Prince of Darkness

Year 1987

Donald Pleasence   as  Father Loomis
Jameson Parker   as Brian Marsh
Victor Wong as Professor Howard Birack  
Lisa Blount   as Catherine Danforth
Alice Cooper as Street Schizo
Director   - John Carpenter
Screenwriter - John Carpenter as Martin Quartermass  

Prince of Darkness is another of those Satan is a-fixin' to bust loose kind of movies. What distinguishes this one from other similar movies is the fact that it was written and directed by John Carpenter. John Carpenter is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get. To go with this simile, you always get chocolate (movie) of a certain consitency (John Carpenter), but the filling is what's in doubt. Is it citrus gooey goodness (Big Trouble in Little China)? Is it bland soft coconut (They Live)? Or is it fake stale maple (Escape from L.A.)?

I'd have to say that Prince of Darkness is like a chocalate truffle with second rate ingredients. It's a nice confection, and there are moments worth savoring, but it could've been better.

Considering that the movie was filmed in 30 days on a budget of $3 million, it's quite good. The special effects company, Effects Associates, probably did what it could within the constraints of the budget, but the special effects are weak. I'd seen this movie before and despite all of the other good scenes in the movie, the one that's the most likely to pop into my head is the cheesy one of Satan's son - a glowing green carpet rotating in a vertical plastic cylinder.

What else is bad? Well how about some of the acting? Walter (Dennis Dun) is a whiny, annoying character and Dennis Dun's acting abilities are suspect. He was the worst part of Big Trouble in Little China and carries the same pink flag here. His diaglog, at best, is inept and out of place. One can only hope that it was ad libbed.

Potential movie sinker? Walter's trapped in a closet with two possessed women guarding him. He tries out a joke on them. Why? I dunno. But the joke involves a Jewess coming home with her new husband, who happens to be a Zulu with a bone through his nose. The bride's mom says, "I wanted you to marry a rich doctor." Uh, really? Why is the scene even there and why is it so lame?

How about the plot? Satan's son, the green, rotating carpet, needs to open the portal to let his dad back into our dimension. It's got to be this weekend, too. After "seven million years" this is the weekend! And the carpet needs help.

This is one of those movies where, if people didn't get involved, there would be no crisis. But people do get involved and so the chance of opening the doorway is pretty high. If only people would fight the urge to touch the wet paint!

One other thing that started weak but got better was the score. Although Alice Cooper is credited with a couple of songs, I don't remember them. If the "songs" are really the muscial score, then I'm surprised. The score here sounds like the scores from Big Trouble in Little China and other John Carpenter films. Hearing it made me think of the other John Carpenter films, so it took a while for me to allow the score to be part of this movie. In the end, it added to the tension rather than deflecting it away.

Onto the better stuff. After Dennis Dun, the rest of the acting was, at worst, mostly passable. With the main stars Donald Pleasence and Victor Wong, the acting was wonderful. In fact, I have to say that I can't recall a movie in which Donald Pleasence did a more masterful job of conveying his character. Victor Wong spoke his lines of pseudo-science with authority and conviction. This was a great pairing of leads.

What elevates this movie into the Not Shabby category was that there were one or two side elements that made this more than simply, "close the damned door already!" There is a dream that everyone has and a little more of the dream is revealed with each recounting. It's integral to the plot, too.

The crazies who hang out around the church where the carpet is kept is a nice touch, too. Although they're not necessary to the plot, they add another level of danger to the plight of the investigators within the church. Very Night of the Living Dead.

The attempt to mix science into the formula was hit and miss. The carbon dating of the plastic cylinder made no sense. (You need a frame of reference to use this method.) The comparison of relativity and quantum mechanics seemed incorrect. (Relativity breaks down at quantum levels and quantum mechanics fail to explain the cosmos as a whole.) Shrodinger's cat is mentioned, but more for the sake of mentioning it than involving the concept in the story.

That Satan, or his son, hangs around at sub-quantum locations was implied in one conversation. That's entirely plausible within the scope of the movie.

The best part of the movie is the mood. It's kind of weak at the beginning. Dennis Dun tries to derail it in the middle. But, in the end all of the little touches come together. The last third of the movie keeps you guessing about whether the group will prevent Satan from getting into our world or not. The need to find out the revelation of the dream will glue you to your seat.

I'm not sure if the mention of God constitutes blasphemy here. Some fundamentalists may think so, but it's used to mean the opposite of evil. No nudity and some profanity.

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