I won’t spoil it by revealing all the plot, but you should know that Prince of Darkness may be author and director John Carpenter’s best film. It addresses the question, “What if traditional religious teachings were true and based in the modern scientific reality of quantum physics?” Familiar Carpenter collaborators Donald Pleasence, Victor Wong, Dennis Dun, and Peter Jason are joined by Alice Cooper and other new faces in an intense, logical, lightning-paced story filled with gorgeous dark imagery.
The film is based around a golden cannister of primordial fluid, like the oceans from which life originated, supposedly buried in the desert for centuries and later guarded by a secret order of the Catholic Church. It is thought to carry a great, but unknown danger.
To combat the apocalyptic fluid and help him understand the gaps in the doctrine he has been taught, Father Pleasance calls in thirteen academics, including biologists, biochemists, biophysicists, mathematicians, and language specialists. Soon the scientists are pulling back the veils of ancient religious texts and advanced mathematics which show that religion has always been based in scientific reality. Could this fluid have anything to do with the dark forces that religions have feared?
Meanwhile, the sacred fluid is trying to be borne as the antichrist, using psionic energy to resurrect the dead and to influence animals, schizophrenics, and the homeless as tools to bring back its unholy father, who has been trapped in an alternate dimension. Metaphysicians from the future send tachyon videos back in time in dreams, to tell the team how to stave off the antichrist and prevent the destruction of the spiritual world. In this hopeless scenario, romance blossoms between two physics graduate students Lisa Blount and Jameson Parker.
This film addresses viewers’ interests across many dimensions, including belief & reality, science & religion, AIDS, COVID, mental illness, and the power of love.
Literati may want to consider this film a retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, with Jean Cocteau’s Princess of Death, reanimation of the dead into zombies, and his devices of mirrors and broadcasting serving as the means for humans to communicate with the underworld. We are only left to wonder if Jameson Parker looked back through the mirror and doomed his love.
This was Carpenter’s opportunity to make a film under his complete control and result is impressive. The film endeavors to unify modern science and ancient prophesy — it is full of memorable images that are terrifying without resorting to monsters, slashings, or bloody CGI. Working with Alan Howarth, Carpenter’s music provides a backbone for the images that is chilling but not intrusive.
If you yearn to get your teeth into some deeper material, or just want to have fun with a scary movie, you will find plenty to like in Prince of Darkness. Having seen this film on the screen and in several video formats, I think the improved fidelity justifies getting the Blu-ray version.
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I hope this review has been helpful and that you really enjoy whatever you choose to watch!