October Extras #9 - Prince Of Darkness (1987)

OCTOBER 9, 2007


HMAD faithful reader Alana suggested Prince of Darkness, and I am glad she did. It’s one of Carpenter’s five best films (others being Halloween, Thing, Assault on Precinct 13, and Escape from New York), yet for whatever reason, I rarely take in a viewing. It was probably the last of his “older” films that I saw once I began to admire him in the mid 90s, and I’ve watched it only 2-3 times since. It’s a great fucking movie, so what the hell is my problem?

Well part of the problem is the shitty DVD. The goddamn thing doesn’t even have a menu. Chapter search is the only “feature” – hitting the menu button will just give you the scene selection. Also, the sound is 2.0, which is a disgrace considering that the score is also one of his (and Alan Howarth’s) best. I’m actually pretty amazed the disc is anamorphic, which just makes all those non-anamorphic DVDs look even worse. These guys (Image) couldn’t even be bothered to make a menu screen, yet still took the time to ensure folks could watch the film correctly.

Also, it's in one of those goddamn cardboard 'snapper' cases that make me want to punch babies in the face.

Anyway, the film itself, as mentioned, is great. Like many a Carpenter film, it concerns a group of folks that are trapped in a certain area. The cast is quite large, and they’re all pretty well developed, considering. They all get some nice character moments and funny lines (love the “Radiologist... glasses....” repetition), and it’s interesting to see a bunch of super booksmart folks have to use basic survival skills. Also, the film wastes no time getting started – the first 10 minutes or so are as ominous as they come, with our hero characters being introduced right alongside the “bad guys”, occasionally interrupted by what has to be the longest credit sequence this side of Devil Times Five (10+ minutes!).

It also feels like an Italian film at times, especially toward the end when all hell is breaking loose. Some things don’t make any real sense (at around 1:30 into the film, we are given cinema’s oddest cutaway, as we leave an exciting scene in time to see another unidentified character go flying out a window, then back to the original scene), and the action is going on in several places at once, similar to Demons.

And for some reason, there’s a shot in Dogma that totally “homages” this scene:

I thought I was just imagining it, but then I looked at the IMDb and someone had put Kevin Smith’s film in as a “Referenced in” movie connection. Then again the same movie referenced Con Air and Last Crusade – certainly the references were wide reaching.

Prince of Darkness is also pretty much the last time Carpenter really gave a shit about his films. They Live also had a lot of great stuff, though it was uneven. But just about everything since has stank of laziness (Vampires and Ghosts of Mars being the worst offenders), and they just don’t have the “feel” that his other stuff has. Even Christine, which he admits he did just for the money, has a genuine, unmistakable John Carpenter touch that is almost wholly absent from anything he’s done in the 90s/00s. It’s a damn shame.

And I missed it yet again – apparently Donald Pleasence’s character is named Father Loomis, but I never see/hear his name in the film, and the credits simply list him as Priest (then again, they also list the rightful star of the movie, Jameson Parker, as the “and” role). Does anyone know where in the film he is given the name Loomis? Or is the IMDb just making shit up?

What say you?


  1. I can't believe you went through the whole review without mentioning Alice Cooper.

    I know he's only in it for about 20 seconds, but I thought he had some kind of contract clause that required him to be the most frequently mentioned actor in this film. I mean hell, that's HIS face superimposed on the DVD cover!

    Great flick, obviously. I agree with your Carpenter assessment. If you watched everything after this and They Live, you'd rightly wonder why people think he's so fucking great. I guess like Hooper he did his best stuff first, and now he's just in it to pay for his 15 cartons of smokes a week.

  2. Hahaha yeah I realized when I was submitting the review to digg, where I always say "starring (the biggest names in the film)" that I never mentioned him. Oh well. It doesn't top his performance in Freddy's Dead anyway...

  3. Ah, BC, XXOO. Thanks for your take on Prince of Darkness, which scares the poop out of me to this day. My second fav Carpenter film after The Thing.

    Hey, I watched Wrong Turn 2 last night and 28 Weeks Later night before. I liked both; however, I was stunned by how much I liked 28 Weeks Later, as I wasn't impressed with the first film. Really liked the second one! Love horror films that offer social commentary, you know, transcend the gore factor.


  4. I'm glad that you appreciate They Live. I watched it over and over again when I was a kid--mostly for that hilariously long fight scene in the alley--and didn't realize it was Carpenter until I was older.

  5. This is also one of my favorite Carpenter films, and also features one of the greatest movie mustaches ever!

    I just re-watched the movie tonight, and like you mentioned, the name "Father Loomis" is never actually mentioned as far as I can tell, and I was really paying attention to whether he was actually named or not. If you watch the film with subtitles however, he is identified as Father Loomis. Maybe there was a deleted scene where he was named? Unfortunately my DVD is very barebones as well, without any deleted scenes, or commentary that might explain this mystery.

  6. good review - and I think this has to be my fave John Carpenter movie. the ending alone is worth the asking price - pretty much shit my pants when I first saw it. only FT13th has an as-good ending, imo. my DVD does have commentary w/ John Carpenter and Peter Jason, and I don't recall them mentioning 'Father Loomis'. I like that this movie is just weird. anyway, ah, one of my Top 10 Horror Movies. Period.


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