Prince of Darkness (film)
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|Prince of Darkness|
|Directed by||John Carpenter|
|Produced by||Larry J. Franco|
|Written by||John Carpenter|
(as Martin Quatermass)
|Music by||John Carpenter|
|Cinematography||Gary B. Kibbe|
|Edited by||Steve Mirkovich|
|Box office||$14.1 million|
Prince of Darkness is a 1987 American supernatural horror film directed, written and scored by John Carpenter. Starring Donald Pleasence, Victor Wong, Jameson Parker and Lisa Blount, 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 (1994).
A priest invites quantum physicist Professor Howard Birack and his students to join him in the basement of a Los Angeles monastery belonging to "The Brotherhood of Sleep", an old order who communicate through dreams.
The priest requires their assistance in investigating a mysterious cylinder containing a swirling green liquid. Among the thirteen academics present are wise-cracking Walter, demure Kelly, and lovers Brian Marsh and Catherine Danforth.
They decipher text found next to the cylinder which describes the liquid as the corporeal embodiment of Satan. The liquid appears sentient. The academics use a computer to analyze the books surrounding it, and find that they included differential equations. Over a period of two days, small jets of liquid escape from the cylinder. Members of the group exposed to the liquid become possessed by the entity and attack the others. Anyone attempting to leave is killed by the growing mass of enthralled schizophrenic homeless people who surround the building.
Birack and the priest theorize that Satan is actually the offspring of an even more powerful force of evil, the "Anti-God", who is bound to the realm of anti-matter. The survivors find themselves sharing a recurring dream (apparently a tachyon transmission sent as a warning from the future year "one-nine-nine-nine" also known as 1999) showing a shadowy figure emerging from the front of the church. The hazy transmission changes 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 prevent this possible outcome.
Walter, trapped in a closet, witnesses the possessed bring the cylinder to a sleeping Kelly. It opens itself and the remaining liquid absorbs into Kelly, transforming her into the physical vessel of Satan: a gruesomely disfigured being, with powers of telekinesis and regeneration. Kelly attempts to summon the Anti-God through a dimensional portal using a mirror, but the mirror is too small and the effort fails.
While the rest of the team is occupied fighting the possessed, Kelly finds a larger wall mirror and draws the Anti-God's hand through it. Danforth, the only one free to act, tackles Kelly, causing both of them to fall through the portal. The priest then shatters the mirror with an axe, 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. Immediately, the possessed die, the street people wander away, and the survivors (Marsh, Walter, Birack, and the priest) are rescued.
Marsh has the recurring dream again, except now Danforth (apparently possessed) is the figure emerging from the church. Marsh awakens and finds Kelly, gruesomely disfigured, lying in bed with him. This is shown to be another dream, and he awakens screaming. Rising, he approaches his bedroom mirror, hand outstretched.
- 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
Prince of Darkness was shot in Los Angeles, California in 30 days. Carpenter became inspired while researching theoretical physics and atomic theory. He recalled, "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 film. Carpenter also cast Cooper as one of the homeless zombies. Cooper allowed the "impaling device" from his stage show to be used in the film in the 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.
Carpenter cast people that he had worked with previously, including Victor Wong, Dennis Dun and Donald Pleasence. It was Peter Jason's first film for Carpenter, and he would afterward become a Carpenter regular.
The film was shot with wide-angle lenses, which combined with anamorphic format to create a lot of distortion.
Carpenter wrote the screenplay but was credited as "Martin Quatermass," which, along with the name of Professor Birack's institution (Kneale University), was an homage to British film and television writer Nigel Kneale and his best-known character, Bernard Quatermass. The story features elements associated with Kneale, including a confrontation with ancient evil (Quatermass and the Pit and The Quatermass Conclusion), messages from the future (The Road), and the scientific investigation of the paranormal (The Stone Tape). Kneale was displeased with the homage, fearing that viewers might believe that he had something to do with the film.
In an interview with Michael Doyle in the November 2012 issue of Rue Morgue, John Carpenter revealed how he created the eerie dream sequences in Prince of Darkness that feature a shadowy figure emerging from a church doorway. Carpenter first shot the action of the figure (played by actor Jessie Ferguson) with a video camera and then "re-photographed it on a television set" in order to give the image a peculiar, dislocated feeling that also appeared as if it was being filmed live. Doyle also reminded Carpenter that the director himself provided the disembodied voice that narrates each dream.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Prince of Darkness holds an approval rating of 58%, based on 36 reviews, and an average rating of 6.21/10. Its consensus reads, "Prince of Darkness has a handful of chillingly clever ideas, but they aren't enough to put John Carpenter's return to horror at the same level as his classic earlier outings." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 50 out of 100, based on 10 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
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." Nigel Floyd in Time Out gave a positive review of the film, calling Prince of Darkness "engrossing" and adding "the claustrophobic terror generated by fluid camerawork and striking angles" leads "to a heart-racing climax".
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."
The dream sequence narrations have been sampled by a variety of musicians and producers over the years.
In 1988, the film was nominated for a Saturn Award for best music, and won the Critics Award at the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival.
- "PRINCE OF DARKNESS (18)". British Board of Film Classification. November 23, 1987. Retrieved February 2, 2015.
- Topolsky, Joshua (September 2, 2012). "The Classics: John Carpenter's 'Apocalypse Trilogy'". The Verge. Retrieved February 20, 2019.
- 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.
- "Prince of Darkness (1987) – Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes.com. Fandango Media. Retrieved September 17, 2019.
- "Prince of Darkness reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved September 17, 2019.
- Harrington, Richard (October 28, 1987). "Darkness: Let Satan Sleep". Washington Post. pp. D15.
- Lacey, Liam (October 26, 1987). "After Starman, Prince is painful". The Globe and Mail.
- Canby, Vincent (October 23, 1987). "Prince of Darkness". New York Times. p. 26.
- Nigel Floyd, "Prince of Darkness" in John Pym, Time Out Film Guide 2011. London, Time Out Guides Limited, 2010. ISBN 978-1-846-70208-2 (p. 848)
- Emerson, Jim (October 14, 2004). "The critics were horrified!!!! 4 undervalued scary movies on DVD". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved 2011-01-12.
- "This Is Not a Dream from Prince of Darkness on WhoSampled". WhoSampled. Retrieved April 21, 2021.
Doyle, Michael. "The Essence of Evil", Rue Morgue #128 (November 2012), p. 16-22.
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