With Halloween currently doing the business in cinemas around the world, there’s no better time to be reminded that it was John Carpenter, in 1978, who directed the opening salvo in what has become a classic horror movie franchise. It was Halloween, too, that catapulted an indie director into the big league with a reported $70 million box office take for a $300,000 initial spend.
So STUDIOCANAL’s re-issues of some of Carpenter’s big screen hits couldn’t be more timely. Sadly, so far, Halloween isn’t in the mix, but The Fog, They Live, Escape From New York, and Prince Of Darkness will all be getting 4K restoration treatment alongside limited theatrical releases.
Prince Of Darkness was released ten yeas after Halloween and forms part of what Carpenter calls his ‘Apocalypse Trilogy’ (starting with The Thing and ending with Mountains Of Madness). Yet, while there’s no doubt that this is the work of a mature and confident director, it retains many of the trademarks of his early films: strong and diverse characters, plots that blur genre lines, and ‘what-if’ endings.
Prince Of Darkness deals with a sinister religious sect who have been guardians of an apparently other-worldly entity for two thousand years. As a group of scientists are brought in to study the phenomena, things quickly get out of hand.
Carpenter is a director who loves to shake up accepted Hollywood ‘stereotypes’ and Prince Of Darkness is no exception, with the usual horror tropes are turned on their heads– guys being terrorised by female antagonists, and science trumping superstition at every turn.
Donald Pleasance and Victor Wong (Big Trouble In Little China) are both magnificent. It’s a joy to see actors of their calibre given the chance to play off against each other. Look out too for other Carpenter alumni such as Dennis Dun (Big Trouble In Little China), Susan Blanchard (They Live) and Dirk Blocker (Starman).
Prince Of Darkness is a late-night treat. A film with just the right amount of thrills, gore and characters who you care about. The dialogue’s a little ’80s cheesy at times and some of the performances seem mis-cued. But this is classic Carpenter presented in crisp 4K UHD. What’s not to love?