October 23, 1987
Donald Pleasance as Father Loomis
Lisa Blount as Catherine Danforth
Alice Cooper as evil minion
When a Jesuit priest unexpectedly dies, Father Loomis takes possession of a mysterious key and notebook that leads him to an old church in Los Angeles built by Spanish missionaries in the 1500s. In the church he uncovers a strange text and tank of green liquid which hides a terrible secret that could rock the foundation of Western civilization. Unable to understand a two thousand year old document written in Greek and Sanskrit, or the nature of the mysterious green liquid, he consults Howard Birack – Professor of Theoretical Physics – at the University of California – Los Angeles. Professor Birack assembles a team of physicists, chemists and language experts for a weekend long expedition inside the church to analyze the liquid and writing. They find that humanity’s understanding of Christ, the Antichrist and the laws of the universe are fatally misunderstood. Unless they can stop the ever growing darkness that beacons all things evil to the church, all mankind is doomed.
Although not one of Carpenter’s better known flicks this one still has all the trademarks that make him the master of scares. Superb timing, well-placed gore and vicious, but creative kill scenes ensure that the battle between good and evil will not fail to entertain. There are few themes creepier than the coming of the antichrist and the devil shortly thereafter (and the darkness that inevitably engulfs humanity prior to the event). Yet, Carpenter’s style combined with a storyline that alters the Christian prophecy into something aligned more closely with our understanding of the physical laws of the universe turns the Antichrist into not just that which brings about our demise, but also the fabric of Cosmos itself.
Like The Thing, the film is mostly story driven with graphic horror scenes here and there that culminate with the deaths of most individuals involved in the study and a characteristically unsettling ending. What separates this film from the rest of Carpenter’s work, however, is the stunningly original storyline which more or less dramatizes the convergence of science and religion in a way both compelling and entertaining.
Per usual, Carpenter constructs an atmosphere of hope in the midst of a darkness fast closing, which helps drive the story and keep it compelling. Like most of Carpenter’s films, the acting is adequate but not great. Backing up much of the vintage 1980s keyboard theme music are Carpenter’s signature beats. The ending is predictable, but does not detract much from the entertainment value. Of note, as the darkness closes in around the church it attracts more and more area homeless – all of which are nothing more than the devil’s minions properly disguised. There is no leader per se, but Alice Cooper – is there a better dead-eyed minion of Satan? – is perpetually in front of the crowd watching the church like a ravenous wolf waiting to devour the people inside working against the coming… Prince of Darkness.