Prince of Darkness (1987)

prince of darkness poster 1987 movie
5.5 Overall Score
Story: 4/10
Acting: 5/10
Visuals: 5/10

An original story, weirdness factor

Too much going on, not enough scares

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Prince of Darkness

Studio:  Alive Films

Genre(s):  Horror/Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Release Date(s):  October 23, 1987

MPAA Rating:  R

prince of darkness evil concentrated water

Evil…that can be defeated by a mop

An darkness has been unearthed in a Los Angeles church in the form of a hidden container of pure evil that could be a living source of the Anti-Christ. A priest (Donald Pleasance) and a supernatural researcher named Professor Howard Birack (Victor Wong) have gathered a team to investigate the strange liquid. As forces amass to trap them in the church, the evil has been released and messages from the future bring a warning that it could destroy Earth.

Directed by John Carpenter, Prince of Darkness is a horror thriller.  Following Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China in 1986, the movie is the second part of his “Apocalypse Trilogy” composed of 1982’s The Thing and was followed by In the Mouth of Madness in 1995.  It was received with poor reviews but has gained a cult following since its release.

This has never been one of my favorite John Carpenter films.  There are some rather tense moments, but there is a lot dead time in the film as well.  It (like the evil water) is a creeping horror, but it creeps just a bit too slowly for me to enjoy.

prince of darkness homeless people alice cooper

Oddly Alice Cooper and his roadies didn’t even know they were in the movie

The problem is that the movie feels somewhat disjointed and emotionally empty. The horror of the movie is creepy, but the zombie-like possessed don’t feel too threatening since they largely stand around as guardians instead of attackers (they can be beaten to death by a couple people with a rock).  The real agents of horror therefor become “the Evil” which is just a big bucket of green water that pees on its victims.

The movie needs more focus.  I admire the craziness of it, but I don’t feel it ever comes together.  With messages from the future, possessed homeless people (led by Alice Cooper), and bugs and worms, the movie just has too much going on.  I get the evil; that should be the movie! I realize the bugs and worms and people tie to the evil, but the messages from the future and the whole tachyon stuff feels unnecessary and ventures into sci-fi which has a hard time being scary in this context.  Infection and zombie type characters are scary, and the idea that the evil can pass person-to-person through a physical medium like water should have been developed as the main plot point…just think if just a sweaty palm could infect a person?

prince of darkness zombie woman

They’ll touch you up in post…don’t worry

Carpenter has the right idea with the claustrophobic nature of the movie, and the idea that this evil is so frightening as a concept rather than an actual threat that it has been hidden from the world feels real (and what does it mean about Creation myth and the Bible in general).  The movie has the potential to be a taut horror thriller, but squanders some of the opportunity

Prince of Darkness just doesn’t work for me though I do occasionally revisit it.  I know that it has a cult following now, and I do love a lot of Carpenter films, but this just isn’t one of them.  The Thing which does get it right, does bring the paranoia, and does have sci-fi aspects while still being scary instead of the unbalanced Prince of Darkness.  Carpenter followed Prince of Darkness with They Live in 1988.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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