I’ve Got A Message For You, And You’re Not Going To Like It.
The message is this.
Until I received this preview screener of Prince Of Darkness, I’d never seen this film before.
Now you know. Please don’t tell John Carpenter. I know I have professed to be a huge fan of his, yet I hadn’t seen what many say is his most underrated film. They are absolutely right. By using a mix of science and religion in its story, Prince Of Darkness creates a wholly original take on the traditional “hell on earth” movie. I loved it. I also loved this Blu-ray. I said it once and I’ll say it again. These people at Shout Factory know what the fans like. Most likely, because they are fans themselves.
The story begins when Donald Pleasence (playing a secretive priest with a disdain for shaking hands with the homeless) enlists the help of some physics students to study a cylinder full of swirly green ooze. While the film does use some conventions like an ancient text and a secret society of clerical guardians, it adds to the mix a group of scientists who use technology to decipher the data and study its effects. Of course when science meets faith, conflict is inevitable. Oh, and when scientists meet devil ooze, bad things are inevitable.
Once the action moves to the downtown Los Angeles church where the canister is hidden, Carpenter barricades our heroes in by falling back on his favorite genre, the western. He throws in circling wagons of evil in the form of possessed street people led by Alice Cooper. After that, all hell literally breaks loose.
Tonally, the film has a relentlessly foreboding pace. The score, composed by Carpenter and longtime collaborator Alan Howarth, is non-stop throughout the film. (Almost two decades before Nolan did it with his Dark Knight movies.) The act structure is very non- traditional, each scene blending into the next forcing a tight grip around the viewer and never letting go, even after the film’s denouement. I suppose if the devil was really coming back, he probably wouldn’t make it easy for everyone, so why should Carpenter let up on his audience by slowing down the film.
Since I have no point of reference to any other DVDs, I can’t compare it to any past releases. That said, it looked gorgeous to my virgin eyes. Even with its crisp and bright transfer, it maintains a nice balance of grain and dark contrast. I generally like films to keep their look and feel from their era, and poorly supervised transfers can clean up SO much, it doesn’t vibe with the period it was produced in. I think that speaks to my vintage senses. Overall, the sound and look of this Blu-ray were top-notch.
It does have an audio commentary from John Carpenter and actor Peter Jason. Although, they referenced the “recent death of actor Victor Wong,” so that puts the recording sometime around 2001. I’m guessing this was ported from an earlier release. Their banter was enjoyable, but sometimes I like Carpenter on his own because he really gets into the details of how he made the film.
It has some new interviews. One with Carpenter which was fantastic. In his hindsight of almost 20 years, he has great clarity about making this film and horror filmmaking in general. Alice Cooper has an interesting interview that details how he came to be in the film and about the gory bicycle gag he performs. Alan Howarth, the film’s co-composer and Robert Grasmere, the film’s visual effects supervisor (AND actor who delivers the prophetic line I began this post with), round out the interviews.
Of course I must mention what is my favorite feature on these Blu-rays, Horror’s Hallowed Grounds. Sean Clark RETURNS, taking us on a tour of the shooting locations from the film. He gets us inside the Los Angeles church and we learn some fascinating history of the building. Plus, he manages to get the guy who works there into the action. For those who have not purchased any of the Shout Factory Blu-rays, you are missing one of the great extras they pack on these releases.
I am now using your brain’s electrical system as a receiver. I’ve got a message for you:
Order Prince Of Darkness directly from Shout Factory here!