October Horrorshow, Retroactive: Prince of Darkness

Victor Wong will kick your ass with a chopstick and a can of Shasta.

This is attempt number five. The fifth time I’ve begun a review of John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness. Hopefully, I’ll be able to finish this effort. Suppose I start with a declarative statement, then justify it with an argument? Sounds like a plan.

Prince of Darkness sucks.

I feel bad about being so harsh. I want to like this film. I like John Carpenter. I enjoy watching many of his films. But this...this is just bad. It’s low-grade cinema, almost as if Carpenter lacked the ability to craft a good film, which is not the case. John Carpenter had been a master of middling cinema, a skilled craftsman who had shown flashes of serious talent in previous efforts, despite his obvious limitations, but this was the first of his films that not only was cheap, but had a cheap attitude about it as well. The setting is drab, the action thin, and Carpenter got absolutely nothing out of the majority of the cast.

Dull faces, dull reactions, dull readings, and most of this seemed to be by design. Donald Pleasence and Victor Wong, as a priest and physics professor, respectively, provide the only life to the cast in their unique fashions. While not excellent, Prince of DarknessPleasence is a pro, and he outclasses everyone in this dog. Victor Wong is just lively, a guilty pleasure that makes no sense at all and is totally unbelievable, but is indispensable, as well.

The real weight that drags Prince of Darkness down is its lack of forward motion. It’s boring. I hesitate to use terms like “sucks” and “boring”. They lack imagination. They are plain and simple words that do more to convey an opinion holder’s lack of sophistication than any faults with the target such barbs are directed towards. But Prince of Darkness sucks because it is boring. The pace is somnambulistic, and the scenes where something, anything, finally happens are always bookended by lengthy and amateurish metaphysical or religious explanations that give a glimpse at the ideas behind the plot, but these ideas feel like they were birthed in bong water.

As it turns out, the devil is a jar of green goo in the basement of a shuttered church in Los Angeles. Upon it’s stirring, the Catholic Church calls on Victor Wong and a gaggle of grad students to investigate this bottled menace. Trouble ensues, eventually and sparingly. There are demonic possessions, insect infestations, and random impalements. The days of Christ are explained and re-written with otherworldly origins, and there’s even a television broadcast from the future that can only be seen in dreams. There’s more, but for some reason, it feels wrong to spoil it.

I hate that I hate this film. I’ve watched it maybe five or six times since it’s release, twice with this review in mind, and it gets worse with every viewing. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this terrible review is more about myself than the film, but Prince of Darkness is a colossal disappointment to me. The director that made Escape from New York, Big Trouble in Little China, and Halloween is nowhere to be seen. Instead, the fellow that directed The Fog showed up. It’s a close one, but Alien: Resurrection is better than Prince of Darkness.

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