Release Date(s)1987 (September 24, 2013)
Studio(s)Universal Pictures (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: B+
John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness is a film that always seemed to be amongst the bottom tier of his work for many years, slowly growing an audience over time. An unorthodox horror film about a quantum physics professor and his students investigating an abandoned church housing a large cylinder filled with a strange green liquid that takes over the bodies of each student one by one didn’t warrant the kind of success Carpenter was privy to with some of his earlier work.
I count myself among the many who initially wrestled with Prince of Darkness when we first saw it. It’s not an easy film to unpack. On one hand, you can take it as surface level material, which is nothing more than a story about an evil entity, presumably Satan himself, attempting to step into reality. On the other hand, you can dive into the minutia of Carpenter’s interest in quantum mechanics and how it relates to the story in a more academic kind of way. After watching the film a few times, I eventually began to appreciate it more than I did initially. Mixing hard science with the supernatural, particularly an area of science that isn’t easily explainable, it manages to do something different and, in many ways, is more disturbing than other films of its ilk.
Scream Factory presents Prince of Darkness on Blu-ray with an excellent transfer. Grain is minor but well-refined with excellent fine detail on backgrounds, foreground objects, clothing, and even make-up effects. The color palette is also rich with naturally-appearing skin tones and deep black levels. Contrast is dialed a bit too high for my taste, but everything is brightly lit and well-represented. It’s also a clean and stable presentation with a high encode as well. The audio selection includes English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD tracks with optional English subtitles. The 5.1 mix gives sound effects, and occasionally score, room to breathe, but doesn’t really exhibit much in terms of spatial activity. It does, however, feature some additional bass activity. The 2.0 is the more appropriate option as it represents the film’s original soundtrack and is a more balanced experience. Both tracks feature clean dialogue and no leftover hiss, crackle, or dropouts. A fine presentation of the film, overall.
This is also a fairly stacked release when it comes to extras. They include an audio commentary with John Carpenter and actor Peter Jason, which is lively and enjoyable; the 10-minute interview Sympathy for the Devil with John Carpenter; Alice at the Apocalypse with Alice Cooper, another 10-minute interview; The Messenger with Robert Grasmere, a 13-minute interview with the film’s special visual effects supervisor and actor; Hell on Earth with Alan Howarth, yet another 10-minute interview with the film’s co-composer; an alternate opening from the TV version of the film, presented in standard definition; another great Horror’s Hallowed Grounds segment with host Sean Clark (always a welcome addition); the film’s theatrical trailer and 2 radio spots (which all run together as one video); a still gallery with 55 behind-the-scenes photos and promotional materials; and an Easter Egg featuring a 12-minute Q&A with John Carpenter from Screamfest 2012, which can be found by pressing right on the second page of the “Bonus” menu and highlighting the crucifix there when either the “still gallery” or “Back” options are selected. It’s also worth nothing that a French Studio Canal DVD release of the film included an introduction to the film and a scene analysis segment, both by John Carpenter.
Prince of Darkness is considered to be the second part of what Carpenter calls his “Apocalypse” trilogy, which began with The Thing and ended with In the Mouth of Madness. While I have more of a fondness for the other two films, Prince of Darkness is no slouch. It’s not an easy film to encapsulate, but it offers up enough nightmarish imagery and creepy atmosphere to keep long-time horror fans happy. Scream Factory’s treatment of the title is top tier, making it one of their best titles overall.
- Tim Salmons