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Prince Of Darkness is John Carpenter's second film in his "Trilogy of Apocalypse", 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 an abandoned church. Another priest (Donald Pleasence) asks an old acquaintance, quantum physicist Professor Birack (Victor Wong), to investigate about the mystery of the canister. Birack brings many other students and scientists of various fields to the church to study the canister, and they discover that it is 7 million years old and that it can be opened only from the inside. An old book tells a prophecy about an old evil sealed in there, who is trying to escape, only to bring his father upon the world.
However, when the green liquid starts to come out of the canister and to possess people, and crazed homeless people surround the church and kill everyone who tries to leave, not only Birack and company have to run for their lives, but also to try to avoid the incoming apocalypse...
This film provides examples of:
- Aliens in Cardiff: The fate of the Earth, if not the Universe, is in a tiny church in Los Angeles.
- Amazing Freaking Grace - Sung by one of the possessed
- Ancient Conspiracy - The Brotherhood of Sleep, an order of Catholic priests who kept the secret of the canister for centuries.
- Anti Christ - 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.
- 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 sentient 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.
- 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".
- Demonic Possession - Sort of.
- Eldritch Abomination - The Anti-God, who is the father of satan and the god of anti-matter who resides in a mirror universe. "Satan" is this film is pretty Eldritchy himself and mostly takes the form of green liquid.
- 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 - Scientists from the future use a tachyon wave to warn everyone who sleeps in the church of the disaster awaiting them.
- 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!
- Madness Mantra - One of the scientists 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.
- No Ending
- No Such Thing as Space Jesus - Inverted: The book of prophecies pretty much says that Jesus was an alien who fought the Antichrist.
- Orifice Invasion - The green liquid possesses people by jumping into their mouths.
- Playing Against Type -- Donald Pleasance was primarily known for playing coolly cynical, even cruelly manipulative characters, but his priest here is horrified at the deception the church has played on the world. Similarly, Victor Wong's roles are typically very religious or otherwise steadfast in their ways, but Birack is open-minded and accepting of wildly different perspectives.
- Our Zombies Are Different - Type V, those that are not Technically Living Zombies.
- Porn Stache - 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.
- Scary Black Man - One of the researchers after being possessed. He has a very unnerving evil giggle.
- Sealed Evil in a Can - One of the most literal examples.
- Technically Living Zombie
- 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.
- 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.