- Movie Rating -

Prince of Darkness (1987)

| October 23, 1987

I relate the films of John Carpenter to a bag of Cheetos.  When they work, they are fun, cheesy and contain no nutritional value whatsoever.  He has peaked with the original Halloween and then just a few years ago proved that he was better than his filmography indicates by making the sci-fi love story Starman.  In between we’ve gotten Escape from New York, The FogChristine and the remake of The Thing.

His new film Prince of Darkness is easily the worst movie that he has made – a bag of Cheetos that is stale, overcooked and should really be returned for a refund.  This is everyone else’s horror movie, the kind of thing that I expect from a nothing director with little to know imagination.

The movie offers an interesting theory that it never really knows what to do with.  Deep in the crypts beneath a centuries-old church in Los Angeles, a priest invites a quantum physicist and his students.  This is the sanctuary of The Brotherhood of the Sleep, an ancient order that is apparently telepathic.  The physicist and the students are there to investigate a large glass tube, a vat containing a swirling green substance.  This substance, they are told, has been around since the time of Christ and is more or less concentrated evil.  Naturally, the priest is concerned that the substance may be on the verge of escaping.

What is established is kind of interesting – a blending of religious mythology seen through the lens of modern science.  What could be in the vat?  Is it really a Satanic force, or is it something toxic that could be unleashed?  How are these scientist going to measure the molecular structure of this stuff in order to determine its origin?

I’d love to tell you, but Carpenter’s script doesn’t care.  After the plot is established, the movie turns into one of those body-jumping movies in which one student or another is possessed until the climax and the final showdown.  It gets confused by itself, losing all sense of narrative and just becoming another movie with disconnected visual effects and noise.  Much like the Phantasm movies, it just becomes about stuff happening so that we can see people being killed and/or possessed.

I wonder where Carpenter’s nerve went.  He begins with an idea but throws it away so that the rest of the movie becomes a bore.  Did studio execs demand a much more violent and less intellectual exercise?  What was going on here?

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1987) View IMDB Filed in: Horror