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Prince of Darkness (1987)

John Carpenter, the director of this criminally underrated gem, has always referred to ‘The Thing’, ‘Prince of Darkness’ and ‘In the Mouth of Madness’ as his Apocalypse trilogy.

None are connected through mutual characters and this is the only movie of the three that has been written and directed by mr. Carpenter himself.
Widely disregarded for being too ambitious and collapsing under its own pretentious weight, this movie is definitely better than people make it out to be.

The basis of the story goes something like this: A priest seeks help from a professor and a group of physics students to investigate a mysterious cilinder that has been hidden in the basement of an abandoned church.

However, the plot is way deeper than this synopsis would make you believe.
In essence the movie revolves around the famous ‘Schrödingers Cat’ principle, which goes something like this: a cat is placed inside a box, if the quantum particle goes one way, it releases a deadly poison, effectively killing the cat. If it goes the other way, nothing happens and the cat lives. Because quantum particles behave in a random fashion, governed by probability, the outcome is a guess. However, when observing the particle its actions become known. Their behaviour is always a probability, never a fact. Therefore, the cat’s faith is ultimately tied to the behaviour of the particle, the cat is neither alive nor dead, until it’s taken out of its box.

Now, that alone is a complicated story to grasp. And what Carpenter does is use this as his set-up for a very intense slow-burn movie. You have heard of the term ”a thinking man’s movie” and this one qualifies on all terms. It demands your full attention, and even though it does tend to fall into a lot of semi complicated discussions regarding quantum physics, it’s conclusion is as scary as any movie.
The cilinder held in the basement of the church is identified as being evil or Satan if you will, and they soon find that he’s growing stronger every minute.

The performances are commendable, whether it’s Donald Pleasance as the priest or Jameson Parker as Brian, but it’s biggest star is the story itself. Scary, intense, and deep are just a few of the key words describing the plot, what’s a shame about this movie is the fact that it has two different sides to it.
Yes, there is the aforementioned intellectual plot revolving around evil and physics and what we perceive to be reality, but on the other hand it’s also a cheap tale about a group of people who get methodically killed off.
Hardly a spoiler in a horror movie, people always get killed, but it could have tried it’s hand at a more intelligent way of drawing its crowd in.

As it stands: the people looking for a good action filled horror movie will feel unsatisfied by it’s slow pacing and lack of horror. Those interested in it’s larger themes and background will find the turns that it takes into mainstream horror offensive. What remains is an utterly unique movie that balances between brilliant and clichéd. It’s a tour de force from Mr. Carpenter and he’s exclaimed this is probably his best feature film (bare in mind this is the man who made ‘Halloween’ and ‘The Thing’).
Ultimately, after you’ve seen the final credits roll onto the screen, you’re left impressed and torn in two.
This could have been an even better movie than it already is, but its got enough things going for it to warrant at least one viewing.

Don’t start this movie up looking for a simple movie night, watch this with your mind fully focussed on the screen. Prepare to be amazed and challenged by it.

7.5/10 stars!

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Discussion

3 thoughts on “Prince of Darkness (1987)

  1. I for one am SO excited about your exposure to certain JC films.This one I hold in very high regard. Your review is intelligent, spot on and honest. I love the angle regarding the cat you use to explain JC’s theory on the battle for good and evil. The dream sequences alone are so damn incredible. I love this film. Plus, change that 7.5 to an 8! (JK)…no not really ;D good job.

    Posted by Victor De Leon | June 4, 2012, 23:33
  2. Thanks Victor! I feel it’s worthy of an 8, but comparing it to other movies ive given that rating, I stuck to the 7.5, however as it stands..the movie is just..unbelievably good..and I am very excited to see more JC films!

    Posted by That Dutch Filmlover | June 4, 2012, 23:37

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