Thursday, May 5, 2011

Prince of Darkness: This Is Not a Dream...Not a Dream.

I have a sneaking suspicion that people are hiding John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness far away from the prying eyes of popularity. Maybe this is one of those things that people pretend is bad so that other people won't like it. You know like, Kriss Kross,

brussel sprouts

and Baby Boom.

Things that are secretly good but if introduced to the masses will become not good because too many people like it. It's basically, exactly what happened to the Black Eyed Peas.

Anyways. As one of my good friends put it, Prince of Darkness is a movie that you feel you're not supposed to like. It's strangely unconventional for a horror film, makes little sense when actually dissected and is kind of racist. But somehow you end up falling head over heels in love with Prince of Darkness and all of its liquid Satan glory. Alright, I made up that part about it being racist but honestly what is one supposed to think when an Asian guy with a chronic squint kills a guy with a chopstick? OR when a reincarnation of Satan gets implanted into a black guy and then spends the rest of the movie crying into a mirror?

Mmmhmm that's what I thought.

Before we get into a discussion of metaphysics, differential equations and atomic theory, I would just like to point out how difficult it is to assess WHICH Prince of Darkness, Prince of Darkness refers to. Clearly I sorted it out whilst watching, but beforehand I was all prepared to watch a film about Dracula. I was also not positive that it wasn't a film about Ozzy Osbourne, Miles Davis, Jared Leto or General Sir Mike Jackson either (Chief of British General Staff and commander of KFOR in the liberation of Kosovo for all you people not in the know) (Keep in mind I looked that up on Wikipedia and am not actually smart). So yes, The Prince of Darkness is a nickname that applies to just about anyone but in this case we are talking about Satan.

In Prince of Darkness, a mysterious cylinder filled with green liquid is discovered in the basement of an abandoned church.

After discovering a deceased priest's diary, priest Donald Pleasance enlists the help of Professor Howard Birack and several academics to assess the situation. What they find is that the liquid inside the cylinder is actually Satan and spewing out tons of smart things, and codes that is slowly taking control of people and turning our world into an apocalyptic hell. Even scarier than this is the discovery that Satan may not even be the biggest threat after all... !

As liquid Satan's power grows, so does his ability to take over the academics and professors. as well as the strange gang of street dwellers outside. It soon becomes very apparent that the world is turning over to the devil's control. Dun dun dun.

So yes, Prince of Darkness is worlds apart from "conventional" means of a demonic, religious-ish horror film isn't it? How often do we find the world of religion at ends with the world of science? Perhaps if I had to name something bad about the film it would be that it doesn't make sense. Or does it? Hopefully I'm not alone in voicing my overall confusion on...well, just about everything. Satan was sending signals of world domination into the future? Or something? What? Is that even right? I don't know! I don't get any of it--but it really doesn't matter. OR I should say, it doesn't really matter to me. I'm sure one of the main reasons this film is not elevated to the highest level of awesome is because it seems kind of convoluted and well....ridiculous. But come on. Satan is in liquid form! Does it get any better than that?

If you put away the fact that the science, math and theorizing is all confusing and stuff, you should still be able to appreciate Prince of Darkness for the startling amounts of spookiness and strangeness. This film may be one of the best representations of subtle scaring that I have ever seen. The best example is of course the unusual street gang dwelling outside the church. They do this thing where they just stand outside and look at you and watch you.

It's probably one of the creepiest things I've seen in a while. Plus, they crucify pigeons and shit...

Also creepy is Alice Cooper and his abnormally pale skin. I know you're Alice Cooper but do you have to look dead ALL the time?

There's also a lot of strange, unexplained phenomena not far from the likes of the beginning of The Fog. I LOVE this kind of stuff. Bugs everywhere, people talking in weird deep, demonic voices, tables moving, electrical stuff doing funny things.

Man, it doesn't get any better than that. It's simple, it's subtle and it's creepy and scary without shoving a bunch of crap in your face.

Even when people are "possessed" by Liquid Satan, no one turns into some scary, raving mad version of an Evil Dead-like face. Everyone still looks the same, only they're all weird and standing and staring.

