Film / Prince of Darkness

"You will not be saved by the holy ghost. You will not be saved by the god Plutonium. In fact, YOU WILL NOT BE SAVED."

Prince Of Darkness (1987) is John Carpenter's second film in his "Apocalypse Trilogy", after The Thing (1982) and before In the Mouth of Madness (1994). It is a slow-paced, atmospheric, creepy and mindscrew-y little film that doesn't get mentioned very often but is nonetheless an important piece in Carpenter's filmography.

A Catholic priest dies and a strange canister with a green, swirling liquid in it is discovered in the basement of an abandoned church. Another priest (Donald Pleasence) asks an old acquaintance, quantum physicist Professor Birack (Victor Wong), to investigate the mystery of the canister. The priest claims that the liquid in the canister is in fact the corporeal form of an ancient evil, which is starting to reawaken and influence the world around itself. He wants Birack to prove this scientifically, so that they can warn the world. To this end, Birack brings several of his students and fellow scientists of various fields to the church to study the canister, and they discover that it is 7 million years old and can be opened only from the inside.

However, when the green liquid starts to come out of the canister and to possess the various scientists, and crazed homeless people surround the church and kill everyone who tries to leave, not only do Birack and company have to run for their lives, but also to try to avoid the oncoming apocalypse.

Not to be confused with the other prince of darkness. Or the other one. Or the other one. Or that one Dracula film.

This film provides examples of:

