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Dustin Putman

Dustin's Blu-ray Review
Prince of Darkness  (1987)

The Film
3.5 Stars
(Release Date: September 24, 2013) - When an elderly priest passes away and leaves behind a diary and key, Father Loomis' (Donald Pleasence) investigation into the items leads him to an abandoned East L.A. church housing a mysterious canister of green liquid in the basement chapel. Seeking the help of physics professor Howard Birack (Victor Wong) and a team of graduate students, Loomis and his assistants convene on the church for a weekend of research. As their translation of ancient texts begins to terrifyingly contradict everything they've ever thought they knew about the creation of the universe, the seven-million-year-old substance—Satan's son in liquid form—is unleashed upon the group, one by one infecting and possessing them while preparations gear up to welcome the Devil back to the physical land of the living.

If "Prince of Darkness" isn't writer-director John Carpenter's most personal film, it certainly feels that way while watching it. Idiosyncratic in the best, most thought-provoking and creepy-crawly senses, the film is a heady, provocative study of faith, religious mysticism and revisionist history. The film's ideas, threaded throughout a collection of icky and horrific set-pieces that pit the characters against nearly indomitable odds, appear to be a symbolic—if fictional—representation of Carpenter's own internal debate about religion. Delving into a plot with the greatest, and gravest, of all imaginable stakes, he has made an elegantly photographed, legitimately frightening tale that does not shirk away from its controversial concepts.

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

Even Satan himself would let down his defenses after getting a load of Scream Factory's impressive high-definition transfer of "Prince of Darkness." Just about as dazzling as a relatively low-budget horror pic from 1987 could be expected to look, the image is fully resolved with the lightest, most beautiful layer of grain and no detection of digital noise reduction. In exceptionally good shape, this 1080p mastering features deep blacks, a fair amount of detail, and not a speck of dirt or scratches to be found. Simply put, this title has never looked better, likely mirroring what the picture looked like on opening night of its theatrical release over a quarter-century ago. Not to be outdone, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 takes full advantage of Carpenter's and co-composer Alan Howarth's ominously propulsive orchestrations, carrying the viewer from one scene to the next. Also available in the original 2.0 track that purists may prefer—it's really a matter of taste—no matter which audio version one listens to, the viewer can be assured it's going to sound terrific.

Blu-ray Features
Audio Commentary with John Carpenter; Sympathy For The Devil: An All-New Interview with writer/director John Carpenter (10:28, HD); Alice at the Apocalypse: An All-New Interview with actor & rock legend Alice Cooper (9:27, HD); The Messenger: An All-New Interview with actor & special visual effects supervisor Robert Grasmere (12:41, HD); Hell on Earth: A Look at the Film's Score with co-composer Alan Howarth (10:15, HD); Horror's Hallowed Grounds with host Sean Clark (13:44, HD); Alternate Opening from TV Version (6:55, HD); Original Theatrical Trailer (HD)

Bottom Line
"Prince of Darkness" is a taut, deliciously grim jewel of the horror genre, not quite like any other film in memory. One of John Carpenter's most underrated movies, it really cannot be stressed enough how different and original—and also enduring—the finished product is. Steeped in religious iconography while perceptibly revising and reimagining the history of Christianity, the picture covers many thematically loaded bases, and does it screamingly well. Scream Factory's Blu-ray is a dream come true for fans and a prime chance for those who have never seen the film to finally give it a spin. Top-notch video and audio, topped by a collection of extras that go above and beyond the call of duty, the high-def release of "Prince of Darkness" receives my full, unequivocal recommendation.

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© 2013 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman