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I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Friday, September 15, 2017

Prince of Darkness (1987)

I’m a huge John Carpenter fan. If you stick around reading the blog long enough you will see me eventually cover all his movies. But I thought I’d start off with one that I believe never gets the credit that it should. Prince of Darkness, while not as amazing as The Fog, Halloween, or The Thing is still a great movie.

The action opens with an elderly priest dying in his sleep. Clutched in his hands is a box that contains a key. Another priest, played by Donald Pleasence, takes the key and goes to the abandoned church where the deceased priest lived. We don’t see what he does, but are soon introduced to a Physicist and his students who are recruited for a mysterious weekend job by that very same priest. Along with some colleagues they all head to the church to investigate a strange container filled with a liquid. A container that can only be unlocked from the inside and that the priest believes contains Satan himself! Things are about to get weird.

Prince of Darkness has always fascinated me. Carpenter plays with the concepts of religion and science in an honest examination of what may or may not be real. The priest is reaching out to the scientists thinking that they can prove the existence of evil, even if it might not be exactly what the church has been preaching. The idea that the devil is a measurable force in the universe that science can define might be a bit highbrow but is also very interesting. Unlike The Thing or The Fog, which are both firmly in the realm of horror (monsters from outer space and ghosts!) this one leans more towards Science Fiction.

There are many familiar faces in the cast. Carpenter pulled a lot of actors that he had worked with to fill out this cast. Victor Wong and Dennis Dun from Big Trouble in Little China both have parts written specifically for them. Wong is especially good as the head scientist Birack. We also get to see the great Donald Pleasence portray the priest who reaches out for help. It was also cool to see everyone’s favorite nurse, Lisa Blount, have a featured role as well. I was sad in researching this review to find out she had passed away a few years ago.
I love the "devil" tube in this movie!

I was trying to figure out why Prince of Darkness wasn’t more popular with fans. It can be a bit dry at times but I thought that Carpenter navigates the scientific dialogue well enough that it wasn’t that bad. I will admit that the ending is a bit confusing and vague. It doesn’t wrap things up neatly or even give you the “it isn’t over” ending. I can see how that might bother an audience. And of course, religion, specifically the Catholic Church, isn’t treated with the reverence that I’m sure many people would like it to. In this movie God and the Devil are basically aliens or forces of nature to be studied. That probably pissed a lot of people off.

If you haven’t seen this movie before give it a chance. Carpenter knows how to make a creepy atmospheric flick and this one fits nicely into that category. If you are turned off by the look at religion or think it is slow and boring we shall have to agree to disagree.

© Copyright 2017 John Shatzer

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