Saturday, October 15, 2016
31 Days of Halloween #11 Prince of Darkness **1/2 (1987)
A minor entry in John Carpenter's canon, a deep cut if you will, Prince of Darkness combines quantum physics with some arcane Thomas Aquinas theology in a film that's both fascinating and baffling. A theoretical physicist is invited by a priest, played by a confused Donald Pleasance, who belongs to a "secret order" of the Catholic Church. Together they must stop what could be the coming of the Anti-Christ, be sure to emphasize the word "Anti." So a group of graduate students gather in a church basement to confront the evil that exists in a . . . . liquid gel. Your read me right. Prince of Darkness is the sort of movie that gets wackier the more you think about it. The cast of unknowns come straight out of a 1950s b-movie (I suspect this was intentional) offers little in the way of character development. What made Carpenter's early horror movies work were the compelling characters whether it be Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween or Kurt Russell in Escape From New York and The Thing. The lackluster performances make Prince of Darkness a slog to sit through at times. The second half degenerates into a "body snatchers" tale replete with gaudy special effects and grotesque makeup. Maybe Stanley Kubrick could've made a movie that lived up to such an ambitious premise. Nevertheless, Prince of Darkness works as a goofy supernatural horror film with a sly subtext. A creepy soundtrack and a great opening credit sequence add to the moody atmosphere.