2 August 2010 | Cujo108
John Carpenter's masterpiece about a priest enlisting the help of a physics professor and his students in preventing the coming of the Anti-God. Yep, I said masterpiece. I consider this to be Carpenter's crowning achievement. Said priest (played by the impeccable Donald Pleasance) discovers a large vat of green fluid in the basement of an old church near downtown Los Angeles. He comes to realize that the liquid in the container is the very essence of Satan himself, and that a sect known as "The Brotherhood of Sleep" has kept it a secret all these years. The secret can no longer be kept, however, as the apocalypse is brewing and the vat of liquid Satan is the over-sized coffee pot.
Carpenter really struck gold with the script for Prince of Darkness. I find it to be Carpenter's most intelligent and thought-provoking. I love all of the theoretical, scientific and religious discussion in this film. He takes all of these wonderful ideas and forms them into one of the most intriguing story lines the genre has ever seen. It all makes for a very engaging viewing experience, especially if this sort of material fascinates you as much as it does me.
The film is slow-burning, yet intensely unnerving. The overall mood, the creepy street people, the church itself and the eerie occurrences caused by the Anti-God's growing power all make for an unsettling watch. Perhaps the most effective scene in the film for me is Wyndham saying hello in that garbled voice followed by "Pray for death." I also must make mention of the recurring dream projections via tachyons. A brilliant idea that adds an even deeper level to the film's frightening nature. The imagery in these dreams is truly the stuff nightmares are made of!
As far as the cast goes, this is my favorite ensemble in a Carpenter film, even more so than the one we get in The Thing. They all do fine jobs, especially Pleasance and Victor Wong. I love the interaction between these two. I also really enjoy Jameson Parker in the lead, and Dennis Dun is the rare case of comedy relief that actually works. He is amusing, likable, and his antics don't overshadow or ruin the mood that the film has built up.
The atmosphere? Perfect. So is the dread-inducing score, which is an uncanny fit for the material. In the same way that I see Prince of Darkness as Carpenter's best film, the haunting music throughout makes for his best work as a composer. I love the score as much as I love the film itself. The sense of hopeless isolation Carpenter is able to convey despite the church being in L.A. is yet another impressive accomplishment in a film that never fails to impress.
Definitely an underrated classic. Carpenter's wonderful ideas are realized to fascinating effect in the film, and for me, the execution is flawless. It's a rare case when I have nothing bad to say about a movie, but this is one of those instances. The music, the atmosphere, the apocalyptic tone, the marvelous ending... it all works beautifully. It's a gem that Carpenter has never bettered. I'm in the minority regarding that statement, but I'm sticking to it.