Prince of Darkness

In the basement of an abandoned Los Angeles church, a priest (Donald Pleasence) discovers a mysterious canister full of swirling green liquid unbeknown to the Vatican (we’ve heard that one before) in John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness – nothing to do with Ozzy Osbourne, although Alice Cooper shows up and impales a man with a bicycle.

The second film in Carpenter’s Apocalypse Trilogy (in between The Thing and In the Mouth of Madness) this 1987 horror movie plays out a bit like a hokier, supernatural version of The Thing, with a group of scientists unearthing an unknown evil that infects their bodies – quantum physics meets the devil. The Atoms Family if you like. Hostbusters if you prefer.

Heavy on pseudoscientific spiel, the film builds slowly and suspensefully towards an epic, inter-dimensional climax. Carpenter’s atmospheric directing, visual effects and unique music create a palpable sense of dread, with a fun alien feeling and violent bursts of body horror.

Carpenter also wrote the screenplay under the pseudonym Martin Quatermass in tribute to Nigel Kneale, who was supposedly displeased in case people thought he’d been involved in the film – the same Nigel Kneale who asked for his name to be removed from Halloween III. Carpenter’s ability to consistently piss off his hero is one of many charming things about him.

Prince of Darkness has charm in abundance, alongside great performances from Pleasence and Big Trouble in Little China‘s Victor Wong. DJ Shadow also sampled the “not a dream” section on Endtroducing….. Alternately creepy, nasty and ridiculous, Prince of Darkness is the most fun it’s possible to have in church.

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