I just took a look at the new Blu-ray of John Carpenter’s Halloween, and now I am reviewing John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness. Hey, ’tis the season for John Carpenter films, right?
Carpenter had a couple of disappointing studio-film experiences in the 1980s, so he made this 1987 film independently on a small budget. A priest (Donald Pleasence), a professor (Victor Wong) and some grad students head to an abandoned church. In its basement is a cylinder containing swirling green fluid that is somehow Satan himself. The cylinder starts squirting into people’s mouths and turning them into gory vessels for the devil.
Carpenter hasn’t made a scarier film since this one. It’s horribly 1980s at times (Jameson Parker has an unfortunate hairdo and moustache), but Carpenter has a way with possessed humans that makes them scary and pathetic. This is his zombie movie, sort of.
Chief among the film’s haunting images are the shared dream—a creepy transmission from the future that shows a gray, cloaked figure arising from the church’s smoky doorway. This is one of the freakiest images ever put in a horror film.
Alice Cooper makes a rare film appearance as a murderous homeless guy who leads a legion of street people who are under the devil’s spell. He has a very memorable moment with a bicycle.
It’s all wonderfully weird and scary while being a little hokey at times.
Special Features: You get a Carpenter commentary, along with a new Carpenter interview, and a fun documentary in which somebody visits the film’s locations as they look today. You also get the strange TV version intro that suggests the whole thing might just be a dream—a rather stupid idea.