Prince Of Darkness (Blu-ray Review)

Prince-Of-DarknessAnother John Carpenter classic, another Scream Factory masterpiece.  This title was highly requested by the Scream Factory groupies and of course, they’ve responded in full force.  Not only have they delivered one of their all-time best presentations, they actually got John Carpenter to sit and give one of his most genuine interviews seen on a DVD or Blu-ray ever.  Prince Of Darkness is another more “cult classic” from the vaults of Carpenter, but I think one that definitely may be more appealing to today’s audiences than when it was released.  Hopefully this release will bring the film to a little more relevance again and possibly bring some newer fans along the way.

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In the basement of an abandoned Los Angeles church, a priest finds a mysterious cylinder with a green substance swirling about.  He recruits Professor Howard Birack and his students along with theoretical physicist Brian Marsh with his group of academics to investigate the cylinder.  What lies in the cylinder is an “anti-God” matter with the potential to bring hell on earth.  Through shared dreams, visions and possession, the matter attempts to bring forth the son of Satan to begin his reign on Earth.

This is the 2nd film in what Carpenter refers to as his “Apocalypse Trilogy” (the first being The Thing and following this one, In The Mouth Of Madness).  It was his return to horror and widely panned upon release.  It’s a very dialogue heavy film, but it brings forth some interesting ideals and a good group collective and teamwork to figure out how to stop a supernatural issue.  Maybe a lot of it went over the heads of critics or they didn’t like that they were entering a “smart person’s” horror film as Carpenter puts it.  Some of the ideas may not work fully and might appear silly when overthought or nit-picked, but in the context of the film and the group dynamic, they work wonderfully.  You have to give the movies its premise and its concessions and then see how it plays with it.  And the ones this film is asking for aren’t incredibly absurd, either.  Maybe it was myself and others at an impressionable age when first viewing that helps, I dunno.

Luckily it’s picked up some cult status as this is actually good horror film that manages to still be disturbing and creepy after 26 years.  The broadcast sent through to the characters in their dreams STILL gives me the willies.  The atmosphere in the film is also top notch.  It evokes an unease and creepy presence.  It does a fantastic job of making the viewer feel as if they are alone in an abandoned church while sitting on their couch.  Carpenter once again produces an ambient score that sometimes hits the forefront but likes to hang in the shadows and breathe down your neck.

This film seriously needs another look from those who may have downplayed it back in the day.  This is religious based horror at its best.  It’s really telling that this film can still work in today’s climate.  And the ending’s idea has been riffed quite a few times since (not the exact story detail, but the technique).  It quite incredible all they were able to do with such a minimal budget ($3 mil, but Carpenter got full creative freedom).  John Carpenter is always great with making big movies on a super low budget. This film is another shining example of that.  This Blu-ray release would be the perfect way to initiate any newbies to this film.  I hadn’t seen it in a long time, and this was a great one to revisit.

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I had heard rumblings about the 1080p MPEG-4 AVC picture on this release.  And those rumblings were right.  Framed in Carpenter’s preferred 2:35.1, Prince Of Darkness has an absolutely lovely picture quality.  Every image onscreen is clean and well defined.  No obvious DNR work seems to be present at all.  The colors are nice bold, yet restrained as not to distract or become unnatural.  Skin textures are top notch and well defined.  You can definitely see concealer makeup on Lisa Blount’s face during a few scenes.  The texture and surfaces of the church and parking lot show every nick and crack present.  Hair, both facial and on the head reveals pretty much every follicle.  This presentation is a thing of beauty.  This is easily one of the best quality video presentations of any John Carpenter film, if not the best.  I really think you’ll be stunned when you see how good Prince Of Darkness looks!

