I remember when I first saw PRINCE OF DARKNESS on its original theatrical release and thinking that John Carpenter finally disappointed me with one of his films. I was (and still am) a HUGE fan of HALLOWEEN, THE FOG, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and THE THING, yet when I saw PRINCE OF DARKNESS it left me a little underwhelmed.
It’s been a while since the last time I saw it here and there on VHS, and being a Blu-Ray whore, I couldn’t resist buying the new SCREAM Factory edition of it given that it’s been remastered and contains a slew of extras including a Director’s commentary that might enlighten me to what Carpenter was thinking when he made it.
I sat down last night to watch it with fresh eyes and see if maybe my expectations were too high before and you know what, folks? I got it right the first time.
The movie has an intriguing premise: A priest (Carpenter staple Donald Pleasence), reveals to Victor Wong’s Professor Birack that deep underneath a dilapidated LA church is a vault that houses a canister filled with what can only be described as “liquid evil.”
The Professor assembles a team of his students as well as scientists to determine the origin of the substance, which has suddenly become active. From there, the goo infects the participants one after another turning them into zombie-like minion as it attempts to free (I’m guessing) Satan himself from the blackness, a void-like prison hidden behind or within mirrors.
The movie sounds interesting or at least different in a Professor Quatermass-esque way, but after a strong opening, it just fizzles in the second half. Any tension is constantly deflated as none of the characters seem to be in any huge rush to save their lives until the absolute last minute. I was also struck with how much dead space there is in this movie. Slow-burn is one thing but this just moves at a snail’s pace with no apparent reason for it. A judicious editing down could have done wonders for this movie. It’s 102 min. but could have easily been chopped down to 90 min. or even less and felt a little more brisk.
It’s hard for me to recommend this movie, but if you’re a fan of Carpenter, you should at least give it a try. It’s a gorgeous Blu-Ray and it’s at least one of his films that actually feels like old-school Carpenter. Don’t get me started on that, though I also bought THEY LIVE and will be reviewing that shortly.