Prince of Darkness

Prince of Darkness is currently available on instant Netflix.

Prince of Darkness (1987) – Rated R

“A cylinder of mysterious, green liquid is found in an abandoned church. It may contain the ultimate evil: an ancient iniquity that longs to escape. Several physicists try to comprehend what’s happening and race to save the world, even as they’re being turned into zombies one by one. Director John Carpenter fills Prince of Darkness with his trademark mix of horror and humor.”

“I’ve got a message for you, and you’re not going to like it. “

John Carpenter loves to destroy the world. Prince of Darkness is the second film in his loose apocalypse trilogy, following The Thing (1982) and before his ode to Lovecraft, In the Mouth of Madness (1994).

In a reversal of The Fog, the first half of Prince of Darkness is riveting as the mystery slowly unravels. The religious scenes without dialogue that take place during the credits are particularly well done. The book, the key, and the container of liquid are very creepy. The second half is enjoyable but fails to live up to the potential provided by the first half.

One of the things I love about Carpenter is his constant, excellent use of the 2.35:1 widescreen format and his great eye for the blocking of scenes. His electronic score adds to the suspense. Unfortunately Carpenter is not an actor’s director. He has an eye for choosing talent but not always getting the proper performance.

Jameson Parker (Simon of Simon & Simon, or was that Simon?) is woefully wooden here as our lead, Brian Marsh. Equally wooden and lacking any chemistry with Parker is Lisa Blount as female lead Catherine Danforth. It doesn’t help that some of their dialogue is pretty clunky. Dennis Dun provides some comic relief as Walter, though some others have found him irksome.

Thankfully Donald Pleasance does a wonderful turn as Father Loomis, a play on his character of Dr. Sam Loomis in Halloween. Pleasance was an amazing character actor that seldom got to lead, presumably because of his balding, portly physique. Returning for Carpenter from playing Egg Shen in Big Trouble in Little China, Victor Wong has a blast here as our Quatermass-like scientist, Professor Howard Birack. Also fun here is Peter Jason as Dr. Leahy. Jason would go on to appear in Carpenter’s They Live, In the Mouth of Madness, Escape from L.A. and Village of the Damned.

A side note: I understand this is grad school but Jameson Parker is 40, Lisa Blount is 30, Dennis Dun (Walter) is 35, Jessie Ferguson (Calder) is 46 and Dirk Blocker (Mullins) is 30. Yes, grad students are older but not by that much. Were there no bright young students in the class?

Prince of Darkness is a favorite horror of mine but it is definitely a flawed masterpiece. Watch it for the plot, theme, atmosphere, Victor Wong, Alice Cooper, and Donald Pleasance. Just try and overlook some of the poor dialogue and acting.

People Watch: Joanna Merlin, who plays the bag lady, would go on to be a regular on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit as Judge Lena Petrovsky. Alice Cooper not only plays ‘Street Schizo’ but also contributes the title song Prince of Darkness to the soundtrack.

Alien Apocalypse – Bruce Campbell week

This is Bruce Campbell week. Alien Apocalypse is currently available on instant Netflix.

PASS: Alien Apocalypse (2005) – NR – Not rated.

“Returning from a mission to outer space, astronaut-physician Ivan Hood (Bruce Campbell of The Evil Dead) and his lovely assistant, Kelly (Renee OConnor), are greeted with an awful reality: Earth has been invaded by slave-driving aliens who use humans as their work force. Helping the enslaved population organize and rise against their captors, Ivan and Kelly incite a revolution that puts the evil extraterrestrials on notice.”

“Ungh… you said you are a doctor. You are supposed to heal people.” – “I am. Your stupidity is terminal. And now you are cured.”

Alien Apocalypse begins by stealing a page from Planet of the Apes: Four astronauts land on a future Earth that is no longer run by humans. It does not take long for that number to be reduced to two.

Aside: how can you remember the Probe mission that went up 40 years ago and only be 35 years old? Did they not read their own script?

Josh Becker wrote and directed this made-for-SyFy movie. His previous credits included 9 episodes of Xena Warrior Princess so it is no surprise to see Autolycus (Bruce Campbell) and Gabrielle (Renee OConnor) as the stars. His writing could use a lot of work but as a director, he keeps things moving fairly briskly.

Aside: this movie has some of the worst fake beards I have ever seen. One might almost call them pythonesque.

Bruce Campbell headlines again here playing Dr. Ivan Hood. His character is as self-centered as most of his are. He basically plays an intergalactic chiropractor since the only evidence of his healing ability is that he can crack the backs of those with poor posture. One of Campbells strengths as an actor is that he can visibly have fun with even bad material. The material here is not terrible but it certainly is not very good either.

Aside: okay the aliens invaded twenty years ago and everyone has forgotten what a handshake is? Even when many of the cast are well over 20?

Renee OConnor plays the female lead and other surviving astronaut, Kelly.She appears to be having fun although she is not given that much to do and the best lines go to Campbell. Strangely they sideline her for a good portion of the movie and substitute a generic attractive young blonde in a leather bikini for her. My guess is that they only had her for a few days of shooting (or perhaps she refused to wear that outfit :P).

Aside: as mentioned the aliens invaded twenty years ago, yet still everyone has forgotten what a doctor is?

Veteran genre actor Peter Jason (Mortal Kombat, Prince of Darkness, Arachnophobia) plays the President but his screentime is exceptionally brief.

Aside: keep in mind when you see the President that according to the story he was President over twenty years ago. Apparently we elected another young ”un as twenty years later he appears to be the right age for a President.

I could go on with aside after aside but I think you get the picture. This movie is goofy and stupid. I cannot really recommend this except for die hard Bruce Campbell, Renee OConnor, or Xena fans.

Aside: if they have bows and arrows and modern guns with plenty of ammunition, why do they only ever use the bows and arrows?

People Watch: The role of Kelly was initially offered to Xena (Lucy Lawless) who turned it down before it was offered to her sidekick Gabrielle (Renee OConnor).