dreams when they nod off, they decide that it’s because of tachyons. They make the point of telling you that tachyons move faster than light and therefore could move back through time and beam images into their heads. They don’t harp on it, they basically say, “Hey, here’s some science and so can you!” It’s effective as a plot device and it doesn’t pull you out of focus on the story.
Everything, of course, looks great. Carpenter was a master of using the saturation of light on film to create beautiful chiaroscuro images with a lovely mix of deep blacks and bright color. He does so here and in my opinion the look of the film is flawless.
The special effects are also very well done, primarily done with real effects, not computer work. The end result is a very disgusting, visceral look at gore and makeup and it all looks very natural.
So What’s the Final Word?
If you have Netflix and are not opposed to watching the dated outfits and colors of the 80s (some people have a real problem with that), I’d say this is a pretty cool horror flick that’s engaging enough to keep you interested throughout and just nasty and scary enough to make your gal cuddle up for some cozy time.
I know I didn’t reveal a whole lot about the plot, but it’s important that you go in not knowing too much about what’s happening. If ya dig horror, dig John Carpenter, or even dig movies that might keep you talking a bit after you see the ending, check it out. It’s a little different. And it’s free, hey-hey!
Of course, it’s up to you. I mean, what’re they gonna do if you say no?
Send this guy? Pfft.
Oh, and Wong isn’t gay in this movie, P.S. They just make a lot of gay jokes at his expense. Even with Marshall Moustache up there holdin’ down the fort. Go figure.
Thanks for reading and as always, it’s just a movie. Watch the darned thing.