Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 42 minutes
MPAA Rating: R
Directed by: John Carpenter
Written by: John Carpenter
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Lisa Blount, Victor Wong, Jameson Parker, Alice Cooper
Out of all the horror directors from the 70’s and 80’s, I would consider John Carpenter to be the absolute reigning champion. This man knew how to scare you and told original stories! Even when the film was a remake, he knew how to make it fresh. Looking at his filmography is enough to make any film fan fall head over heels in love with the man. He may have specialized in the oddball movies, but he most definitely knew what he was doing. PRINCE OF DARKNESS is John Carpenter’s take on the devil and it’s one of his lesser recognized films, but is this for good reason or because it’s been forgotten to the realms of time?
The plot revolves around a group of students who have been recruited to analyze a giant container of an unknown green ooze. As the researchers soon discover, the fluid is actually the physical form of Satan himself. One by one, the group members find themselves being either possessed or killed at the hands of liquid version of Lucifer. It’s up to the surviving members to escape with their lives and stop the apocalypse.
Having been recently released on Blu-Ray and Special Edition DVD, one might assume that the cult following of this film and the accomplished director would speak to the quality of PRINCE OF DARKNESS. While I may get crucified for saying this (pun slightly intended), I think that PRINCE OF DARKNESS might be one of Carpenter’s worst films. The set design is pretty to look at and some scenes are put together fairly well. The ending actually carries a solid scare. This doesn’t make up for the rest of the film taking far too long to get where it’s going and when it does get there, having nothing really new or particularly interesting given to the viewer.
Essentially, we have some possessed people spraying ooze from their mouths to infect other people. There’s even the obligatory characters realize they are trapped when they keep trying to escape sequence. It certainly doesn’t make matters any better than none of the characters are remotely worth caring about. Even Donald Pleasence, who has been great in many other movies, can’t seem to pull off his role as the priest very well. The cast may as well have been composed of cardboard cutouts of people for all the emotion they garner from the viewer. Then there’s the most annoying cast member, Dennis Dun. He tries to be funny and spout off jokes to relieve the tension. This joker never winds up being charming, endearing, or remotely funny. I wanted him to die a painful agonizing death.
While others might say that the film is subtle and a different flavor from what we’re used to from John Carpenter, I was bored senseless. There were some good ideas here, but they are either never fully realized or devolve into things we’ve seen from other movies before. While the idea of possessed people spreading the demonic force like a virus is pretty awesome, it nearly becomes another in a line of zombie flicks. While the idea of killer homeless people who may be the drones of Satan is cool, it’s not quite given enough time for us to care.
PRINCE OF DARKNESS has some solid ideas that could make for a great film, especially with John Carpenter at the helm, but for many reasons, nothing seems to jive well here. The set designs are cool and there are a couple of jump-scares that work. Alice Cooper also shows up as the quasi-leader of this psychotic hobos, but in the end, it doesn’t matter. PRINCE OF DARKNESS winds up being a big disappointment on a mostly great filmography.