When Prince of Darkness came out in 1987, it was nearly a decade after John Carpenter had set the tone for 80s horror with Halloween. But here, he took horror to a whole new level—and sort of back to the 70s, when movies like The Exorcist and The Omen were delving into theology and occultism and creeping us out in the process. However, Prince of Darkness combines truly complex takes on these themes with a rather simple horror plot where the evil is transferred from one person to the next by, well, puke to the mouth—puke that looks like the green shit in a glow stick. Puke swallowers pretty much go into a hypnotic state as they walk around looking for another mouth to puke into. These aren’t even scary zombies. They’re just normal people who would kick ass in a staring contest.
Carpenter enlists Donald Pleasence once again, playing a priest this time. Father LOOMIS. Really John? Same actor, same name as his character in your cash cow? Right off, this film that wants to be taken seriously feels a little novel. Plus, about half the Asian cast from Carpenter’s classic supernatural kung-fu action adventure comedy Big Trouble in Little China are back for this film. Okay, only two of them, but you can’t help but notice. Next, we have Alice Cooper excellently portraying a ghoulish homeless person—and providing the rockin’ hair band theme song to the film.
On top of that, we have the blond guy from Simon & Simon, complete with 80s gay porn-stache and a nicely ripped torso, all of which had me wondering: WHY didn’t I ever watch Simon & Simon???
These are the reasons I LIKE the film, but they don’t seem to be in keeping with the type of film fans who call this Carpenter’s masterpiece make it out to be. See, there’s this big cylinder found in an abandoned church. In it is swirling glow stick green stuff that is supposed to be Satan (I think), and he wants out of the cylinder so he can unleash his father on the world, who’s apparently even more evil than Satan himself. Something like that. Who cares. Just bring on the damn zombies.
Anyway, Father Pleasence calls on a gang of paranormal students to stay in the building to investigate—this trapped and abandoned group concept is very The Thing. The place gets surrounded by Alice Cooper’s bug-covered homeless minions, and before long, a chunk of our cast is doing the walking coma dance—actually, it’s quite a while before this happens, because this movie is a slow burner. This is really classic Carpenter from the very opening. If you love his synth-heavy horror scores for Halloween, The Fog, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, and Christine, you’ll love this one as well. It sets a great tone in the opening minutes of the movie.
This film really has everything going for it—too much, actually. You got the whole father of Satan thing. You got the glow stick zombies. The green cylinder. The homeless people—who are soon being controlled by the cylinder and killing people with bicycles and scissors. You have a guy who is used as a communication device by the evil before he melts into a big pile of bugs. You have a mirror to hell that proves that Satan’s dad’s hand appears larger in a mirror than it actually is. You have a chick who eventually ends up bed-ridden—with a complexion more gnarly than Linda Blair’s.
But the best segment of the film that is classic Carpenter is when the Asian dude is locked in the closet. Okay, let’s talk about the Asian dude first. When he initially appears on screen, he is decked out in gay 80s fashion perfection: a pink button shirt with the sleeves rolled up and shiny gray pleated pants with tapered ankles. I truly cried out, “So gay!” And I’m not the only one with gaydar. When the Asian dude is complaining about this field trip to hell because he had a hot date, Simon says, “Oh yeah? What’s his name?” Then, Asian guy references suffering from homosexual panic when he was younger. Next thing you know, he ends up locked in a closet for 30 minutes, begging the other survivors to let him out of it because the evil women are going to break in and kill him. On top of that, he delivers some of the snarkiest (and best) lines in the film. This dude is GAY.
This is the most suspenseful sequence, combining some of Carpenter’s signature elements. First of all, the Asian guy is trapped in a closet with slats, so he can see the evil right outside the door, like Laurie in Halloween. And, as the zombie-like women try to break in to get him, the suspense very reminiscent of the church scene in The Fog, the other survivors, who have been digging a hole trying to get him out from the other side manage to reach in and save him just in time—kind of like the tension filled moment in The Fog when Adrienne Barbeau’s son is saved.
And, after its rather tragic ending—which is similar in theme to 1977’s The Sentinel, Prince of Darkness delivers one last jump scene that will scare the hell out of you—if you’re not too busy focusing on the rippling abs of Simon.