Nightmares on Netflix: Prince of Darkness

To keep in theme with our 80s Themed Podcasts, I’ve decided to go back in time and review some of the 1980s horror films that I missed out on – though it’s very likely that I just avoided these films like the plague.

“I thought it would be interesting to create some sort of ultimate evil and combine it with the notion of matter and anti-matter.”

Words from the mouth of the great horror director, John Carpenter when explaining what he was trying to do with the film, Prince of Darkness (1987). While that seems to be awfully intelligent and sounds intriguing, the 102 minute film was really just about the son of Satan being locked in a canister of swirling green goo.

Movie Poster

Apparently the idea came around while Carpenter was researching theoretical physics and atomic theory (why? No idea) and really, an idea he had just developed into a screenplay. Apparently, Prince of Darkness is suppose to be the second in his “Apocalypse Trilogy” sitting nicely between The Thing (1982) and In the Mouth of Madness (1995) – though I don’t really see how they all thread together.

Synopsis:

The story revolves around a group of scientist who are brought together by their physics professor – who is called upon by a priest (played by Donald Pleasance) to attempt to decipher a great mystery that the Catholic Church has been hiding away from humanity for far too long. It seems that a secret sect known as “The Brotherhood of Sleep” have been guarding a container that contains the Anti-Christ. This container lays hidden deep within the catacombs of an old church in the middle of the city. Little by little the malevolent force within the container starts to exert its evil influence over the small group of scientists. Will the evil contained within escape? Or will the end of civilization as we know it commence?

Thoughts:

Who wants a moustache ride?

The film was severely dated. It was really hard get past the giant moustaches (Brian Marsh’s was by far the most epic) and the feathered hair paired with the denim jackets and the pants that were pulled up to the armpits. It was also really slow. Now, I’m not the type that needs someone to be cut to ribbons every five seconds, but everything happened at a snail’s crawl of a pace. Too much time was spent trying to get us to care about the relationship between the Jameson (Brian Marsh) and Lisa (Catherine Danforth), when the relationship between the priest and professor Howard Birack (Vincent Wong) would have been far more interesting to watch. Most of the other characters we knew would be the cannon fodder once the goo was unleashed and Hell on Earth was about to break out.

What did I like? I appreciate that Carpenter took a chance with something different… combining science along with the spiritual side of the horror genre. Nowadays, we’re lucky if we get anything that isn’t some sort of a genre remake. I also enjoyed that the main ‘villains’ were all female, which is rare in the 80s – since for the most part, the female characters are the ones flashing their breasts and being hacked into tiny pieces while screaming at the top of their lungs. It was interesting to see the ‘fairer’ sex wreak havoc and I wonder if Carpenter did this intentionally to offer an unsettling feeling in the viewers.

The Verdict:

The Secret of the Ooze

I enjoy most of what John Carpenter creates. Halloween and Escape from New York are great films, and the other members of this noted ‘trilogy’ are ones that I would highly recommend to anyone. But, and there is a big one, a lot of his movies are really hit and miss. Sure, we have the birth of Micheal Meyers, but we also have some terrible titles like Ghost of Mars and Memoirs of an Invisible Man. Thankfully, I was smart enough to live by my Netflix code, which is to never watch a movie with less than three stars (though for this weekly piece, chances are I’ll be watching some terrible films if only to mock).

Netflix Rating: ***
My Rating: ***

Better than a lot of direct to DVD titles, but nothing spectacular. In the long list of horror movies available, it wouldn’t be one I’d be quick to recommend.

Frightening Facts

-Alice Cooper is not only featured as a homeless zombie in the film, but he also wrote a song, “Prince of Darkness” which can be heard briefly in Etchinson’s headphones.

-The film was shot through a slightly anamorphic lens, giving a subtle distortion to every scene.

-Although Carpenter wrote the screenplay, in the film’s credits the writer is listed as Martin Quatermass, a homage repeated in the film with Kneale University. These were in reference to the British film and television writer Nigel Kneale and the famous fictional scientist he created, Professor Bernard Quatermass.

-The first of a multi-picture deal with Alive Pictures, where Carpenter was allocated $3 million per picture and complete creative control.

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