Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Prince of Darkness (Scream Factory Blu-ray Release) - The Other Side of Mirrors

My mom and dad are divorced. There are any number of good reasons for this, but only one that I want to get into today because I feel it pertains to the September 24th release of Prince of Darkness on Blu-ray from Scream Factory. My dad rented the Prince of Darkness, being a John Carpenter fan, and well aware the Carpenter’s films usually derive from social criticism or are good clean monster/alien fun. Yeah, it’s a rated R movie, but that never stopped him from letting me enjoy some horror entertainment. He’d show me most anything as long as it didn’t contain explicit sex or at least minimal amounts of nudity that I could “cover my eyes during”. Bad language wasn’t a problem. Gore wasn’t a problem. He wasn’t a fan of sadistic, slasher related murders which will carry us into a future Scream Factory release in Crawlspace and I’ve iterated during discussions on my inability for years to rent I Spit on Your Grave and Last House on the Left, but Prince of Darkness wasn’t a problem. 
Synopsis from Scream Factory:
A group of graduate students and scientists uncover an ancient canister in an abandoned church, but when they open it, they inadvertently unleash a strange liquid and an evil force on all of humanity. As the liquid turns their co-workers into zombies, the remaining members realize they have released the most unspeakable horror of them all. Terror mounts as the team must fight to save the world from a devilish fury that has been contained for over seven million years.
We watched the movie, and I was mouth-a-gape, bug-eyed, adrenalin Slurpee scared. It had Donald Pleasance which excited me, a life long fan of John Carpenter’s Halloween at age eight. It had some fairly disturbing scenes of violence, some crazy actors sweating and being doused in strange life-like fluid, fluid with a purpose and Alice Cooper who had just started to hit my radar (it would be a few years before Wayne’s World would make me a fan boy). The green, energy source in the church was beautiful neon awesome. It looked like power, evil power. It had the hallmarks of the end of times written all over it. At eight years old you don’t know whether the great J.C. is striking up social commentary about the potential for nuclear winter or discussing the downfall of modern civilization via organized religion or maybe he’s just making a creepy movie about what lurks on the other side of the mirror. At eight years old you only know one thing about Prince of Darkness… that damn woman’s face is shredded and looks like the pizza you just ate through the first half of the movie. When Kelly (Susan Blanchard) has her face horribly disfigured post anti-christo ingestion and starts making shit move around with her mind, you get scared; that’s if you’re a kid or if you’re an adult who is just the slight bit curious as to the relationship of anti-matter and the presence of deities or whether you’re a seasoned horror fan who likes to wear a leather jacket while watching the Exorcist to prove how cool you are. So I was really friggin’ scared by Prince of Darkness. Alice Cooper impales a guy with a bicycle. Some guy starts sweating and singing and stabbing himself. The rest of the bunch turns into mind controlled, minions of evil. The homeless are on the attack and the whole time there’s this flash of camera footage that looks like the Devil himself walking out of a church sometime in the near future. This is scary shit. 
You know something? My dad understands Horror movies. There’s a reason he would let me watch some of the more brutal stuff like Prince of Darkness which is most likely inappropriate for an eight year old. You see, he saw it as a monster movie. Mind you these are the monster movies of today (or 1987 as the case was). Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman and the Mummy? They’ve become heroes of sorts, scary, but also the celebrities of cartoons who make us laugh. Something you aspire to be on Halloween. People need enemies. They need to be scared of villains. Good has to win over evil and evil has to have an “evil” form. He also understood the horror had a certain campiness to it. That you were meant to laugh at your own fear. So my mom and dad got a divorce, and it wasn’t because he showed me horror movies, but one day, I told him that I was scared of the woman at the end of the movie (Ms. Blanchard); the woman who could move things with her mind and had the ripped up face. That’s when he told me that the woman in the movie looked like nothing more than my grade school principal, Mrs. Evans… if she forgot to put her make-up on. I laughed, was no longer afraid and have remembered that ever since. I remembered it shortly thereafter at school when I repeated it in the classroom to some friends, was overheard by our teacher and had to talk to Mrs. Evans, the principal, about just why I would say such a thing. Dad’s a funny guy. Mom didn’t always think so. 
So Prince of Darkness holds a special place in my heart and still really gets under my skin. Let me tell you that having watched it just last year on DVD, you are getting a significant picture upgrade. I wouldn’t call the previous release a bad transfer because I’m not expert, but this is a vast improvement with beautiful greens and gorgeous gore. The audio is great as well, with 5.1 DTS and 2.0 options as well as a commentary track from the great J.C. himself alongside Carpenter regular, Peter Jason. The commentary track is funny and filled with anecdotes though I couldn’t figure out if it had been used on a previous release. Jason and Carpenter do mention the death of Victor Wong as being recent which would have placed it in the early 2000’s… I could have misheard that. It’s absolutely awesome. Carpenter fans who know a little something about the relationship between Carpenter and Jason are going to enjoy it. 
I love that both the traditional cover insert and new artwork from Justin Osbourn are provided. This is a good business to appeal to a large fan base that is in love with the nostalgia of 80’s VHS/poster art. I’ve grown to prefer the new artwork which surprised me. Not because it isn’t amazing, but because I am extremely fond of the original art.
Here’s the full Bonus Feature list:  
  •  Audio Commentary with John Carpenter
  •  Sympathy For The Devil – An all-new Interview with Writer/Director John Carpenter
  •  Alice at the Apocalypse – An all-new interview with Actor & Rock Legend Alice Cooper
  •  The Messenger – All-new interview with Actor & Special Visual Effects Supervisor Robert Grasmere
  •  Hell On Earth – A look at the film’s score with Co-Composer Alan Howarth
  •  Horror’s Hallowed Grounds with host Sean Clark
  •  Alternate Opening from TV Version
  •      Original Theatrical Trailer    

The new interview with J.C. is good. Discusses the film and some of his recollections about it though there’s nothing especially groundbreaking. You can also check out the commentary as previously mentioned to get an in depth perspective on shooting the movie, casting and perils of filmmaking on $3,000,000 in the 80’s. The interviews with both Robert Graseme and Alice Cooper are brief but good; they provide depth and corroboration for the stories provided by Carpenter and Jason in the commentary. A chance meeting at Wrestlemania gets Cooper a part in Prince of Darkness? Who’d a thunk it? The music for Prince of Darkness is actually somewhat different than Carpenter’s other films. Find out why in the interview with Alan Howarth. Finally, one of my favorite segments on any Scream Factory disc is Horror’s Hallowed Ground. I won’t spoil it, but Sean Clark… that’s a nice ‘stach, bro. 
Also, I want you to pay attention to menus. A little bunny may have left something special for you to enjoy. 
This is a personal favorite film of mine from John Carpenter, and this release does it justice. It’s a fan disc, and I hope it’s an eye opener from some of the detractors of Prince of Darkness. While this is in my top five Carpenter movies, it isn’t everyone’s favorite flick. This release has the opportunity to win new fans for a classic piece of apocalypse horror. Every Scream Factory release is a favorite, but between this, Harlin’s Prison and Halloween III, we might just have a new numero uno. See what’s on the other side of the mirror and pick it up. It’s perfect for October.

You can pick it up at DiabolikDVD, or go over and pre-order it from Scream Factory where you can get a limited bonus pack including a poster of Osbourn’s amazing new poster art (while supplies last). 

1 comment:

  1. One of my favorite Carpenter movies, one of my favorite zombie movies, and with a new cover that looks as awesome as the other Scream Factory releases? Yes. Please.