Director John Carpenter had a string of hits in the late ’70s and early ’80s until his horror classic remake of The Thing bombed at the box office. Tired of the way the studios took away a lot of his control he decided to make more lower budget safer pictures such as Christine in 1983 and Big Trouble in Little China in 1986.
In 1987 he decided to make a movie he wrote when he was inspired by the works of Nigel Kneale the great British writer of intelligent SF and Horror. Prince of Darkness reminds me most of the classic Hammer film Quatermass and the Pit but sadly does not come anywhere close to that film in terms of story or atmosphere.
The story kicks off deep in the basement of an abandoned church, once run by a sinister religious sect. In a secret room lies a strange bottle of green liquid being investigated by a group of local theoretic physics students. But as the night draws in the students soon realise that the strange relic holds a dark and powerful force beyond their control. A force that could well be the essence of pure evil: the remains of Satan himself.
While the premise is good, the film is let down by confusing and nonsensical storytelling as well as lead actors who are just not up to the task. While its great to see classic performers such as Donald Pleasence and Victor Wong the other actors are wooden and miscast. Characters become possessed and melt into a bug-ridden goo but nothing is explained as to why and for what purpose. Also, why are the homeless drawn to the church to commit murder and mayhem, nothing is explained and when they try its just a mish-mash of scientific talk by so-called intelligent physics students and teachers.
As the film reaches its climax you get some good gore and makeup effects which look effective and the music score by Carpenter and collaborator Alan Howarth is certainly one of there best, but it cannot save the film from being a dissapointing mess.
The new Blu Ray by Studio Canal is taken from a new 4K remaster and looks excellent. Colour are rich and bold, something that was definitely lacking in previous releases. Clean and solid this is a very good transfer indeed.
Audio gives you DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 or LPCM 2.0 and both sound superb. The DTS 5.1 track is great with solid bass levels and good surround activity.
Extras are given on a 2nd Blu Ray disc as follows –
Malevolent: Unearthing John Carpenter’s PRINCE OF DARKNESS: A brand new retrospective documentary produced by Ballyhoo Motion Pictures and featuring interviews with Cinematographer Gary Kibbe, actor Peter Jason, actor Alice Cooper, composer Alan Howarth, script supervisor Sandy King, visual effects supervisor Robert Grasmere, stunt coordinator Jeff Imada, Carpenter biographer John Muir, film historian C. Courtney Joyner, music historian Daniel Schweiger and Producer Larry Carpenters.
Intro by John Carpenter – an interview with director John Carpenter originally recorded for a French DVD release in 2003
Scene Analysis by John Carpenter – Director John Carpenter analyses key scenes from Prince of Darkness, in an interview from 2003
Audio commentary with John Carpenter and Peter Jason Sympathy for the Devil: Interview with John Carpenter – from 2013
Horror’s Halloween Hallowed Grounds with Sean Clark – a fun tour of the film’s locations hosted by Sean Clark
Photo gallery incl. Behind the Scenes.
To sum up, one of John Carpenter’s most disappointing films which has been given a superb new remastered Blu Ray release. (4K UHD Package is also available)