Prince of Darkness

Critics Consensus

Prince of Darkness has a handful of chillingly clever ideas, but they aren't enough to put John Carpenter's return to horror at the same level as his classic earlier outings.



Total Count: 36


Audience Score

User Ratings: 13,877
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Movie Info

Master of horror John Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing) directs this terrifying battle between humankind and ultimate evil. A group of graduate students and scientists uncover an ancient canister in an abandoned church, but when they open the container, they inadvertently unleash a strange liquid and an evil force on all humanity. As the liquid turns their co-workers into zombies, the remaining members realize they have released the most unspeakable of horrors, Satan himself, thus paving the way for the return of his father - the all-powerful anti-God. Terror mounts as the last two members of the team must fight to save an innocent world from a devilish fury that has festered for over seven million years.


Jameson Parker
as Brian Marsh
Victor Wong
as Prof. Howard Birack
Lisa Blount
as Catherine Danforth
Dennis Dun
as Walter
Ann Yen
as Lisa
Alice Cooper
as Street Schizo
Dirk Blocker
as Mullins
Peter Jason
as Dr. Paul Leahy
Thom Bray
as Etchinson
Joanna Merlin
as Bag Lady
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Critic Reviews for Prince of Darkness

All Critics (36) | Top Critics (8) | Fresh (21) | Rotten (15)

  • Close to a decade's experience in horror pays off, with Carpenter working the audience with jump-scares and revolting demises like an old pro.

    Oct 25, 2018 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Phil Hoad

    Top Critic
  • John Carpenter seems to be hovering between cold-eyed mechanical fear-making and horror camp.

    Oct 4, 2018 | Full Review…
  • ''Prince of Darkness'' is a real tour de force, and a welcome return.

    Oct 4, 2018 | Full Review…
  • Carpenter spends so much time turning the screws on the next scare that he completely forsakes his actors, who are already stranded with a shoddy script.

    Mar 26, 2009 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • The claustrophobic terror generated by fluid camerawork and striking angles is reinforced by a narrative which builds slowly but surely towards a heart-racing climax.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…

    Nigel Floyd

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • None of the performances are super, though Alice Cooper, the one-time rock star, makes an arresting cameo appearance as a mean-spirited zombie who stands outside the church, intimidating anyone who looks through the window.

    May 20, 2003 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Prince of Darkness

  • Oct 28, 2018
    This has GOT to be John Carpenters worst film ever. The story isn't about Dracula, but satan or some other ancient evil force. The premise is very thin, a priest (Donald Pleasance doing a parody of Donald Pleasance) warns a bunch of scientists and college grad students that an evil green liquid or plasma found in the basement a 500 year old church is going to do something, or become something. This movie is endlessly talky, with some of the worst dialogue I've ever heard survive a final edit. The acting is so-so, but the characters have nothing to do but stare at random numbers on computer screens(ancient evil math!) and work on latin translations. I'm serious when I say this is the laziest attempt to make a movie by an actual, professional director that I've ever seen. Almost zero special effects, save for some worms, bugs and a woman decomposing. It's mostly people vomiting into each other's mouths and people being killed while offering little defense. One man is run clean through his torso by half a bicycle. Um, huh? Watch this one for laughs only. Nothing wrong with Alive Cooper's appearance, you may never notice if you didn't know that he was in it. He's the least of this disaster's problems. Oh, and I am a DIEHARD John Carpenter fan! Halloween is still #1 all-time greatest horror movie, certainly slasher movie. I enjoyed Halloween II and III, and I love the Fog and The Thing. I don't mind They Live and Escape from New York, Assault on P13 and Starman. All good movies. This one is surprisingly low-budget and low quality.
    Mark H Super Reviewer
  • Mar 06, 2014
    Yet, another very overlooked Carpenter flick, Prince of Darkness breathes Carpenter through and through. The cast is hardly likeable, much like The Thing but you understand what brought them together and what are the stakes. The story is a wonderful blend of sci-fi and horror thriller, that could've crumbled onto cheesy territory but holds it's ground by presenting some nice atmosphere, surreal imagery and good gory bits. The dialogue is sharp and incisive making this a worthy satanic ride to take.
    Francisco G Super Reviewer
  • Dec 16, 2013
    A priest discovers the essence of evil buried in a vault underneath a Los Angeles church, and a team of professors and grad students set out to study it. Like a lot of John Carpenter's late horror movies, this one frequently weaves back and forth across the thin line that separates intriguing from goofy.
    Greg S Super Reviewer
  • Nov 17, 2013
    Another minor horror flick from Carpenter that has gained cult status over the years. This is actually the first time seeing this film for me and like other Carpenter horrors I found it familiar, not really scary, but nicely creepy with something to think about after. I was surprised how similar the plot is to his other films, a group of people stuck inside a building, trapped, fighting against an evil force. A few of Carpenters films follow these sorts of themes, always fighting an evil supernatural force or gangs of zombie-like bad guys. You can tell its Carpenter a mile away although that's not a bad thing, its always pretty comforting to see his recognisable visual style from way back. I'm sure you all know what I mean, the filming in widescreen/anamorphic, stark lighting contrasts, his now legendary synthesized musical scores, handheld cam/steadicam, the fact you never really see the evil the good guys are fighting that much, plots with hidden meaning, strong individual lone characters, opened ended finales on occasions etc...Everything is present and correct in this horror tale and its enjoyable to see. Alongside all of that the cast are mostly recognisable too, hot off the heels of 'Big Trouble' Dennis Dun and Victor Wong are cast again, Pleasence is back as another lone force of good to try and stop the force of evil and character actor Peter Jason pops up again here with a meatier role. To be honest I would say that is the one problem with the film, its too familiar from Carpenter. The plot is bordering on his other works, he uses many of the same actors again when they don't really fit the bill (Dun and Wong here) and it kinda looks and sounds the same as his other works too. The score could easily be from any of his films frankly, its good and atmospheric but you could stick it anywhere, any one of his films. In all honesty this film is virtually 'Assault on Precinct 13' but with possessed people instead of criminals. The devil is never mentioned I believe, but I'm assuming the 'father' was suppose to be the devil? and the dreams of the future are showing this evil force to have taken over the world?? hence the warning in the dream I think. Not too sure how this evil became trapped within the cylinder, or how it was placed into the basement of this church, or where the evil actually comes from originally and its goal etc...but lets just overlook that a bit shall we. That said I did enjoy the film and I thought the finale was a good thinker, a bit creepy and dark, wraps up quick and open ended...nice. Makeup and special effects are decent and created with thought, the film has a nice spooky pending doom vibe about it and the story is interesting if a little bland. Not quite as good as other Carpenter tales but still solid.
    Phil H Super Reviewer

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