Saturday, October 29, 2011

Ten Statements About....PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1987)

"Let's do The Time Warp Agaaaaaaaiiin!"
"I've got a message for you, and you're not going to like it."

1) You gotta give credit where credit is due--I think Carpenter's choice of Victor Wong as his Professor Quatermass manque was brilliant, as it helps obscure the fact that what he's doing is an unofficial Quatermass movie. I think most people would have expected Donald Pleasance to play the academic with the knowledge that could shatter the world....

(Of course, if you don't want to tip your hand, you shouldn't write the film under the pen name of 'Martin Quatermass'...but we'll get to that towards the end of this entry)

2) It's not his pornstache that makes Jameson Parker's Brian a character we're inclined to dislike--it's his distant line readings and his stalkerly behavior toward Lisa Blount's Catherine. After experiencing such plucky and larger-than-life heroes in Carpenter's cv as Jack Burton and Snake Plissken, Parker's underplaying of his character grates. But then....

As a results of the horrible events of this film, Jameson
Parker suddenly realizes he's saddled with the worst pornstache
3) Catherine is such an odd character herself, very mercurial and far too analytical. She's just as off-putting as Brian....which leads me to conclude that this is one of those movies where the main characters are voids.
(But we'll get to that towards the end of this entry)

4) I don't think it's intentional, but the fact that the demonic forces seem to be primarily homeless people and women makes the politics of this film seem rather icky. All the jokes about male chauvinism and the scene where two of the men beat up and defenstrate a possessed female colleague don't help dispel that impression, either.

5) And speaking of those homeless people/zombie types (lead by Alice Cooper)...I really wonder if they were necessary. They smack a little of Carpenter's perchance for second guessing himself, an element he added after the fact to allow us more kills and icky maggot shots.

The true mission of our heroes is to protect the
world's ugliest lava lamp...
6) Yes it sometimes comes off as forced, but I actually appreciate Dennis Dun's Walter quite a bit. His exasperation at being literally forced into a closet and desperate attempts at levity--more to calm himself than to get a reaction out of the female possessed waiting outside--manages to amuse me.

7) It's not the gooey make-up that makes the ultimate version of Susan Blanchard's Kelly's possession work--it's the strange, twitchy body language she develops that makes her seem like a particularly spastic, excitable child.

8) I will admit that some of the psuedo-science makes an odd sort of sense, especially the fact that the liquid nature of the creature allows for it to take over other organisms easily as it's absorbed into the body. But a lot of it seems made up at the spur of the moment, especially the whole mirror thing that occupies the last fifteen minutes of the film.

9) The sad thing about the ending, which teases that Brian has gone through a similar transformation to the one Kelly went through, thus allowing him to break into this mirror dimension to retrieve Catherine, is that the combination of the lack of chemistry between Parker and Blount and the curious nature of their relationship serves to deprive us of any sense that Brian is capable of trying this, or that he's motivated enough to try it.

10) While Carpenter doesn't indulge in the clip shows Brian DePalma inflicts on the public in the name of high art, the 'winking references' in this film are thoroughly over the top. Besides the Martin Quatermass stunt, Carpenter names characters after writers John Wyndham and Dennis Etchinson; has Brian make reference to transferring from Kneale University, named after the creator of Quatermass; names another character after B-Movie actress Susan Cabot; and even names Donald Pleasance's priest Loomis, a reference to his character in the Halloween series. It ends up being more distracting than surprising.

Overall...I keep getting the impression this is a film I should like, but I've watched it several times and I never get over the fact that it lacks coherence and ends up being a bunch of crazy crap that seems to happen with a slew of scientific argle bargle designed to conceal that fact.

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