Logline: A research team investigates a mysterious green liquid found in a church cellar.
Written and directed by John Carpenter, Prince of Darkness marks the filmmaker’s return to low budget, independent cinema. It is the second installment in Carpenter’s so-called “Apocalypse trilogy,” which began with The Thing (1982) and would conclude with In the Mouth of Madness (1995).
Prince of Darkness is by no means a great film but it is certainly an intriguing one. The film has echoes of earlier, Carpenter classics, namely Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) and The Thing (1982). The film stars Donald Pleasence, who also appeared in Halloween (1978) and Escape from New York (1981), as a Catholic priest. Pleasence, an underrated actor, is great as always. Pleasence appears alongside Victor Wong, who is equally wonderful as a college professor who takes his graduate students to a Los Angeles church to investigate a mysterious green goo. The graduate students, unfortunately, are not compelling characters and do little to warrant our sympathy.
Despite its weak characters, the film features great direction and a strong score from Carpenter. With its limited budget, the film features excellent makeup effects. The plot may seem nonsensical most of the time but the tone is spot-on and there is plenty of suspense.
Though successful, Prince of Darkness was released to largely negative reviews but like so many of Carpenter’s films, has been subject to re-evaluation. It is now considered one of his most underrated features.
Prince of Darkness is a solid film that explores the dichotomy between science and religion. Its surreal imagery, like a mirror that separates two dimensions, is unforgettable. Prince of Darkness is certainly not one of Carpenter’s best films but it may very well be his creepiest.
Rating (out of ****): ***