John Carpenter’s “Prince of Darkness,” the second leg in the “Apocalypse Trilogy” is a horrifying film about the apocalypse and one of the many Carpenter films where good fights evil and evil wins. Again. And again. It’s interesting that “Prince of Darkness” is almost a precursor to the found footage film boom of the mid aughts, as director John Carpenter stages a series of dream sequences void of cinematic flare. Through fuzzy hand held cameras, he manages to stage numerous horrific dream sequences signaling the coming of the anti-god, and the anti-Christ, all the while using it as a means of expressing how imminent the apocalypse is. The thirty second dream sequences are much more horrifying than most found footage films I’ve ever seen.
The broadcast is from 1999 where the world is coming to an end, and Carpenter stages a very pragmatic angle toward the end of the world. It makes sense that in a world revolving around science that the greatest evils would use science to consume humanity. In “Prince of Darkness,” a priest, played by Donald Pleasance, beckons a group of researchers to explore a swirling cylinder of green liquid seemingly living in the basement of an abandoned church in Los Angeles. What begins as a curious expedition turns in to a merciless re-emergence of the anti-Christ, as the green liquid begins seeping in to human hosts and possessing the researchers one by one to help bring about the unveiling of the Anti-God from his dimension.
“Prince of Darkness,” while still the same trapped in a house formula, manages to hold up as a creepy and dread soaked horror film that Carpenter is able to direct with immense flair. Carpenter is a genius about confining stories to one setting and building an incredible narrative from it. “Prince of Darkness” garners a considerably low budget, but the terror and urgency is so present, you can’t even care. The characters are stuck in the church with no holy presence, and trapped by possessed armies of the homeless that tear anyone apart who dares to attempt escape. Meanwhile, there is no one aware they’re in this church, so they’re an island in an urban setting, along with zero hope. Much of “Prince of Darkness” is based around mounting dread and an ultimate pay off, and Carpenter builds every scene to a great crescendo.
Victor Wong’s moment stuck in a room with two of his possessed comrades as the anti-Christ vessel awakens is probably the most horrific moment of the film, and there’s the gruesome moment where a corpse of a friend obliterates all hope from the group stuck inside. There’s also the looming threat of the homeless army outside the doors, making it impossible for anyone to escape the wrath of the Devil. We’re never truly sure who or what are broadcasting the nightmares, but we’re made aware that there is a war looming in 1999, and the victor is probably pure relentless evil. You also have to love the ambiguous final scenes that indicate the threat is very far from over, and will eventually rear its head before we have time to build our troops. “Prince of Darkness” still holds up as a creepy and atmospheric gem, and John Carpenter manages to deliver a truly underrated genre entry for the satanic sub-genre.
For horror purists who don’t want to glance at the excellent new art for this release, you can reverse the case’s slip to feature the original stunning poster art for the film. Either way, you win. Featured in the Blu-Ray release from Scream! Factory is the ten minute “Sympathy for the Devil,” which is an interview with director John Carpenter and his ideas on religion and how symbolism helped his creation. “Alice at the Apocalypse” is a great nine minute interview with rock icon Alice Cooper who discusses his role as the leader of the zombie army in the film. “The Messenger” is an all new twelve minute interview with actor and visual effects supervisor Robert Grasmere, the character who eventually ends up beetle food and the beacon of doom for the group. “Hell on Earth” is a great ten minute interview with Alan Howarth who co-composed the haunting score for the film, and explores the synth rich elements that he helped with.
The six minute alternate opening for the TV Version alters the opening as a potential dream for character Brian. The legendary Sean Clark hosts “Horror’s Hallowed Grounds” to look at the film’s shooting locations and settings as they appear today. There are three minutes of the film’s trailer and radio spots, and a four minute still gallery. There’s a fun Easter Egg for fans to look for that includes a lengthy twelve minute with John Carpenter during a Q&A at 2012’s Screamfest. Finally, there’s a great audio commentary with director John Carpenter, featuring actor Peter Jason. What promises to surprise fans, Carpenter admits he has no idea what most of the film means as well as explaining his methods for directing actors and staging scenes, all the while actor Jason has a good time alongside the director.