“Prince of Darkness” (1987) Review

What’s it About?

A research team finds a mysterious cylinder in a deserted church. If opened, it could mean the end of the world.

“Prince of Darkness”

Directed by John Carpenter

7 out of 10

By Brian

Horror films have one ineffable quality that no other genre can lay claim to: Mood is more important than story. There are some that may disagree with that statement, but, think of some of your favorite horror flicks of all time. Most of them have simple premises that don’t hold a lot of weight (Halloween, Night of the Living Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre) but they have a sense of mood and style that grips the audience and doesn’t let go. Prince of Darkness is not in the same league as the films I mentioned previously but it does share that one vital element: mood.

Director John Carpenter andย Director of photography Gary Kibbe (his first film as cinematographer for Carpenter) populate the world with constant barriers that are being thrown up. It might be a door, or lunatics out in the street, or even a possessed person just around the corner. Carpenter creates a sense of claustrophobia that builds and builds as the story progresses until it reaches its climax.

The camera work throughout is top notch. Hallways go on forever, basements have corners that darken into nothingness, and the church itself feels like a shrine to evil. The cast of characters are generally wallpaper except for the great Donald Pleasance, who, as usual, anchors the film with a sense of believability that it otherwise would have lacked. His resume is exhaustive but his consistency throughout his entire career was nothing less than spectacular.

It will never be listed with the best of horror films ever, never won any awards, and is never even thought of as one of the better John Carpenter films. But, I have always had a soft spot for this movie. Time and time again we’re given โ€œhorrorโ€ films that are utterly boring and lifeless. The word horror refers to a sense of dread, shock and fear. By that definition, Prince of Darkness is a true horror film.


    • Thanks for the link, Mark. Going to get right on it! Brian gave it a lower score than I would have. I think it easily deserves an 8. I was very grateful for his insight. Thanks for reading!

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