A LOOK BACK AT: John Carpenter’s PRINCE OF DARKNESS

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I’ve seen a lot of movies, but yet I haven’t. This is the story of my life. Is it possible to see every film ever made? No, but you can work on seeing the ones that interest you. A rational starting point would to be watching the classics of cinema, and then venturing off to the stranger pastures it has to offer. I have willingly done the opposite. I’ve seen the 16mm Canadian masterpiece THINGS multiple times over instead of cinema’s masterpiece CITIZEN KANE (even though I own it). I’ve gladly purchased EVIL DEAD II on three formats instead of taking a chance on a film I’ve never seen before. If there were a screening of THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN the same time as Akira Kurosawa’s SEVEN SAMURAI, you can guarantee my touche would be planted in a seat for the former.

Why? Comfort, I suppose. Which is completely contradictory to my goal. There is no greater feeling in the world than experiencing a film you’ve never seen for the first time. It’s almost euphoric, and it leaves you wondering how you’ve gotten this far in life without it. After realizing the error of my ways, I’ve made a vow to become a better cinephile. And also because it sucks saying, “hey guys I just watched (insert film) for the first time and it was (insert reaction)” to be met with with twisted, agape faces screaming “HOW IN THE HOLY HELL ARE YOU JUST NOW SEEING THAT?!”

So with that out of the way, welcome to A LOOK BACK AT .  Our recurring column dedicated to revisiting films you’ve definitely seen before (and probably worship), but just wanted to talk about in case you forgot how great they are. First up: John Carpenter’s maligned masterpiece PRINCE OF DARKNESS.

Father Loomis (Donald Pleasence, homaging his iconic role in his last collaboration with Carpenter) discovers an ancient vat of swirling green liquid contained within the basement of a decrepit church, a long kept secret unearthed due to the death of another priest. Curious as to what his newly inherited responsibility exactly is, Loomis enlists the help of Prof. Birack (Victor Wong!) and a team of physic students (including a Tom Atkins impersonator) to stay in the church overnight to study the goo. As night falls, the liquid matter begins to drip out and shoot itself into the mouths of the students, possessing them one by one. Fleeing is futile since a murderous hobo horde led by Alice Cooper prevents anyone from leaving the building, leaving the nerds inside as Earth’s only defense to prevent the possessed from summoning Satan into our world.

Let me just say, woah. That is some radically heavy, high concept shit. After viewing LORDS OF SALEM and absolutely loving it, it’s made me want to seek out other films with ‘ol Lucifer as the big baddie. PRINCE OF DARKNESS is tonally a spiritual brother of THEY LIVE. Both feature otherwordly beings threatening world domination that choose Los Angeles as the epicenter of doom, a sole group that’s forced to eliminate it, and concludes with an oppressively downer ending. It feels italian in nature, like if Carpenter remade Lamberto Bava’s DEMONS with a scientific angle to it. Also because there are bugs everywhere, and italian’s love insects in their horror. It’s pretty grotesque, and the entire vibe throughout the film is just a weird, dark atmosphere that permeates through the screen.

Carpenter always assembles a terrific ensemble for his films, and PRINCE OF DARKNESS continued that streak. Egg Shen and Wang Chi (Dennis Dun) from BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA return, and they light up every scene. Mostly because Victor Wong is constantly exchanging doomsday speak with Donald Pleasence, and Dun’s asshole(ish) character is always pissed because he had to skip a dinner with a pretty date at an expensive Chinese restaurant. Also of note is Jameson Parker’s off centered mustache. One has to wonder why Carpenter didn’t just call Tom Atkins in since his mustache is obviously superior, and devoid of any symmetrical inconsistencies. Parker does fine work, but if you’re going to sport a ‘stache of that caliber, keep it fresh!

For being my favorite filmmaker of all time, I’ve seriously slacked on acquainting myself with his oeuvre. It wasn’t until earlier this year I basked in the glory of BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA and CHRISTINE (be on the look out for reviews of these in the coming entries). I still have some filmography gaps to fill, and looked to Netflix Instant for assistance. They were happy to oblige with 1987′s PRINCE OF DARKNESS. Carpenter’s evil vs science shocker is an impending apocalyptic nightmare, and absolutely one of his most underrated outings.