♦ Tripwire’s contributing writer Simon Kennedy takes a look at the restored John Carpenter’s The Prince Of Darkness, out now on Blu Ray from Studio Canal…
Prince Of Darkness
Director: John Carpenter
Stars: Victor Wong, LIsa Blount, Donald Pleasance, Alice Cooper
The second of his apocalypse trilogy (the first was The Thing and the last was In The Mouth Of Madness), The Prince Of Darkness is less creeping horror, more out-and-out slasher film. We have the staggering monsters in the open, the nightmare dreams as exposition and the reflection on an ultimate evil. Carpenter tries to fuse both science and religion into an opus of gore and body horror with some level of restraint. Instead of being buried under snow in the poles, like a previous film, the horror is in a metropolitan setting. A distressed priest played with wiry glee by Donald Pleasance, has inherited a rundown church on the darker edge of LA. He invites a team of scientists, led by Professor Howard Birack, played by 80s icon Victor Wong. They have moved from the local university to the site in order to examine a glowing, pulsing mass held in a sealed glass tube in the basement. The object pulses and hums. They set up devices to measure its assorted rhythms. However, the local homeless begin to turn into horrific zombies, led by one bauble hat wielding fiend, played by Alice Cooper. With the tube leaking profusely, the nastiness is about to become unleashed on an innocent world.
Before we start, yes this is the film which DJ Shadow sampled for his album ‘Endtroducing’. Many people know this and yet it is often disputed. THE PRINCE OF DARKNESS is an obvious homage to the Quatermass, the film still flirts with the supernatural horror of Hammer Horror films, 50s B cinema and 60s sci fi. This was Carpenter at the end of a run of form indeed. Coming off the back of a flop with Big Trouble In Little China and the minor success of big-budget Starman, it was do or die. In 1987, John Carpenter mixed his blossoming interest in Theoretical Physics with the genre that made his fortune.The Prince Of Darkness became the project and over 30 days in a sun-baked LA, it was shot. What do we make of it? Well if you are a Carpenter fan then you are probably more disappointed than anyone else.The Prince Of Darkness feels heavy. It plays it safe more often than not. Carpenter seems to have wanted to stick with a by the numbers narrative, established exposition and even making sure the horror is consistent. This all said however, I do have time for the film. This is not just the fact that it is a better film than much that came after it for Carpenter, but its success allowed for They Live.
The 4K restoration has beefed up the anamorphic format. Carpenter shot the film like this to create a lot of distortion, and the restoration amplifies this. Now outside of this, it seemingly only over-illuminates the darker scenes. This can sometimes mean details are clearer and the SFX become more impressive. Onto the extras on the second disc. Well Malevolent: Unearthing John Carpenter’sThe Prince Of Darkness is the new addition. It makes a nice compendium piece but to be honest it’s not great. Nothing new revealed and lots of time spent on speaking about Carpenter. Nice to hear but I must add it’s empty more often then not.
Blu Ray Extras:
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
- Dolby Vision
- Region: 2.35:1
- Audio: 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio