Beyond the Slimy Wall:
Prince of Darkness

By Stephanie Star Smith

June 16, 2003

'Here comes 2!' No, wait.

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 God's creation?

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 crime.

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 Wall.



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