Right now, we’re in the midst of several John Carpenter classics getting new 4K Ultra HD releases. And let’s face it, that’s most certainly a good thing because, well, because any chance to revisit the Horror Master is always appreciated. Next up then, it’s time to take a look at Studio Canal’s new release of 1987’s Prince of Darkness.
Front and centre in Prince of Darkness, we have Donald Pleasence as a priest who becomes engulfed in a plot based around the purest of pure evil. You see, in a church basement there’s a canister full of an eerie green liquid that is essential Satan himself. In need of assistance, Pleasance’s priest – who is only ever referred to as, err, Priest – seeks the help of Howard Birack (Victor Wong), a quantum physics professor who also has a batch of students available to help out in this unique investigation. Throw in a secret sect, the interesting use of the local homeless community, mirrors that house portals, and elements of social commentary on the AIDS epidemic of the time, and you have a movie that is one of Carpenter’s most bizarre.
If we’re being honest, Prince of Darkness is, at times, an uneven picture that maybe loses itself a little as the final third commences. With that in mind, however, there are so many great facets to this film. First and foremost, Donald Pleasence is on electric form at his manic best. To us, there are very few sights in genre cinema as marvellous as seeing Pleasence delivering an intense, slightly erratic monologue, and he gets plenty to sink his teeth into here. Similarly, some of the horror sequence are grotesque in the best possible way, particularly for those with a penchant for body horror. Out of all of Carpenter’s films, Prince of Darkness is likely his most extreme in terms of shocking visuals, but there is still the masterful Carpenter tension at play as the picture unravels.
With clear inspiration from the Quatermass series – not least in how Carpenter credits himself as Martin Quatermass where the screenwriting credit is concerned – we get a grim and relentless film that essentially sees the end of the world being rang in before our very eyes. To be precise, this is the second of Carpenter’s “Apocalypse Trilogy” that also contains The Thing and In the Mouth of Madness. Here, hope is gone, evil has a firm grip on proceedings, and Alice Cooper is ominously shuffling towards our protagonists. Bar Pleasence’s Priest, though, you may find yourself struggling to really get behind any of the other characters who are faced with this most grim of scenarios. The terror and tension displayed is classic Carpenter, but it’s just at times things verge a little on the cheesy given the ambitious, outrageous narrative of the film, and some of the key characters end up as instantly forgettable.
For this new release, there are a whole bunch of added material and, of course, the brand new 4K restoration. Visually, the film clearly looks better than it ever has, and it’s testament to Kevin Quibelll just how well the SFX of the day hold up over 30 years later. A large percentage of the special features seen on this new release have been featured on previous releases of Prince of Darkness, but they are still just as enjoyable today as they’ve ever been – and let’s face it, a chat track from John Carpenter never gets old. One noticeable new piece of material on show, mind, is the Malevolent documentary that is a fascinating look back at the movie, its production, and its legacy.
All in all, Prince of Darkness isn’t in the top echelon of Carpenter films, but it’s still a taut, terrifying affair anchored by a tour de force performance from Donald Pleasence. Added to that, the 4K transfer and the plentiful bonus content make this a hugely appealing purchase for fans of the iconic Horror Master.
And while we’re got your attention, the 4K restoration of Prince of Darkness is screening at cinemas around the country. For full details on when and where Prince of Darkness, They Live, The Fog, and Escape from New York are playing, be sure to head on over to https://www.johncarpenter4k.co.uk.
Special Features: Audio commentary / Brand new Malevolent: Unearthing John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness documentary / Interview with John Carpenter / Intro by John Carpenter / Scene analysis by John Carpenter / Horror’s Halloween Hallowed Grounds with Sean Clark / Behind the scenes / Photo gallery / Trailer
PRINCE OF DARKNESS – 4K ULTRA HD / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: JOHN CARPENTER / STARRING: DONALD PLEASENCE, LISA BLOUNT, VICTOR WONG, DIRK BLOCKER, JAMESON PARKER, DENNIS DUN / RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 26TH