Blue on Black: Prince of Darkness (1987)

John Carpenter: Halloween, The Thing, They Live. Those are probably the quick three that come to mind when you hear this horror legend’s name. But with 28 directing credits and 41 writing credits on his IMDB page, there’s surely more to Mr. Carpenter than just Michael Myers and R.J. MacReady. I was given a copy of Prince of Darkness on Blu-ray for Christmas this year (from Andy Burns, no less) and could not wait to watch it again. I hadn’t seen it since I was a kid, maybe 9 or 10 years old, and couldn’t believe I had somehow left this one by the wayside. I mean, Alice Cooper?! As a sketchy hobo?! How could I have forgotten about this? It was even creepier, way cheesier, and more glorious than I remembered. I’ll get into some dirty details after you check out this sweet, sweet 80s trailer:

The film opens with a priest (Donald Pleasence) discovering an ancient cylinder in the basement of an abandoned L.A. church. The cylinder contains a mysterious green liquid, and with the help of a professor and some physics students, the priest and his assistants learn that the cylinder actually contains the sentient essence of Satan, which is kind of a bummer for them – especially when some of the liquid escapes and possesses those exposed. But that’s not all, folks! According to some found and deciphered text, Satan is not only planning to return to physical form, but also to summon his father (yeah, he has a DAD) into our world so they can get up to all kinds of no-good together… Unless they are stopped! Dun dun dunnn. As the film builds towards its climax, which is not exactly a happy ending, there are blood, guts, gore, and jump-scares galore. It’s fun and spooky and all the things you’d expect and hope for.

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Despite the need-to-know-it-all movie junkie that I am, I rarely watch bonus material. I guess I prefer to give myself time to absorb a film and interpret things in my own way. But I did watch the extra features included on this disc, and they weren’t disappointing. Hearing what Carpenter had to say about his film, and listening to him share his thoughts and his passion about it really added to my appreciation of it. The interview with Alice Cooper was pretty great too, though I’m pretty sure we all know that guy can do no wrong.

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As tends to go without saying for John Carpenter films, the score is hypnotic. He and Alan Howarth make musical magic together as always, and that layered 80s synthesizer enhances the suspense and the underlying chill factor of films like Prince of Darkness in a way that modern horror cinema can’t seem to match. With more and more movies today leaning towards soundtracks with familiar songs instead of original scores (at least in this genre), it’s definitely something I appreciate when watching films from the good ol’ days of horror. I plan on ordering this score on vinyl (available from Amazon) and making it part of the soundtrack to my own days.

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If you’re a fan of this era of the genre, and want to not only be grossed out (which you will be a-plenty watching this one), but also have something to think about once it’s over, give Prince of Darkness a try. If you’re anything like me, it just might become one of your new old favourites.

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