Today’s installment in Key Movies of My Life blends the nightmarish otherworldly nature of demons with the film-making sensibilities of horror master John Carpenter.
Today’s Key Movie:
A team of physicists gather at the behest of the Archdiocese in order to help identify an ancient and possibly evil substance found in the basement of an abandoned church. Through their investigation they begin to realize that they may be facing the essence of evil itself and it wants to be unleashed upon the world. This is Prince of Darkness.
Why this movie?
When this film first came out on video I was just old enough to want to watch every scary film that was released. I had already been exposed to Hellraiser (although not at my parents permission, something we will talk about later on in this series) and I was already very familiar with Carpenter’s works so, to a young boy around ten years old I saw no reason why I should not see this one.
After much cajoling on my part, and I am sure much debate on theirs, my parents let me sit down and watch the latest entry in what Carpenter calls his Apocalypse Trilogy. The film itself was creepy and, while I did not quite understand much of it at that age, it did leave its mark on my young mind enforcing my fandom of the macabre. This was a genuinely dark and fascinating film that I would watch and re-watch for years to come.
You like it, but is it really a ‘good’ movie?
The film itself is about an ancient evil that has been hidden from mankind through the use of religious doctrine. It is only through embracing science to explain an ancient religious mystery that the group of scientists begin to understand exactly what is going on and, if they can stop it. Prince of Darkness is a slow burn of a story and something that is very unlike anything released around the same time. Carpenter does an incredible job building a sense of dread throughout the film using only moments of terror coupled with his patented synthetic music that gets deep under your skin. One of the best of these moments is the dream sequence that the characters see. In the form of a dream, each of the members experience a video transmission from the future warning them of what is to come. It is by far one of the creepiest aspects of the film and does a marvelous job raising the tension as things begin to fall apart.
I mean, see it for yourself:
As with pretty much any Carpenter film, every actor is at their best from the very beginning. Carpenter mainstay, Donald Pleasence plays Father Loomis, a priest who finds himself facing a test of faith when he discovers the hidden truth behind the teachings of the Catholic Church and proves, once again, he is one of the best. With Pleasence is joined by an ensemble cast including Jameson Parker, Victor Wong, Lisa Blount, Dennis Dun, Susan Blanchard and others all of whom make every minute of their screen time believable and impactful. There is not a bad performance among them, not even the small role afforded rocker Alice Cooper as the leader of the homeless horde.
All in all, this is a very subtle yet masterful tale of the unknown, giving us a sense of dread that still manages to work some 30+ years later. It is not part of the over-the-top gore-fest that was popular in the 80’s but still manages to give you a deep seeded fear in the pit of your stomach. Production wise, this is one that only relies on special effects only as much needed, giving the movie a more grounded realism than some of Carpenter’s more fanciful outings. It is because of it’s lower budget nature that Prince of Darkness is able to feel like it is actually possible rather than just being images on a screen. To this day, it still give me a slight sense of unease even though I know what is going to happen and that is one of the many reasons I still love this film.
This one is not for someone looking for a cheap scare, but for the horror fan who wants something more subversive and thought provoking. It will leave you with questions and a desire to learn more about the world it takes place in, leaving the film ripe for a sequel. It is said that science and religion are two sides to the same coin. That many of the mysteries of religion can be explained through scientific means and the opposite is also true. To embrace both is to find the secrets of the universe but it is only our faith, or lack there of, that is preventing this revelation. What if, however, this reluctance to fully embrace both was really a fail-safe mechanism. What if by fully embracing the two sides of the coin we are opening ourselves up to concepts that we are simply not ready for? What if these revelations proved everything, as in all reality, to be nothing but a lie?
OK, where do I get this movie?
This is another one that has gotten the Scream Factory treatment as an incredible collectors edition. For just under $30, you can pick up a wonderfully remastered bluray edition and man is it worth it. This one is also available via pretty much every streaming service you can imagine so there is no excuse for you not to see it.
Like normal, here is the trailer:
Late To The Game 1/16/2020
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