John Carpenter seems to be at odds with what he loves and what is expected of him. Early in his career, Carpenter made a science fiction film (Dark Star), a siege picture (Assault on Precinct 13), and then Halloween.

He speaks freely of his love of the science fiction genre, yet seemed to have been pushed into the horror realm because of Halloween, where he has made quite a name for himself. Prince of Darkness, is an interesting blend of elements of sci-fi and horror, with some lofty academic ideas to propel the characters through this macrocosmic drama.

Carpenter favorite Donald Pleasence, simply billed here as "Priest," finds a key after the death of a colleague, which leads him to an ancient evil trapped in the basement of an old church. In this instance, “evil” has taken the form of a swirling green mass in a glass container. In an attempt to stop an impending, but unknown doom, he enlists Professor Howard Birack (Victor Wong) to help. With the priest’s guidance and a group of scientists and students gathered by the professor, the new team hopes to figure out exactly what can or should be done to hold back the destruction of mankind.

An interesting script has been written by Carpenter, under the name Martin Quatermass, with some very Lovecraftian ideas. There are good performances here from the ensemble cast. As can be the case with ensembles, nobody shines any brighter than the next, but there are a few too many characters for my liking, and none is portrayed with much depth. Donald Pleasence is welcome as the priest who is guiding this expedition along with Victor Wong, the Physics professor who ropes some of his students into the situation as part of their PhD class. Lisa Blount and Jameson Parker are the "leads" of the group of students, but their romantic attraction is a bit strange in this case, as it feels a bit wrong considering they just met. Carpenter has a fondness for doing this, as it recalls Jamie Lee Curtis and Tom Atkins in The Fog.

It’s safe to say this is the best Prince of Darkness has ever looked on video. I recall as a child seeing it on TV and video and it always looked a little drab and dark. This Blu-ray presentation is simply beautiful. Detail level knocked me over in a few instances. The scene where Donald Pleasence is reading the diary early on in the film, the texture of the paper is so well defined, it’s as if you can touch it and feel the ripples in it. Contrast, color, and black levels seem to be handled well too. The glowing green goo that houses the “evil” looks great and is the most colorful thing in the film, as the visual scheme seems to be plotted out to drain the life from the living, putting the people in very drab clothes in a dreary environment. But it works. Carpenter and Howarth’s music must be mentioned as Carpenter solo or with Howarth have written some of the most effective scores for modern film. It sounds great here and it’s quite infectious.

As expected from Scream Factory’s collector’s series titles, this Blu-ray has a fairly impressive slate of content. The centerpiece is a commentary with John Carpenter and actor Peter Jason (although on the case and slip cover, Carpenter’s is the only name mentioned). If you’ve listened to one John Carpenter commentary, you’ve listened to them all. You know you’re in good hands and there will be a lot of information given. Carpenter never takes anything too seriously, but he has a lot of respect for the work. It’s a really nice listen.

Next there are a series of interviews with members of the production. Carpenter contributes a ten minute talk with some brief comments about the making of the film, but most of it is covered in the commentary. Alice Cooper is up next with another brief chat about his involvement, and his love of horror movies. Special effects supervisor Robert Grasmere talks about his role in the film and pulling off the gags in the third of the on camera interviews, and it’s probably my favorite of the bunch. Alan Howarth, longtime Carpenter collaborator, speaks of their relationship and creating the music for this and other films in the final talking head piece. A nice inclusion is the alternate TV opening, which presents an entirely new slant on the movie. The final substantial extra on here is an episode of Sean Clark’s Horror’s Hallowed Ground giving a tour of some of the film’s locations. These are always fun, and Clark’s passion for this series is commendable. A trailer and some radio spots are next, with a still gallery rounding things out. One last thing: I did spot a fun Easter egg, so keep your eyes peeled!

Perhaps John Carpenter’s most nihilistic film, Prince of Darkness presents some interesting ideas about the roles of science and religion in our history and how they can effect out future given a specific set of circumstances. Beyond this however, this horror film is homage to the science fiction films of John’s youth, filtered through his very adult sensibility. An unexpected follow-up to the action-comedy of Big Trouble in Little China, it’s a film with almost zero levity, and a slow, deliberate pace that may turn some away. Yet fans of Carpenter shouldn’t expect anything to unveil at a break neck speed, as he’s not a filmmaker to employ such a pace in any of his work. The situation is one Carpenter loves. Drop a bunch of people into a terrible situation and see what they will, or can do to survive. He’s visited it several times in the past: The Thing and Assault on Precinct 13 most successfully.

This disc from Scream Factory looks and sounds fantastic; it’s an absolute must have for any Carpenter fan. If you haven’t seen the film since childhood, as was my case, it plays much better as an adult. In fact, I would give it a solid recommendation to all horror fans. It may not be everyone's favorite, but it is something everyone should see.

Film Score: 3.5/5 Disc Score: 4/5