John Carpenter is a director that horror fans have worshipped since his iconic entry into the world of filmmaking with 1978’s Halloween, which brought the genre Michael Myers and essentially gave birth to the American slasher film along with Bob Clark’s Black Christmas in 1974. Carpenter would go on to write and direct many classic horror gems with The Fog in 1980, The Thing in 1982, and Christine in 1983, cementing his placement into the ‘Masters of Horror’.
1987 brought one of the most interesting films in his oeuvre, and my personal favorite of his films, Prince of Darkness. Written under the pseudonym Martin Quartermass, Carpenter unleashed his first part of what he would call his “apocalypse trilogy” that would continue with They Live the following year and In the Mouth of Madness in 1995. Although the films are not necessarily connected with any continuity or characters, they all deal with a bleak look at the possibilities of impending doom.
Prince of Darkness is a genius tale that mixes religion and science to try to protect the world from a secret evil force that “can no longer be kept” as described by the priest portrayed by the great Donald Pleasence. He seeks the help of a graduate professor of physics, Howard Birack, played by Victor Wong, who had collaborated with Carpenter two years prior when he played Egg Shen in Big Trouble in Little China. Professor Birack recruits the help of his grad students in order to help the priest contain whatever mysterious evil is contained in the basement of the abandoned church, and to use science to explain it.
This film is incredibly smart in every aspect. The use of graduate students instead of clueless teenagers, mixing religious horrors with scientific methods, and the way Carpenter deals with the time travel all make for a very thought provoking and cerebral experience that is also paired with the atmospheric and visceral horror that Carpenter is known and loved for.
I cannot emphasize my love for John Carpenter’s work enough, and Prince of Darkness is no exception. This film has everything a Carpenter fan would love, as far as great practical effects, internal dread and hopelessness, and of course the fantastic Donald Pleasence.
-By Kirk Yoshonis