It’s odd, really: I’ve seen most of John Carpenter’s films (at least the ones up to In the Mouth of Madness) over the years, and I think I’ve liked most of them to some degree or other (Halloween being a notable exception for some reason, thought that is a film I do want to revisit some time), and yet I’ve never thought of myself as a “John Carpenter fan” or anything. There’s probably a word for that, but I don’t know what. Anyway, I’m kind of glad I left this until fairly late in my… well, “exploration” isn’t the right word, cos I haven’t really actively sought Carpenter’s films out, but you know what I mean. This is the most irritating sort of mediocre film, i.e. the one where you can see there’s actually a really good idea at the core of it… in this case, the idea that an abandoned church is the prison of the Antichrist—manifesting as a large mass of liquid swirling around a giant cylinder that’s millions of years old—and that the Antichrist is only the harbinger of an even greater evil (which is actually quite logical, really, if Christ was the son of God then Antichrist should equally be the son of Antigod)… the only problem is, well, the execution. Carpenter was taking a few cues from Nigel Kneale in this one, but markedly fails to match his inspiration; none of the actors make much of an effort (apart from Dennis Dun, who seemed determined to make his gay Asian stereotype even worse on the screen than he probably was in the script), Donald Pleasance is kind of wasted as the nameless priest, and it drags fairly mercilessly over 101 minutes. I think that’s what ultimately kills it, the shambling pacing; the climax when it comes is admittedly not bad, but it’s not enough of a payoff. Shame, cos I hoped this one might actually not live up to its somewhat poor reputation.
Prince of Darkness (1987)