Why Finally? It’s been over a year since I reviewed anything from John Carpenter, who is right up there with Cronenberg for testing my commitment to watching a movie. (I’m not so squeamish that I faint at the sight of blood; in fact, that would probably be less irritating for anyone watching horror movies with me, given that unconscious people tend not to whimper and cover their eyes so much.)
The Premise: The Vatican has been keeping a secret for ages: there’s a big vat of glowing yuck in the basement of a California church, and it just may be the embodiment of Satan. A priest (Donald Pleasance) invites a physicist and his team of students to examine the vat and decipher the ancient book that goes along with it. He does this, as far as I can tell, either because he is a cockeyed optimist or because he really, really hates students, since the body count begins to mount almost at once and the evil liquid begins to possess its victims—literally, by squirting into their mouths like a malign Red Bull. Meanwhile, the entire group begins to have dreams of future evil.
I’ll skip straight to The Verdict this time and say right out that I liked Prince of Darkness (though I’m unsure how deeply), especially for a movie in which swarming bugs briefly animate a corpse.
After rewatching that scene, I find myself wondering if this is one of those movies that would collapse without its tense musical score.
I do enjoy stories that straddle the line between science and the supernatural (H.P. Lovecraft’s stories, the novels of Robert Holdstock), and this seems to be somewhat in that vein, with a passing resemblance to the technologically inclined ghosts of this century’s J-horror. That said, some of the mechanics of the…haunting?…aren’t quite clear: I loved Alice Cooper in his role as a homeless person, but were he and his cohorts zombified or “just” possessed or what? There also aren’t many moments that make us care about the characters, so that for all the (god)matter/anti(god)matter theorizing, Prince of Darkness is at its root a highfalutin slasher.
The real moral of the story: If Donald Pleasance can’t sort something out, for
god’s heaven’s pete’s sake don’t go anywhere near it.
Might go well with: End of Days; as for food and drink, that all depends on how much you like bugs, I guess.
Next time: A (Benton) Quest for medicinal plants.