It's brilliant! As far as I'm concerned, the mark of a truly brilliant horror filmmaker is the ability to make things scary without really working at it. Forget special effects and buckets of blood. Forget jump scares---this is what horror is about. Pure, unadulterated fear.

I also love the simple fact that something is amiss here. Even though we are given kind of an explanation as to what is happening, we still don't entirely know the ultimate agenda. We are actually a lot like the academic students, who are brought to a church without really being told what's going on. But we're on edge because we can sense that something bad is happening. We know that whatever is in that mysterious cylinder, isn't good and that simple fact is enough to keep us on our toes as we wait for shit to go down.

But shit doesn't come crashing down does it? No! John Carpenter--that brilliant maestro of horror shows true restraint by keeping the uneasiness rampantly flowing for almost the entire film. There's no huge *dun dun dun* moment of reveal, no startling discovery, no plot twist. No one is actually a demon in disguise (Although I was secretly banking on Donald Pleasance turning around being all like, "HAHA fooled you all, I'm the father of Satan bahahaha...but you know...he didn't) The film simply continues on its merry way of slowly but surely, delivering us the goods--the goods of an eventual apocalypse and that my friends, is impressive.

The film however also has its moments of entertainment. There's old squinty McGee over there.

Killing people with chopsticks and beer and taking names.

There's the odd pairing of two students who literally met the night before, had sex and are now in a serious relationship.

There's the surprise of finding out that Liquid Satan actually has quite a high typing speed. I'd guess at least 90 WPM and with a 0% error rate. I mean, give it up to Satan everyone, taking secretary classes on the weekend, he works hard for the money yeah!

And then there's of the course the insanely awesome and disgusting evolution of leprosy, as exemplified by the reincarnation of Satan himself.

Gross man, gross.

"Satan" as I like to call him, freaks me out with those black teeth. Possible membership may be granted into the Scary Face Club in the near future--just letting you know.

Yes, Prince of Darkness is all kinds of awesome. It makes me sad that it isn't talked about more but it also makes me glad. I prefer to keep this one in a small closet, locked and away from all those people that won't appreciate it. Me and my friends who love this film can open it up from time to time and smile and cry and give it a kiss on its little head. Oh Prince of Darkness....we will shield you from that awful, horrid world out there, don't you worry.

So in closing DO NOT see this movie. Just kidding, you should definitely see it--but not if you think you won't like it. And if you don't like it, just turn around and walk away. We can stay civil but just know that I will be burning down your house the second that I get some free time.


Unknown said...

I don't know how you went through this whole article with nary a mention of Tom Atkins-lite and his glorious mustache.

The Mike said...

This all makes me smile so much. Sooooo agreed.

I showed this to some people at Halloween time and by the end of the night I was pretty much in "Oh, whatev, eff all y'all!" mode. None shall come between me and Prince of Darkness.

And, like I mentioned the other day, the "dream" sequences are MAJOR willies to me. And, as ridiculous as it all is, the ending seriously makes me just pause and stare and wonder. Every. Damn. Time.

Welcome to the Brotherhood!

Chris Hewson said...

So how exactly does Hobo Alice Cooper manage to impale someone with a motorcycle? I've read that that's what he does and, I guess Liquid Satan's been taking weightlifting lessons in-between those secretary classes.

As for Alice Cooper, he must really be dead, the man has not aged a DAY since the 80's. Seriously, just watch the 'Poison' video clip then watch an interview from recently!!

Andre Dumas said...

Hahah I was thinking that Tom Atkins must have implanted his sex drive into that guy. John Carpenter loves the no talk all business style of sex.

TH! Yay! Dream sequences/broadcasts are uber creepy. I had no idea what was happening which I'm guessing is the point but yes...and I totally jumped at the end. Totally.

Chris- You know, this fits into that whole thing about me not really understanding the logistics of anything. I'm still unsure of what exactly the street peoples roles were, because they didn't die at the end.....I don't know! I don't get it! BUT I do know that that bike trick was actually Alice's thing. He does it in his concerts I guess and they let him do it here too.

