Home Video Hovel- Prince of Darkness, by Tyler Smith
I feel it appropriate to start off this review by admitting that I am not, to my knowledge, the Devil. While I may have read about his nefarious actions, I can’t claim to know the inner workings of his mind. So, if the Devil decided to take over the world, I’m sure he would have a labyrinthine plan to do so, and that plan likely wouldn’t make a lot of sense to me, a mere human.
Nonetheless, however convoluted that plan may be, I feel like it must be better than the one depicted in John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness.
The film starts off well enough, with a group of students and professors gathered together to study a supernatural phenomenon. Inside an unremarkable church in California, a large glass canister swirls with green liquid. Nobody really knows where it came from or what it is meant to do; only that it is there. A world weary priest (played passionately by Donald Pleasence) has an inkling that, whatever the liquid is, it is pure evil.
This theory is essentially proven right as it appears that the liquid is alive. It blasts into people’s mouths, turning them into mindless zombies. Soon, the students are dropping like flies. One of them, a young woman, gets an extra dose of the liquid, causing her skin to rot off. As she is taken over, she reaches into a mirror to take the hand of Satan and bring him into our world, where he will… do something.
While the Devil’s plan of gradual assimilation seems to be working, it is, by and large, not well thought-out. The whole thing is contingent on somebody being curious about the canister of green liquid and investigating long enough to get squirted. Such a thing is actually fairly likely, as the canister is indeed an oddity that would surely attract the attention of somebody at some point. However, the zombified humans- which act here as Satan’s army- are pretty easily dispatched. All it really seems to take is a blunt or sharp instrument to the head and they’re out. I have to assume that, even if the entire cast of characters were to be possessed, a small squad of armed police officers would make short work of them and the Devil’s plans would be thwarted.
Then, of course, there is the rotting girl and the mirror. Apparently, all one has to do in this instance is shatter the mirror into which she is reaching and the Devil has no way of entering our world. It’s as simple as that. If need be, Satan can apparently be kept at bay with a moderately heavy rock.
Normally, this sort of thing wouldn’t bother me. If a movie has interesting characters inhabiting a well-developed world, that’s enough to ignore slight story deficiencies. In Prince of Darkness, however, there are no real characters to speak of (and those that are distinct are not particularly sympathetic). And while the atmosphere of dread is well established, the all-encompassing fear starts to dissipate once we see that the story is so half-assed that we really don’t have anything to be afraid of.
It really is a shame, too, as John Carpenter does such a thorough job of setting up our expectations. We genuinely feel like we’re about to see something special; a sort of grand showdown between a ragtag, makeshift Good and an overpowering Evil. Then, after that initial burst of liquid, the reality sets in that there will be nothing grand about this movie. Instead, it all feels so small and inconsequential; words that definitely should not apply to a film seemingly about the End of the World.