Starring: Donald Pleasance, Victor Wong, Jameson Parker, Lisa Blount
Rated R (Probably for Violence/Gore and Language)
John Carpenter's career will be defined by two films: "Halloween," which initiated the slasher movie genre as we know of it today, and "The Thing," a horror movie set in Antarctica. Everything else he has made has either become a cult film, or deservedly forgotten. "Prince of Darkness" is one of the latter.
The only pleasure I get out of watching a movie as bad as "Prince of Darkness" is that by eviscerating it in a review, I get some measure of revenge for wasting my time and energy that was stolen from me by a lousy movie. The 102 minutes I spent watching this piece of crap is something that I will never get back, and could have been spent doing something better. Like unclogging toilets at a rest stop by hand. As gross as it sounds, it's the preferable option to watching this movie.
Normally I like to give a plot synopsis in every review, but the narrative here is so choppy and badly developed that beyond the premise, I didn't know what the hell was going on. Something weird is happening at a local church that unnerves a priest (Pleasance), and he asks his friend, Prof. Birack (Wong) for help. Birack brings a number of his graduate students to spend the weekend there doing work, but doesn't tell them what it is. Apparently, there's a device there that's going haywire, and unless they do something about it, Lucifer himself will enter our world. Or his father. The movie has trouble deciding which, it seems.
Like I said, this isn't the pinnacle of narrative complexity (not that horror movies are known for that...). I believe that it is possible to turn any idea into a good movie, even if it demands a very warped approach, but it's hard to imagine anyone believing that this story, as is, could actually work. It rarely makes any sense, and on the rare occasion it does, you'll wish it didn't once you realize how absurd it all is.
The acting comes in two forms: lazy and horrid. The two veteran actors, Donald Pleasance and Victor Wong (best known as Grandpa in the "3 Ninjas" franchise), are in full "take the money and run" mode. It's obvious that they only appeared for the paycheck. Or as a result of Carpenter having some nasty information about them. Regardless, they both look like they'd rather be anywhere else. They are, to the extent that its possible, the saving grace of the film. The other actors...not so much. The rest of the cast is made up of people who appear to have been picked up from small town acting classes. No one is able to utter a single line of dialogue convincingly. Worse than that, they're boring and stupid. It's the old bad horror movie cliché: if this is the best we have to offer, we deserve what we get.
The film isn't a total loss. There are a few spooky moments here and there. But they don't last long, and don't even come close to compensating for the sheer badness of the rest of the film.
Better follow my lead and watch "The Descent" instead.