Prince of Darkness Blu-Ray Review
John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness
is a film that has somehow always managed to slip passed me in my filmgoing years. I've always seen bits and pieces, which happened to be edited on broadcast TV and one of the few films that people never go to when Carpenter comes up in conversation. Sure, the offerings of The Thing
and Escape from New York
are the films that most people go to, but for some reason I always wondered how Prince of Darkness
was and why nobody ever spoke of it. Lucky for me, Scream Factory has just released an pretty nice edition Prince of Darkness
and I found myself pretty surprised at what I found.
The film is centered around a secret that the Vatican has been hiding for centuries, the actual existence of evil, the Anti-God. The current location of this evil presence, resides in an abandoned church, in the middle of Los Angeles, where a Priest (Donald Pleasance) seeks the help of a friend to conduct an investigation. When Professor Howard Birack (Victor Wong) hears about it, he decides to take his theoretical physics class, in order to help the Priest understand what this evil truly is. His students decide to stay overnight, with different fields of study, which include linguistics, mathematics, chemistry and physics, in order to find a scientific understanding of the evil liquid that resides in the chambers below.
Prince of Darkness
has both great things and really bad things going for it and its very easy to see why its been forgotten. First let's start out with the good, being the overall atmosphere, theories and effects shots that make this a Carpenter classic. The idea of an Anti-God and how it can reside within a human being, on a sub-atomic level are just some of the interesting ideas that Carpenter lays out in Prince of Darkness
. Anyone at any given time, can succumb to the evil within and the fact that Carpenter is applying these typical theological theories, in the vein of “all men are sinners”, by way of science is one that makes this film worth watching. The problem is that the idea is merely posed and never fully fleshed out. The tone and the tension by the end of the film include some nail bitting moments, where the actual Prince of Darkness is trying to make contact with the other side of evil makes for some pretty high stakes. This also includes some nifty practical effects, where one placing a hand into a mirror makes some use of trick photography, make up effects and other elements that make the film shine.
The bad news is that many of the elements that I bring up are really half assed and never fully come to their full potential. From the characters to the various subplots, many of the elements are bland and seem thrown together, for the sake of it. There isn't a single character in the film exudes a personality and all of them feel like they're going through the motions to get the audience to the next plot point. It isn't until they're directly dealing with the ideas that Carpenter is toying with, like the Priest whose beliefs are challenged and the students trying to understand this evil being and their relationship with it is most certainly intriguing. This doesn't happen until the final moments of the film and by that point, its far too late care.
The disc from Scream Factory boasts some pretty impressive video and audio on the new Blu-Ray, as well as some pretty decent extras. The video on the disc is presented in an AVC encoded, 1080p HD transfer, with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Even though this was made in the 1980's, you would never tell from looking at the spectacular video quality of the film. There are some really nice moments when the practical effects still look really good in HD, like the canister of evil and the mirror segments and supports how this film still holds up in fleeting moments. The audio is presented in two DTS-HD Master Audio tracks, one in 5.1 and another in stereo. Both mixes are solid, where there a good amount of fidelity and activity in the surround mix and the stereo presents the same feel, just without the wider presentation. There's also a good commentary with Carpenter and interviews with him and Alice Cooper.
Prince of Darkness
is a very mixed bag, where there are some pretty great ideas and concepts that are working for it, but the execution falls really flat. This disc from Scream Factory is pretty nice, but only die hard Carpenter fans would probably be inclined to pick it up.