Evil might stomp a town from above or sneak around in shadows eager to claim victims. It can bare fangs and claws or just unleash a sly smile before attacking. In the case of John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness, evil just might be a swirling, glowing green ooze trapped within an imposing aquarium. Carpenter wanted to make a smaller film after coming off the bombastic Big Trouble In Little China. He was no stranger to low budget efforts. He had big horror payoff with Halloween nearly a decade earlier. Now he prepared to deliver a massive scare in a tight space. Instead of a merely an agent of evil, the director extracted pure evil onto the screen. John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness: Collector’s Edition does its best to prove that big things can spill out of small canisters.
An elderly priest in charge of the abandoned St. Godard’s Church has been hiding a dark secret in the basement. After he dies, Donald Pleasance (You Only Live Twice & Halloween) is assigned to see what’s stashed away at St. Godard’s. Immediately he knows something is wrong when the homeless around the church act possessed and protective of the building. When he gets inside, he’s so blown away by a discovery that he must seek help from a college professor (Big Trouble In Little China‘s Victor Wong). After an initial visit, the duo put together an exploratory group of graduate students to examine the swirling green ooze inside an ancient canister and other relics that were locked in the basement. Among the kids eager to solve the mystery are Jamison Parker (Simon & Simon) and Lisa Blount (Needful Things). Parker is eager to possess Blount’s pants. But first they must deal with the strange things going on around them. The most immediate issue are the menacing homeless people circling the church. They appear to be controlled by the green ooze. Alice Cooper is the most menacing of the pack since he looks like Alice Cooper in bad clothes. He teaches one of the grad students why it’s a bad idea to ride your bike to work. One of the students translates the “manual” to the canister to discover the green ooze might be something that will shake the foundation of Donald Plesance’s faith. The night turns even uglier when the ooze leaks out. Will anyone survive this Biblical beatdown?
John Carpenter does well in taking this story small since the claustrophobia creates the ominous atmosphere. he didn’t need to blow out the budget. The students are stuck inside a haunted church surrounded by homeless people that will kill them to do their master’s bidding. There’s no simple escape of running out the front door back to the safety of their dorm room. A few foolishly try. The bass heavy synth score really brings out the evil in the swirling green goo. The only way to escape this evil is to get behind Donald Plesance and confront it. The film does suffer from having way too many characters running around the church. This leads to completely losing track of people so that you can’t remember if they’ve been possessed or not without checking the scorecard. Pleasance and Wong do a fine job of taking the leads and fighting back against the ooze. The romance between Parker and Blount comes off as more comical that heartfelt which isn’t a bad thing for a religious themed horror film. The film has quite a few creative murders on the screen. It’s perfectly paced for cringes and the jolts.
The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The 1080p really brings out the shining green swirling goo. The audio is 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The heavy bass notes in the score hit your gut. There’s also a 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. The movie is subtitle.
Audio Commentary with John Carpenter has Peter Jason in the studio with him. Jason played Dr. Paul Leahy. The two guys have a good time recounting what happened on the set. It’s like sitting on the sofa with these two guys. They’re very relaxed in their conversation.
Sympathy for the Devil (10:28) is an interview with John Carpenter. He was inspired to make this film after reading about subatomic particles. The concept changed his approach to life. He wanted to make a low budget film after the huge budget on Big Trouble in Little China.
Alice at the Apocalypse (9:27) spends a little time with Alice Cooper. John Carpenter and Alice met up Wrestlmania III. Alice’s manager produced this movie which is how he ended up on the set. He enjoyed the non-speaking element of his possessed street person role. This was his finest movie work since Diary of a Mad Housewife.
The Messenger (12:41) is a new interview with actor & special visual effects supervisor Robert Grasmere. He had just completed Running Man when he took this gig. He was a very busy man on this set. He constructed the swirling green goo aquarium.
Hell on Earth (10:15) looks at the film’s score with co-composer Alan Howarth. He discusses working with John Carpenter on the music. Alan was more about engineering the sessions and making the samplers work. It’s quite refreshing to hear a guy not grab glory. Alan would take passes at a few scenes when Carpenter wasn’t in the music studio.
Alternate Opening from TV version (6:55) edits the film so the credits appear on the screen faster. They also make is seem like Brian Marsh might be dreaming this whole experience.
Horror’s Hallowed Ground (13:44) is my favorite bonus feature on various Scream Factory releases. Host Sean Clark gives tours of all the main locations used in the movie. He’s witty and makes sure his camera angle matches the shots in the movie. He’s got an amazing Carpenter’s t-shirt. Turns out the abandoned church is now an art center. You can take in a show when you visit Los Angeles.
Trailer and Radio Spots (2:48) sells the evil that is real. The radio ad declares you should not see this film alone. What a great way to double the audience.
Still Gallery (4:27) is a montage of production stills and promotional images.
Easter Egg (12:10) is John Carpenter talking during a screening at Screamfest. When people say a man who needs no introduction, they’re talking about John Carpenter. He gets to the microphone before the moderator.
John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness: Collector’s Edition does a fine job at buffing up the reputation of the movie. The high resolution brings out the fear of the swirling ooze. The extras allow Carpenter a chance to put the film in context. This is a jolting Biblical horror story.
Scream Factory presents John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness: Collector’s Edition. Directed by:John Carpenter. Screenplay by: John Carpenter. Starring: Donald Pleasence, Lisa Blount, Jameson Parker, Victor Wong and Alice Cooper. Running Time: 102 minutes. Rating: R. Released: September 24, 2013.