Prince of Darkness is a 1987 American horror film, that was written and directed by John Carpenter. It stars Donald Pleasence, Victor Wong, Jameson Parker and Lisa Blount and it is the second installment in what Carpenter calls his "Apocalypse Trilogy", which began with The Thing (1982) and concludes with In the Mouth of Madness (1994).
In Los Angeles a priest has died before talking to the Archbishop. He belonged to a forgotten, extremely poweful sect called "The Brotherhood of Sleep", whose actions were never questioned by nobody and who also controlled an abandoned monastery in Los Angeles.
Father Loomis, chosen by the Archbishop to be his successor, investigates the activities of the sect, which were centered around the church and invites quantum physicist Professor Howard Birack and his students to join him in the basement of a monastery in order to investigate a mysterious cylinder containing a swirling green liquid there. Among the thirteen academics present are wise-cracking Walter, demure Kelly, and lovers Brian Marsh and Catherine Danforth.
They decipher text found next to the cylinder which describes the liquid as the corporeal embodiment of Satan. The liquid appears sentient, and broadcasts increasingly complex streams of data. They also come to the conclusion that The Brotherhood of Sleep had the duty to watch over it and maintain it in secret until there was a way to defeat it and that Jesus came to warn about it, which was the reason, why the sect was formed in the first place.
The academics use a computer to analyze the data, and find that it includes differential equations. Over a period of two days, small jets of liquid escape from the cylinder. Members of the group exposed to the liquid become possessed by the entity and attack the others. Anyone attempting to leave is killed by the growing mass of homeless people who surround the building and who have no will of their own because of it.
Birack and the priest theorize that Satan is actually the offspring of an even more powerful force of evil, the "Anti-God", who is bound to the realm of anti-matter. The survivors find themselves sharing a recurring dream (apparently a tachyon transmission sent as a warning from the future year "one-nine-nine-nine") showing a shadowy figure emerging from the front of the church. The hazy transmission changes slightly with each occurrence of the dream, revealing progressively more detail. The narration of the transmission each time instructs the dreamer that they are witnessing an actual broadcast from the future and that they must prevent this possible outcome.
Walter, trapped in a closet, witnesses the possessed bring the cylinder to a sleeping Kelly. It opens itself and the remaining liquid absorbs into Kelly, transforming her into the physical vessel of Satan: a gruesomely disfigured being, with powers of telekinesis and regeneration. Kelly attempts to summon the Anti-God through a dimensional portal using a mirror, but the mirror is too small and the effort fails.
While the rest of the team is occupied fighting the possessed, Kelly finds a larger wall mirror and draws the Anti-God's hand through it. Danforth, the only one free to act, tackles Kelly, causing both of them to fall through the portal. The priest, who was nearby, then shatters the mirror with an axe, trapping Kelly, the Anti-God, and Danforth in the other realm. Danforth is seen briefly on the other side of the mirror reaching out to the portal before it closes. Immediately, the possessed die, the street people wander away, and the survivors (Marsh, Walter, Birack, and the priest) are rescued.
Marsh has the recurring dream again, except now Danforth (apparently possessed) is the figure emerging from the church. Marsh awakens and finds Kelly, gruesomely disfigured, lying in bed with him. This is shown to be another dream, and he awakens screaming. Rising, he approaches his bedroom mirror, with a hand outstretched.
- Donald Pleasence as Father Loomis
- Victor Wong as Professor Howard Birack
- Jameson Parker as Brian Marsh
- Lisa Blount as Catherine Danforth
- Dennis Dun as Walter
- Susan Blanchard as Kelly
- Anne Howard as Susan
Carpenter became inspired to make this film while researching theoretical physics and atomic theory. There he thought it would be interesting to create a film with some sort of ultimate evil and combine it with the notion of matter and anti-matter. This idea would eventually develop into the screenplay for Prince of Darkness which he wrote under the pseudonym Martin Quatermass.
For the movie Carpenter casted people that he had worked with previously, including Victor Wong, Dennis Dun and Donald Pleasence. He also received 3 million dollars to make the movie. Once this was settled, he filmed the movie in Los Angeles between 18 May 1987 and 25 June 1987. It was shot with wide-angle lenses, which combined with anamorphic format intentionally created a lot of distortion.
Later the post-production was done at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California.
Prince of Darkness was released into theaters on October 23rd, 1987. At the time of its release, Carpenter's film came and went without much fanfare, earning middling reviews and failing to make much of a dent at the box office despite of the fact that ist was not a box failure.
However, this has changed in the meantime. Now it is seen as an underevaluated film and it has also since earned a considerable cult-following.