By Stephanie Star Smith
June 16, 2003
We here at BOP are an eclectic group, and our tastes in movies run from the
serious cinephiles to the foreign-film aficionados to niche film lovers.
Thus was born the idea for this weekly column, devoted to horror films of
all shapes and sizes, but concentrating on those B- and C-grade films that
mainstream reviewers disdain, but are the bread-and-butter of every spook
movie lover's viewing. So come with me as we venture beyond the slimy wall,
uncovering the treasures - and burying the time-wasting bombs - that await
those who dare to love the scare.
The Prince of Darkness
For some reason, John Carpenter has gotten a reputation for making bad
movies. Why the creator of such classic films as Halloween
and Escape from New York has somehow become this generation's
Ed Wood is beyond me. Oh, sure, the man also did Escape from
LA and Memoirs of an Invisible Man, but they can't all
be gems. Hell, even Hitch had his off days. But the saddest part about
Carpenter's being tarred with this undeserved mantle is that many fine films
are completely ignored. And Prince of Darkness is just such a film.
At the core of every horror film is the battle of good vs evil, or God
against Satan, if you will. We've seen this depicted in a number of ways,
with soldiers in the armies of both sides taking different forms, and even
Old Scratch himself appearing from time to time in various guises to try and
tip the scales.
But suppose Satan didn't try to win the world by enslaving men's souls or
corrupting the virtuous? What if evil's true goal was to literally undo
This is the theory on which Prince of Darkness is based. One of the few
horror films to whose main characters are almost all science geeks, Prince
of Darkness takes the tack that Satan will try to end the world not by
turning the righteous to sin and blasphemy, but by subverting the laws of
physics which keep this planet of ours spinning on its axis and all of us
firmly fixed on its surface. This then creates the equivalent of cracks in
armor, allowing nasty things from the nether regions and various other
unsavory places to infiltrate our world...and us.
All right, so that probably sounds a little too geekazoid for the average
horror fan, and on the surface, the synopsis would seem to promise all the
thrills of watching Alan Greenspan testifying before Congress as to why he's
doing whatever the hell it is he does. But trust me, ladies and jellybeans,
this is anything but. Not only are the effects wonderful, but the
story itself is quite creepy, and watching the dawning realization of the
scientists that logic and protocol are not going to save them or the human
from hellish fates is engrossing.
The theory John Carpenter postulates in Prince of Dankness is brilliant, and
he gradually builds his case by showing the little anomalies as they build
to the crescendo of the destruction of mankind. And unlike so many films of
the genre, you can't see the ending coming for miles. In fact, you can't
see it coming at all, and that is a rarity for the horror film
aficionado. That such a unique and entertaining film was completely
overlooked in its initial release and has been largely ignored since is a
I see by the shadows falling from my bust of Pallus that our time is up.
Until next time, then, when we will once again venture Beyond the Slimy