Thursday, October 22, 2015

Prince of Darkness (1987)

I start to worry when people start talking about proving their faith through SCIENCE! Understand, I believe all truth is God's truth, but trying to use scientific means to prove truths of the spiritual often corrupts the scientific method or the spiritual truth as we try to jam the two things together (or we end up with something really crazy like the urban legend that NASA found the missing day from the biblical account of a battle in the book of Joshua.)

The priest in John Carpenter's "Prince of Darkness" doesn't share my concerns as he rounds up a group of scientists to prove not only that Satan is real, but also that he is, not surprisingly, up to no good. The priest is played by Donald Pleasence, bringing the same crazy eyes and mad obsession that he brought to the role of Michael Myers' psychiatrist in John Carpenter's "Halloween."

The priest has been sent by His Eminence and other high-up Catholic muckety mucks to investigate the death of an old priest in downtown Los Angeles. We're told the church was built in the 1500s in a special arrangement with the Spanish government of the time, though the church really looks like a standard structure built in the early 20th century rather than one of the missions.

Apparently, this very old church was thriving in the 1950s until the (now dead) old priest joined "The Brotherhood of the Sleep." (I have to admit, there's some great marketing in that name. I'd be quite tempted to join based on the name alone. "The Fellowship of the Nap" would be similarly tempting.) The old priest shuttered the doors of the church and closed himself in, venturing out only once a week for food. It soon becomes apparent that he had what they call in the movies, "a dark secret."

The investigating priest (we'll call him "Father Donald," though he's just "the priest" in the film) contacts aleading physicist, Professor Howard Birack (and his crack team of scientists and graduate students), to prove that Satan himself is alive and living in a glowing green canister in downtown LA. (You would think Los Angeles itself would be proof enough that Satan was alive in LA). The priest and the scientist find the Can o' Glowing Evil in a basement of the church along with a mysterious book that contains the secrets of the universe. (The walls of this room are covered with crucifixes and the room is full of burning candles. The scientist are not at all interested in why this room that has been sealed off for an indefinite period of time has dozens of lit candles that never seem to go out.)

The book they found is written in Greek, Latin, Aramaic, Assyrian, and numerals. A crack translator discovers that the book tells the dark story of the Brotherhood of the Sleep's intention to keep not only Satan, but also the Father of Satan, locked away on the property. Apparently, the Church has been selling a bill of goods through the years about Evil being a spiritual thing; Evil is from outer space and is now in the church basement.

The book says that Jesus was from outer space as well, from a different humanoid race, and he came to warn us of the Big Bad currently in the basement. The only source of this information is the book from the basement, but it has differential equations so it must be true. (Outside of the writings of Dan Brown, is there a more sound theological source than the book from the basement?)

Father Donald admits that really, everyone in the church already knew this stuff, but the clergy had it good telling people how they should live, and they didn't want to give up the gig. He gets pretty weepy making this confession.

But wouldn't you know it, Pure Evil gets loose, and people start to die in graphically violent ways. The scientists try to fight pure evil with science, and Father Donald prays and uses Latin incantations. Eventually, both men and women of the test tube and the man of the cloth resort to clubs and axes to fight evil in the form of zombie-like possessed people. I must admit, Father Donald is pretty good with the fire ax.

Since Father Donald claims that the church through the centuries has been a complete fraud, I can't give him or his church our highest rating. On the other hand, he helps save the world from utter destruction, so he's got that going for him. I'm giving the church in this film two steeples

(On a side note, one of the homeless zombie people in the film is played by Alice Cooper, who now claims to be a born again Christian. However, he continues to use his guillotine and devil music, including the song, "Prince of Darkness," which he wrote for this film.)

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