Prince of Darkness (film)
|Prince of Darkness|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||John Carpenter|
|Produced by||Larry J. Franco|
|Written by||John Carpenter
(as Martin Quatermass)
|Music by||John Carpenter
|Cinematography||Gary B. Kibbe|
|Distributed by||Universal Studios
|Running time||102 minutes|
Prince of Darkness is a 1987 horror film directed, written and scored by John Carpenter. The film is the second installment in what Carpenter calls his "Apocalypse Trilogy", which began with The Thing (1982) and concludes with In the Mouth of Madness (1995).
A priest (Donald Pleasence) invites Professor Howard Birack (Victor Wong) and a group of academics and students to join him in the basement of an abandoned 1950s church called Saint Goddard's Church in Los Angeles, where he requests their assistance in investigating a mysterious cylinder containing a constantly swirling, green liquid. Among those present is Brian Marsh (Jameson Parker), a student in theoretical physics. The rest of the group learned the man named Father Carlton that the priest knew was in charge of Saint Goddard's before he recently died of natural causes, was the last member of a forgotten 16th century Christian sect called the Brotherhood of Sleep who found the cylinder somewhere in the Middle East and had arranged to its relocation to the New World by the Spanish government and they took a vow of silence, even about their own existence that no one, not even the Vatican knew about them or the cylinder they guarded.
After researching the text found next to the cylinder, it is discovered that the liquid is the corporeal embodiment of the Anti-Christ. The liquid appears sentient, producing increasingly complex data that is revealed by computer decoding to include differential equations. Over a period of two days, small jets of liquid escape the cylinder and possess the group one by one to use them against the remaining survivors. Attempts to escape the building are thwarted by a mass of possessed street people who surround the building, barricade the doors from the outside, and kill two of the group.
Birack and the priest theorize that the being within the cylinder is actually the son of an even more powerful force of evil, the "Anti-God", who is bound to the realm of anti-matter. The survivors also find themselves sharing a recurring dream (apparently a tachyon transmission sent as a warning from the future year "one-nine-nine-nine") showing a shadowy figure emerging from the front of the church. The shaky transmission with the shadowy figure seems to change slightly with each occurrence of the dream, revealing progressively more detail. The narration of the transmission each time instructs the 'dreamer' that they are witnessing an actual broadcast from the future, and they must alter the course of events to prevent this occurrence.
Eventually, the cylinder opens and the remaining liquid is absorbed into the body of Kelly (Susan Blanchard), one of the students with a strange bruise that is shaped like a caduceus (the Staff of Hermes symbol used in astrology and alchemy as well as in ritual magic), who becomes the physical vessel of the Anti-Christ: a gruesomely disfigured being, with powers of telekinesis and regeneration, who attempts to bring the Anti-God through a dimensional portal using a mirror, initially failing because the mirror is too small.
At the climax of the film, Kelly finds a larger wall mirror, and begins to draw the Father's hand through it as most of the group are immobilized by fights with the other possessed members. Marsh's lover, Catherine Danforth (Lisa Blount), is the only one free to act, so she tackles Kelly, causing both of them to fall through the portal. The priest shatters the mirror, trapping Kelly, the Anti-God, and Danforth in the other realm. Danforth is seen briefly on the other side of the mirror reaching out to the portal before it closes, leaving her in darkness. Immediately the possessed die, the street people wander away, and the survivors are rescued, relieved that the evil has been thwarted.
At the end of the film, Marsh has the recurring dream again, except now an apparently possessed Danforth is the figure emerging from the building. Marsh appears to awaken, rolling over to find a gruesomely disfigured Danforth lying in bed with him. Marsh awakens, screaming, and then recovers enough to approach his bedroom mirror, hand outstretched. The film cuts to black just before his fingers touch the mirror.
- Donald Pleasence as Priest
- Victor Wong as Professor Howard Birack
- Jameson Parker as Brian Marsh
- Lisa Blount as Catherine Danforth
- Dennis Dun as Walter
- Susan Blanchard as Kelly
- Anne Howard as Susan
- Ann Yen as Lisa
- Ken Wright as Lomax
- Dirk Blocker as Mullins
- Jessie Lawrence Ferguson as Calder
- Peter Jason as Dr. Leahy
- Robert Grasmere as Frank Wyndham
- Thom Bray as Etchinson
- Alice Cooper as Street Schizo
The movie was filmed in Los Angeles, California within 30 days. The idea for the film came about as Carpenter had been researching theoretical physics and atomic theory. He recalled, simply, that "I thought it would be interesting to create some sort of ultimate evil and combine it with the notion of matter and anti-matter". This idea, which would eventually develop into the screenplay for Prince of Darkness, was to be the first of a multi-picture deal with Alive Pictures, where Carpenter was allocated $3 million per picture and complete creative control.
