Sunday, July 10, 2011

Movie Review: John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness

 John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness is the second film of what is referred to as his "Apocalypse Trilogy", which include The Thing and In the Mouth of MadnessPrince of Darkness is, in my opinion, the worst of the three films.  The premise is solid enough, but it tries to do too much with too little.  It has some familiar faces; Donald Pleasance (Halloween), Victor Wong and Dennis Dun (both who played similar roles in Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China), and (though he is prominently featured in all the advertising) Alice Cooper in a bit-role as the lead transient.

Most watch this film to see this guy.
 The story begins with a priest on his death bed who passes clutching a lock-box that houses a key.  This key is passed along to the local archdiocese, leading the investigating priest (Donald Pleasance) to basement chamber of an abandoned church that houses a large reliquary holding a swirling and sparkling green fluid and a book written in several ancient languages.  This priest seeks out a college professor he debated on television about the nature of the universe and the existence of God.  

 The professor (Victor Wong) teaches a graduate level class which discusses philosophy as it relates to the latest theories of quantum physics, specifically the manner with which our logical and familiar laws governing reality break-down at the sub-atomic level.  After agreeing to assist the priest, he invites several of his best students who also include experts in radiology, biology, quantum mechanics, and ancient languages, to work with him at the abandoned church through the weekend while also securing a significant credit toward their grades.  

So... the Devil is a big glow-stick.
 The class sets-up a laboratory and a variety of testing and computing stations throughout the church.  As they arrive and set-up, the local transients begin to gather and watch the church.  While they set-up and begin their tests on the strange reliquary which can only be opened from the inside.  It is revealed that the priest and the authors of the book believe that the reliquary contains Satan himself, who is the emissary or son of an Anti-God.  Christ is described as a extraterrestrial who came to earth to warn mankind about the nature of this "Satan".  

 As the students continue to try to discern the truth, liquid seeping from the reliquary "infects" one of the students, who proceeds to spread the infection to others.  The animals and transients around the church keep the class trapped within, killing those that they catch outside on their own.  Those who fall asleep have the same dream, a transmission from some time in the future showing a static image of a dark figure emerging from the church itself.  The being within the reliquary has marked one of the students to be his vessel, and everyone else is either a threat (and therefore soon to be deceased) or slaves to help release the Anti-God.

Desperately in need of Pro-Active.
 The film touches on a lot of interesting ideas in rapid succession.  Any one of these concepts would have been worth settling on and exploring further; extra-terrestrial deities, the truth behind Christian Myths, quantum theory and the nature of reality, tachyon emission and space-time... All this is mentioned, briefly, but never given the interest they deserve.  The film was given an 'R' rating, but avoids the obvious opportunities for nudity or even overt sexuality.  There is some blood and gore, but this film would probably be given a 'PG-13' rating by today's standards.

 The premise is interesting, but ultimately not explored in the manner it probably deserves.  It is a fair film, but most of John Carpenter's other offerings are far better.

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