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Overall Rating

Awesome: 12.96%
Worth A Look46.3%
Average: 5.56%
Pretty Bad: 24.07%
Total Crap: 11.11%

4 reviews, 30 user ratings

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Prince of Darkness
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by Brian McKay

"Could this film mark the beginning of the downward slide?"
2 stars

The other night I was looking through the TV listings at 3 a.m. trying to find something, ANYTHING worth watching, when I spotted a plot synopsis for John Carpenter's PRINCE OF DARKNESS. I remembered seeing this film when it first came out, being a fairly rabid Carpenter fan at the time (especially after THE THING). Although I didn't remember what it was about, I had the vague impression that it had sucked and didn't make a hell of a lot of sense at the time. "Maybe this time will be different," I thought, settling in for the long hours until dawn.

Oh yeah, that plot synopsis - it literally said "When an ancient container is discovered in the basement of a church, a group of priests and scientists discover that it contains liquid Satan."

I'm not kidding. Liquid Satan. Can someone give me a job writing smart-ass one-line plot synopses, please? With a description like that, I figured it had to be worth checking out for an unintentional laugh or three.

As it turns out, the synopsis really wasn't far off. Indeed there is a container with ancient symbols on it in the basement of a church, and indeed ther container appears to hold a kind of evil embryonic fluid with something growing inside. Could it be . . . Satan?

Why yes . . . but not just any Satan. This time, it's NEW and IMPROVED LIQUID SATAN!!!

And so we get a bunch of priests, led by over-the-top Donald Pleasance, and a bunch of scientists led by moustachioed disco-king Jameson Parker (he was on Simon and Simon, if that moustache looks familiar). All Parker needs to finish out the look is an open-collared shirt and a few bits of neckwear from the Mr. T. collection, and he would have made a great extra in Saturday Night Fever.

As the scientists and men-o'-the-cloth try to decipher ancient texts and analyze the mysterious swirling fluids inside the Price Club sized container of Agua de Satanas, said container begins squirting devil juice into the mouths of the alone and unwary who wander too close. These hapless bastards instantly turn into possessed zombies, and go snowballing their satanic spew into the mouths of the next victim to come along. Soon the church is overrun with the possessed, while the prenatal Satanic being continues to grow.

Unfortunately, none of these events are at all scary (except, perhaps, the occasional unnerving moment of running from the demonically posessed homeless people outside), and the devil-juice squirting is more comical than anything else. Most of the acting is as wooden and clogged-up as the riverbank outside of a lumber mill, yielding results that are twice as soggy. Pleasance and Parker are by far the worst offenders, but the whole cast is rather dreadful and monotone. Even the smart-ass token Asian scientist (Victor Wong) can't save the day with much in the way of comedic relief.

Sadly, the film's one chance for potential is ultimately squandered. There is a subplot concerning strange transmissions being beamed into the characters' heads while they sleep - presumably transmissions from some time in the future. These transmissions reveal the front of the church these characters currently inhabit, as a shadowy figure looms menacingly in the open doorway. The images are creepy and intriguing, as is the static-filled message that is repeated over and over during the transmissions. Alas, the imagery is used to little effect, and the final dream image is a bit of a cop out.

John Carpenter was on a serious roll in his early career, and even his crappier low-budget movies had an enjoyable edginess to them. Then came Prince of Darkness. Although he managed to release the cheesy-but-fun They Live the next year, it was followed by a slew of mediocre-to-awful flicks like Memoirs of an Invisible Man, Village of the Damned, Vampire$, and of course, his latest albatross, Ghosts of Mars. One has to wonder if he's given up on directing altogether, since he's not even bothering to helm the remake of his Assault on Precinct 13.

While John Carpenter's twilight films have given fans cause to wonder if he's officially washed up, PRINCE OF DARKNESS should have been the writing on the church basement wall. Unfortunately, a few choice atmospheric visuals were squandered on a muddled script, lackluster direction, and laughably flat acting. And while I'd like to think that the man who brought us THE THING and ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK still has one or two solid films left in him, perhaps the nearly septugenerian director is just more concerned with having one or two solid bowel movements left in him.

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originally posted: 08/04/04 11:46:40
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User Comments

9/25/17 morris campbell IT SUCKS 1 stars
2/21/17 morris campbell one carpenters worst unscary boring crap 1 stars
10/19/11 AMflxguy Unusual, scary, even nightmarish. Excellent 5 stars
12/23/09 Man Out 6 Bucks Turning the Christian cornerstone inside-out makes this an extremely creepy flick. 4 stars
8/09/09 Zac Wow, you really didn't get this movie. 4 stars
3/16/09 Shift worker Not a great effort from a genius director 2 stars
12/04/08 Shaun Wallner Kept me on the edge of the seat! 4 stars
9/01/07 Dale M Good Premise and freaky at times, but the story is really underdeveloped. 4 stars
5/22/06 Mike Underrated -- some bad acting/dialogue, but great, scary concepts. 5 stars
8/25/05 Copper Another of John Carpenter's many embarassments. 1 stars
1/17/05 Jeff Anderson Lots of slow spots, acting is weak, but a cool idea and J. Carpenter still has it. Not bad. 4 stars
8/28/04 Al Guy Compared to the modern crap - this is a gem! 4 stars
8/17/04 Herolder Underrated. Sure better than most other horror movies 4 stars
4/11/04 American Slasher Goddess Passable fair for Carpenter. 3 stars
12/04/03 john creepy and atmospheric - the cast could be better except for Pleasance 4 stars
11/08/03 Nelson This movie is great, old but nice, I agree JC can do a lot better, but stills is great 5 stars
4/14/03 Kyle Carpenter can do better. 3 stars
3/19/03 Jack Sommersby Godawfully silly horror flick. Paper-thin material executed with flair of a cap gun. 1 stars
11/26/02 Deborah S. Hay i couldn't look in a mirror for days after watching "prince of darkness"!! 5 stars
10/15/02 Scott Blackerby This Movie is Underrated! It is a Great flick!!! 5 stars
9/22/02 kawar shah its ok set in a creepy atmosphere 3 stars
9/15/02 Mac Among Carpenter's worst. A waste of time. 1 stars
6/19/02 Charles Tatum Campy, with some great scenes 4 stars
3/24/02 Katie one of the scariest movies of all time - Carpenter is a legend 5 stars
8/06/01 E-Funk Who the fuck are these actors? Besides the dudes from BTILC...Scary Carpenter flick though. 4 stars
7/05/01 sebastion dillinger the creepiest thing is that it is relatively scientifically sound. 4 stars
5/24/01 Keith Galantowicz Not worth wasting an hour and forty-five minutes! 1 stars
12/02/00 Mike It was better in 1987 when I was a teenager 4 stars
8/29/00 Thor You've gotta just lay back and get into it, man! 4 stars
6/20/00 Ulatekk Great flick! Many quality kills! 5 stars
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  23-Oct-1987 (R)



Directed by
  John Carpenter

Written by
  John Carpenter

  Donald Pleasance
  Jameson Parker
  Victor Wong
  Lisa Blount
  Dennis Dun

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