  • Amazing Freaking Grace: Sung by the possessed Calder.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Whether the heroes succeeded in sealing the evil in another realm is left unclear.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: The Brotherhood of Sleep, an order of Catholic priests who kept the secret of the canister for centuries.
  • Antagonist Title: The "Prince of Darkness" aka Satan is a malevolent disembodied presence who starts a zombie plague against the human protagonists. However, it turns out that he is merely the foot soldier of an entity far more terrifying and a threat to reality itself—the Anti-God.
  • Antichrist: It is also Satan, it seems, and wants to summon his father, the Anti-God. It appears in liquid form and may also exist at a sub-atomic level. It's all a big Mind Screw.
  • The Anti-God: The "Anti-God", a God of Evil/Eldritch Abomination based on the idea of matter/antimatter. It's also the father of Satan (who is apparently also The Antichrist).
  • Bedmate Reveal: Right before the ending, luckily it was All Just a Dream (...probably). This sequence is the subject of much Memetic Mutation.
  • Blob Monster: More of a liquid type than most, but is very amorphous and sapient just the same.
  • Body Horror: The Chosen One appears more and more rotten and decayed as time goes by.
  • Corrupt Church: The Brotherhood of Sleep.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: More so than Religious Horror, despite the overtones.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: Jesus was an alien trying to explain all of this to everyone. The Church basically turned His instructions into a moral code.
  • Daylight Horror: Many scenes take place in the span of a single day.
  • Demonic Possession: Sort of. More specifically, Satan infects people with smaller particles of himself, and without him, the smaller pieces can't live.
  • Double-Meaning Title: "The Prince Of Darkness" is one of Satan's most well-known nicknames. This movie offers a literal explanation as to why: Satan is only the earthbound son of something much more serious, the "Anti-God".
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: How The Brotherhood of Sleep got its name, thanks to tachyons.
  • Dwindling Party: The number of participant-students lessens as the movie goes along.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Anti-God, who is the father of Satan and the god of anti-matter who resides in a mirror universe. "Satan" in this film is pretty Eldritchy himself and mostly takes the form of green liquid.
  • Fantastic Catholicism: The Church kept the Devil prisoner in the basement of an out-of-the-way church, alongside proof that Jesus was an alien, and that the Church was meant to be a militant society on guard in case the Devil (also an alien) ever escaped his prison. Unfortunately, the Church became corrupt and started seeking power for its own sake.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: "I have a message for you, and you're not going to like it: pray for death."
  • Fling A Light Into The Past / Ominous Message from the Future: Scientists from the year 1999 use a tachyon signal to warn everyone who sleeps in the church of the disaster awaiting them.
  • Gainax Ending: Was it a dream? A new recording from the future? What happened to Catherine anyway?
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Satan, the quintessential Big Bad turns out to be just The Dragon for the Anti-God
  • Heroic Sacrifice: When the Chosen One, possessed by the Antichrist, is about to summon the Anti-God from the other side of a mirror, Catherine pushes the Chosen One inside the mirror, falling into it herself, and the priest is finally able to shatter the mirror with an axe and to trap the evil in the other dimension forever: along with Catherine.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Hobo-Alice Cooper impales a guy with a broken bicycle.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: With a bicycle, no less!
  • Leaking Can of Evil: The Anti-Christ is trapped inside a glass cylinder inside a church. It sprays a liquid at one of the people researching it and takes control of them, then has that person spit the liquid at other people to possess them as well. It also uses Mind Control on street people who live near the church to surround it and trap the researchers inside.
  • Madness Mantra: Lisa writes one of these on a computer after being possessed.
    • I live! I live! I live! I live! I live! I live! I live! I live! I live! I live! I live! I live! I live! I live! I live! I live! I live!
  • Mind Screw
  • Mirror Universe: The Chosen One who gets possessed by the Antichrist wants to summon his father from the other side of a mirror. We only get to see a big ugly hand, though.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The Anti-God.
  • No Name Given: Officially, the priest. The fans of the film give him the moniker "Father Loomis."
  • No Such Thing as Space Jesus: Inverted: The book of prophecies pretty much says that Jesus was an alien who fought the Antichrist, also an alien.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The absolute creepiest moment in the film happens when Brian, an amateur magician who is constantly practicing a "make the card disappear behind the magician's hand" sleight of hand trick, suddenly, and quite accidentally makes the card disappear for real.
  • Nuke 'em: The message "Your God Plutonium will not save you" makes it clear that the Anti God cannot be stopped with nuclear weapons.
  • Orifice Invasion: The green liquid possesses people by jumping into their mouths.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Type V, those that are not Technically Living Zombies.
  • Porn Stache: Brian has an epic example.
  • Recurring Dreams: Everyone involved with the Brotherhood of Sleep and/or the canister experiences the same eerie dream about a mysterious cloaked figure standing in front of the church... except it is not a dream, but a broadcast from the future that uses brain waves as a signal to be transmitted and may or may not be a warning from Alien Jesus about the risks of letting the evil escape.
  • Religious Horror: Again, sort of.
  • Running Gag: No one seems to know who Susan is without being prompted "Radiologist, Glasses".
  • Scary Black Man: Calder after being possessed. He has a very unnerving evil giggle.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: One of the most literal examples.
  • Super Spit: Zombies can spray the green liquid into the mouths of other humans and turn them into zombies.
  • Technically Living Zombie
  • Temporal Paradox: The tachyon emission states near the end that it is proof against causality, meaning it'll remain the same even if the future is altered. Granted, the full message is only heard in Brian's dream at the end, so it could just be a subconscious, not real, message.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Catherine's Heroic Sacrifice, described on this page, is shown in the theatrical trailer.
  • What Have I Become?: Calder takes a moment while stalking Fr. Loomis to look at himself in the mirror, and his unnerving giggles start to resemble sobs.
  • Widescreen Shot: It's John Carpenter. The movie is full of them.
  • The World Is Not Ready: The Church's justification for hiding the truth about their origins.
    Fr. Loomis: Why weren't we told the truth?
    Birack: Without the technology to confirm it, it would've been another legend.
    Loomis: But he was our prisoner, not yours!
  • The Worm That Walks: One of the researchers is killed by the hobos; later he returns to give his former colleagues a creepy message, and then it's revealed that his dead body is kept together by swarms of black bugs, that then scuttle away, letting the corpse to fall apart. Or they were waiting to the last minute to finish eating him after he delivered his message.