There are four brief yet deeply unnerving dream sequences in John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness, each a disruptive and surreal slice of imagery that presents the audience with nearly identical visions of the same event. In each dream, a mysterious cloaked figure emerges out of a creepy abandoned church. This church is where a group of researchers and a priest discover and ultimately unleash an ancient, otherworldly, and demonic force into the world. Garbled narration in each dream reveals that they are actually a series of broadcasts from 1999 (the near future in relation to the film’s 1987 release). Frighteningly, they are mediated warnings of impending demonic doom sent directly to the minds of several key players across the film, most prominently lead researcher Professor Birack (Victor Wong) and young academics Walter (Dennis Dun), Catherine Danforth (Lisa Blount), Lisa (Ann Yen), and Brian (Jameson Parker).
Tag: John Carpenter
It takes nearly ten minutes for the opening credits of John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness to complete their slow, sporadic crawl through the center of the screen. They’re chopped up, delivered piecemeal in a seeming attempt to prolong the inevitable. By the time John Carpenter’s “directed by” credit punctuates the ordeal, we are well aware of whose hands we are in; the brash, electronic score has kicked in, the image is wide and oppressive and the apocalypse has been foreshadowed.
Referring to Prince of Darkness as an apocalypse film is far from novel; the film has long been the center of Carpenter’s “Apocalypse Trilogy” which begins with The Thing in 1982 and ends with In the Mouth of Madness in 1995. But where The Thing and In the Mouth of Madness rely on an apocalypse brought about from within man, either than manifested in an organism transmitted via blood or one man’s (mis)understanding of reality, the apocalypse of Prince of Darkness is far more epic – and theological – in nature.
Nothing is quite what it seems at Outpost #31.
Things move in the shadows. Equipment is being sabotaged. The temperature outside is dropping, and something wants out of there. One by one, the crew of an Antarctic research facility is becoming infected by a mysterious alien lifeform, which causes the crew to take the shape of those around them. Soon, friends begin turning on each other as paranoia sets in, and credence is shattered. How do you trust what can’t be seen? Who is really who, and what do you believe when the things you see aren’t what they seem? These questions linger on the minds of our characters, and we wind up asking ourselves the same questions long after the final credits roll in John Carpenter’s sci-fi horror masterpiece, The Thing.
In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the relentless and arbitrary suffering of human life is summarized as “a tale…, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” and the almighty writer of that tale, God, is reconceived as “an idiot.” Centuries later, that notion of a chaotic universe governed by stupidity echoes throughout IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS, as director John Carpenter reveals his own version of the omnipotent idiot: God as “a hack horror writer.”
They Live – 1988 – dir. John Carpenter
They Live may be the most realistic horror movie you’ll ever see. A train pulls away, revealing a tiny figure in the middle distance, perhaps some kind of modern day hobo with a flannel shirt and a pack, dwarfed by the rail yard, the overpasses, and other impersonal architecture of transport and edges of cities. That figure, of course, is Nada, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, drifting into town in search of an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work. Set in a nearby present, Nada’s American Dream has devolved into massive unemployment, industrial flight, tent cities, and radical income discrepancy. “I just want to work,” says Nada, with the incongruously sweet expression that belies his history as a “heel” in wrestling. “I still believe in America.”
By KJ Hamilton
Halloween – 1978 – dir. John Carpenter
It’s the story of a small-town girl Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) who is terrorized by Evil Incarnate, as Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) explains: “I spent eight years trying to reach him and another seven trying to keep him locked away when I realized what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely, simply evil.” The boy is Michael Meyers. When he was six years old, he stabbed his sister Judith to death—on Halloween night. Michael was then institutionalized, and the Meyers’ home in rural Haddonfield, Illinois, became an icon of fright.
By Sean Rogers
After the decline of the studio system, Hollywood would often struggle to find fresh ways of generating sure-fire hits. 1969, for instance, saw the release and surprise success of Easy Rider, whereupon the studios, the story goes, decided the “youth picture” was where the money was. Universal, however, discovered otherwise in 1971 when both The Hired Hand and The Last Movie, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider follow-up projects, flopped spectacularly (as did Monte Hellman’s Two-Lane Blacktop, among the first films released by Universal’s youth-oriented division). In the early 1980s, John Carpenter’s films provide a similar object lesson in industry obtuseness, this time with regard to the profitable corner of the market carved out by exploitation films in the 1970s. These genre picture’s inherent transgressive qualities may simply have proved too unseemly for the larger, blander platform of multiplexes and PR campaigns the studios would present to them.