Executive producer Shep Gordon was also manager to singer Alice Cooper and suggested Cooper record a song for the picture. Carpenter also cast Cooper in the picture as one of the homeless zombies. Cooper also allowed the 'impaling device' from his stage show to be used in the film in a scene where Cooper's character kills Etchinson. The song Cooper wrote for the film, also titled "Prince of Darkness", can be heard briefly in the same scene playing through Etchinson's headphones, although the song was not released until a year later.
Carpenter brought back to the film people that he had worked with previously, including Victor Wong and Donald Pleasence. Peter Jason, soon to become a Carpenter regular, was also in the film.
The film was shot with wide-angle lenses, which combined with anamorphic format created a lot of distortion.
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 storyline features elements associated with Kneale (the ancient evil aspect of both Quatermass and the Pit and The Quatermass Conclusion, the idea of messages from the future from The Road, and the scientific investigation of the supernatural from The Stone Tape). Carpenter returned to the idea of clerical secrecy in Vampires.
Kneale, however, was irritated with this use of the character's name in the film's credits, as he feared that the impression may be given that he had something to do with the film. Previously, he had written the original screenplay for the 1982 film Halloween III: Season of the Witch for Carpenter, but had been so incensed with all of the changes director Tommy Lee Wallace had made to it that he had his name removed from the credits.
The poster for Prince of Darkness was created and designed by Henry Rosenthal, who worked for print production vendor Rod Dyer. 
Prince of Darkness was poorly received critically upon release. In his review for the Washington Post, Richard Harrington wrote, “At one point Pleasence vows that 'it's a secret that can no longer be kept.' Here's another: 'The Prince of Darkness stinks.' It too deserves to be shut up in a canister for 7 million years". Liam Lacey, in his review for the Globe and Mail, wrote, “There is no character really worth caring about, no sympathy to any of these characters. The principal romantic couple, Jameson Parker and Lisa Blount, are unpleasant enough to create an unfortunate ambivalence about their eternal destinies”. In his review for the New York Times, Vincent Canby called the film a "surprisingly cheesy horror film to come from Mr. Carpenter, a director whose work is usually far more efficient and inventive." The movie currently holds a 57% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 23 reviews. In Leonard Maltin's annual publication "TV Movie Guide," the film is given a "BOMB" rating. In 2004, Jim Emerson wrote that Prince of Darkness was an undervalued horror film: "What makes me goose-pimply about Prince of Darkness is its goofy-but-ingenious central conceit and its truly Surrealistic imagery, some of which could have sprouted out of Buñuel and Dali's Un Chien Andalou."
In 1988 the film was nominated for a Saturn Award for best music, and won the Critics Award at the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival.
On 24 September 2013, the film was released by Shout Factory! as a Blu-ray Disc/DVD combo pack as part of the Scream Factory line up.
Like most of Carpenter's films, Prince of Darkness went on to have a cult following.
- Boulenger, pp. 201
- Boulenger, pp. 204
- Murray, Andy (2006). Into the Unknown: The Fantastic Life of Nigel Kneale (paperback). London: Headpress. p. 158. ISBN 1-900486-50-4.
- Harrington, Richard (October 28, 1987). "Darkness: Let Satan Sleep". Washington Post. pp. D15.
- Lacey, Liam (October 26, 1987). "After Starman, Prince is painful". Globe and Mail.
- Canby, Vincent (October 23, 1987). "Prince of Darkness". New York Times. p. 26.
- Emerson, Jim (October 14, 2004). "The critics were horrified!!!! 4 undervalued scary movies on DVD". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved 2011-01-12.
- Boulenger, Gilles (2003). John Carpenter Prince of Darkness. Los Angeles: Silman-James Press. ISBN 1-879505-67-3.
- Prince of Darkness at the Internet Movie Database
- Prince of Darkness at AllMovie
- Prince of Darkness at Box Office Mojo
- Prince of Darkness at Rotten Tomatoes
- Prince of Darkness at theofficialjohncarpenter.com
- Prince of Darkness at Trailers from Hell