Anonymous said...

Have you seen Susan?
Radiologist. Glasses.

Spooky Sean said...

Second Carpenter film with a priest's diary as a major plot device (The Fog). Going to have to re-watch this one again, though didn't need your review to make me want to. Anything that revolves around Satan tends to peak my interest. Favorite movie is The Ninth Gate, and I'm not kidding when I tell you if the devil is real, I want to talk with him or her. A long discussion upon the nature of evil, and what God is like. Or, I'd at least ask him/her/it which metal bands he/she/it actually talks to.

Emily said...

Glad you enjoyed this one Andre! I love this film- definitely in my top 5 Carpenter films. I've seen it about 20 times or so and it still always creeps me out. My theory about the transmissions is that they are being sent from the future where the apocalypse has already occurred and these future-people are trying to send a warning though space and time to the moment when the beginning of the apocalypse occurred in order to prevent it. I'm still unsure whether it was prevented... but I'm thinking not.

Unknown said...

I believe that the deal with the homeless folk was Carpenter's raise awareness about the plight of the homeless in L.A. If you recall, the homeless feature quite prominently in THEY LIVE which was also made around this time. In that film, they were the ass-kicking heroes and in PRINCE OF DARKNESS they are the antagonists getting revenge on those more fortunate! Ah, very clever commentary there on Carpenter's part, I thought.

The broadcasts from the future always creep me out in this film - esp. the last one when you realize that the shadowy figure is actually the poor female student who took one for the team and went through that mirror/dimensional portal thingy at the film's climax. Yikes.

Anonymous said...

LOVE this film!
I'm a pretty much lifelong Carpenter fan, have been since I first saw HALLOWEEN back when it was first released when I was 17. And although the vast majority of other diehard fans of his work list that classic, THE THING, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK or some of his other better known classics as their personal favs, mine is definitely POD.
It's uber-spooky atmosphere, relentlessness & constant sense of dread never lets up. And though I hardly know a damned thing about physics, it's a movie that the more you think about it & the more you try to get your head around it's strange mix of science, the supernatural & Lovecraftian themes, the creepier it gets.
Seriously. I've been a Monster Kid & a horror film fanatic since my first memory of watching my first movie at five ( Bava's BLACK SUNDAY ), so I've got a thick skin when it comes to scares.
And POD never fails to scare me.
In fact, it remains the only film to illicit nightmares from me as an adult.
Great stuff!



Count me in as a fan of this film. It has a real Lovecraftian vibe to it.

And don't count Alice Cooper out yet! There is much to enjoy in his new work- 'Along Came A Spider' is a great album. I rank it up there with 'Welcome To My Nightmare'

Anonymous said...

Its interesting that even Carpenters weakest films like "Prince Of Darkness" and "Ghosts Of Mars" are still better than anything that Quentin Tarantino has ever made.

Wednesday's Child said...

This is without a doubt my favorite Carpenter film. The transmission/dream is endlessly unnerving, as is the man made of bugs who are eating him. You would think, what with the gif of the man with the blond mustache waking up and screaming being a meme and all, that this movie would be more popular. Although I hope for your sake it doesn't catch on.

Unknown said...

Thank you! So happy I'm not the only person on Earth who loves Prince of Darkness, easily Carpenter's most underrated film.

HH said...

I actually have NOT seen this. How sad is that? I was wholly unaware of the Liquid Satan aspect of the plot. I also very much indeed like to indulge in a little visual leprosy in my horror films and shall be checking this out on your recommendation.

Dod said...

This is easily one of my favorites of all time. The atmosphere of it just weighs down on you in a subtly apocalyptic way. I reviewed some time ago and gushed over it as well.

The quick dream sequences will always, ALWAYS haunt me.

Anonymous said...

I saw this film years ago and couldn't remember what it was called so I could watch it again. I just remembered bits and pieces. Then like magic, yesterday, Netflix recommended it to me and just like that I remembered the title. Weird.

I just finished watching it again. It's easily one of the scariest films I've ever seen. The zombie homeless and the dream sequence will be all over my dreams tonight. I'm pretty damn sure of it.