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The darkness lurks in DTS-HD MA 5.1.  The track is a very nice, full one.  The score fill the room and provides the necessary thumps from your subwoofer.  The track is a very nice and clean one as the dialogue and effects are crisp and clear.  The “scary” sounds and whatnot are at a loud enough rate to unhinge you and make you feel uncomfortable in your seat as they happen.  This is by design.  Carpenter is the best at evoking emotion through the use of sound.  Also provided is a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track keeping closer to the original audio.  It’s a good one too as its a little bit louder and features a good mix.  I prefer the 5.1 on this one, but for the purists you get your lossless stereo track to meet your needs.

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  • Audio Commentary With Director John Carpenter – John Carpenter and actor Peter Jason discuss John’s return to horror, casting scoring and making the film for such a small budget.  As always, Carpenter fills all the time with incredibly good info, jokes and anecdotes. This is an older commentary as Carpenter comments on seeing Lisa Blount a few years earlier and her still looking real good (Blount died in 2010).
  • Sympathy For The Devil: An Interview With John Carpenter (10:28) – While ten minutes may be brief to some, this may be one of the best interviews with John Carpenter of all time.  For maybe the first time, the man appears to be appreciative and humbled by his successes and the appreciation he’s garnered for them (he has come off as kinda grumpy in the past).  And it comes off very genuine as well. Maybe he’s turned over a new leaf, is in better company or just happy to be discussing something other than Halloween or The Thing.
  • Alice At The Apocalypse: An Interview With Alice Cooper (9:27) – Alice Cooper discusses how he went from taking a set visit as a fan to becoming a full fledged character in the film.  It’s really cool to hear him talk about what a fan he was and how he relished in this opportunity.  This interview really displays what a fun and cooperative person he must be to collaborate with.
  • The Messenger: All New Interview With Actor & Special Visual Effects Supervisor Robert Grosmere (12:41) – Robert Grosmere discusses a little bit of visual effects to start, but leads into more of a discussion about how he got his role and taking on the task.  He’s very proud and thankfully to Carpenter for what was gifted to him.
  • Hell On Earth: All At The Film’s Score With Co-Composer Alan Howarth (10:15) – Frequent collaborator Alan Howarth discusses not only his work on this film, but how he and John’s relationship on creating scores worked.  He also compares the lasting power and love of Carpenter’s film catalog to that of Alfred Hitchcock.
  • Alternate Opener From TV Version (6:55) – The TV opening credits sequence was editing in a faster succession and also in a slightly different chronological order.  It even has a fade that suggests the whole meat of this film could be just a dream.
  • Horror’s Hallowed Grounds (13:44) – Sean Clark is back for a trip to the locations of Prince Of Darkness.  This episode is absolutely hilarious.  I swear these things are getting better every time a new one comes out on one of these releases.  The obligatory Robert Rusler cameo is brilliant on this one too.  They are a MUST WATCH every time they pop up on a Scream Factory title.
  • Trailer And Radio Spots (2:48) – A trailer for the film and 2 radio commercials.
  • Still Gallery – 52 photos covering behind the scenes, promotional images and posters.
  • *EASTER EGG* John Carpenter’s Prince Of Darkness 25 Anniversary Screening (12:10) – A Q&A session with John Carpenter from the screening of the film from Screamfest 2012.  The session is moderated by Badass Digest & Horror Movie A Day (Some Days) writer & horror encyclopedia Brian Collins.  John Carpenter’s snarkyness shows up in a very fun fashion.

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It should almost be illegal for anyone but Scream Factory to release a John Carpenter film.  We keep seeing countless times, them treating his films as they should be treated- like timeless classics.  In The Mouth Of Madness is coming in October and that’s cool, but kind of disappointing that Scream Factory has no hand in it.  With Prince Of Darkness they have given it a marvelous presentation with some top notch interviews and other bonus content that fans have been clamoring for.  I know I sit and ballwash this distributor all the time, but they really REALLY do a superb job and truly put fans first above all else.  Even the worst of movies get treated royally by them, and they manage to give me an excitement for something I really may not have cared about time and time again.  Prince Of Darkness isn’t in that category (its great stuff) but I’m just saying what a fantastic job they are doing with their product.



Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

1 Response to “Prince Of Darkness (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    I was at that Q&A!