Alice Cooper in John Carpenter’s 1987 film “Prince of Darkness”.
John Carpenter is the king of Halloween. And not just because he directed “Halloween.”
He’s the creative source behind spooky season classics like “The Fog,” “Christine,” and “The Thing.” An intriguing new trilogy about the “Halloween” sequel to his 1978 original just ended with “Halloween Ends,” which Carpenter helped score and run the production. He and his spouse, writer and producer Sandy King Carpenter, oversee Storm King Comicsjust turned 10 years old and has dozens of horror and sci-fi titles, including special releases each year for Halloween.
But this year, one of Carpenter’s more puzzling films, “Prince of Darkness,” rife with insects and metaphysical fears, is having its moment and finding new audiences.
The film’s 35th anniversary just happened last weekend, amid the peak of horror movies. Movie streaming service Highbrow The Criterion channel will introduce it this month as part of the Halloween show. And it has been released three times on horror-focused home video store Shout Factory Scream Factory LabelThe most recent edition is a lauded 4K high-definition disc last year. (Carpenter is the most iconic director at Scream Factory. “We tried to make all of his movies,” says marketing director and co-founder Jeff Nelson.)
It was a complete twist on “Prince of Darkness,” which critics appreciated when it was released in 1987. New York Times critic Vincent Canby called it “surprisingly cheesy.”
It is currently considered one of Carpenter’s best and most exciting films. The Guardian’s Phil Hoad called it “perhaps the director’s most underrated film.” Gizmodo’s Cheryl Eddy said it “contains one of the most astonishing depictions of evil ever.”
The reassessment is consistent with Carpenter.
“That makes me feel good. It’s a good feeling, as opposed to a bad feeling,” he said, with a dry emphasis on “good” and “bad,” in an interview. recently with CNBC.
“Prince of Darkness” tells the story of how Satan, in the form of a demonic green liquid, breaks out of his prison of crime in the bowels of a Catholic church in Los Angeles, brutally murdering and possessing owns a wide range of graduates and scientists. It was a modest success, grossing about $13 million on a budget of just $3 million.
At the time, Carpenter was starring in a larger Hollywood series, such as “Starman” and “Big Trouble in Little China,” and wanted to return to his independent roots.
“He showed how great he is when you don’t have a huge budget and you have to be creative,” said Cliff MacMillan, another co-founder of Scream Factory.
Director John Carpenter and co-creator Sandy King sign copies of the comic “Asylum” held at Golden Apple Comics on October 27, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.
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Carpenter agreed to a multi-film distribution deal with Universal Pictures and independent film studio Carolco. According to Sandy King Carpenter, who oversaw the script for “Prince of Darkness,” all the filmmaker had to submit to the studio was a brief synopsis for the film.
The first project was “Prince of Darkness.” The second season, 1988’s “They Live,” a bitter sci-fi satire on Reagan-era politics, consumerism, and economics starring professional wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, has become a beloved work in its own right. (A planned third film, titled “Victory Out of Time,” was not made.)
Since the budget for “Prince of Darkness” was so small, Carpenter and his crew had to do some tricks to achieve the film’s ambitious image.
“That’s where you get innovation, when you don’t have money,” Sandy King Carpenter told CNBC.
The script calls for tons of bugs swarming all over the characters, so that means real insects. Sandy King Carpenter said thousands of scarabs. It was a sight where the band Aerosmith showed up one day to watch the filming of their longtime friend Robert GrasmereHuge, disgusting insect scene, she added.
Aerosmith isn’t the only rocker who shows up to see the horrifying special effects in action. Shock rock icon Alice Cooper, who is executive producing “Prince of Darkness” by manager Shep Gordon, visited the LA studios to see Carpenter and the crew shoot a scene involving a mirror acting as likeness. a door leading to another dimension.
Next thing he knew, Cooper told CNBC, Carpenter was telling him to put on a collared hat and play the part in the movie as the de facto leader of demonic street killers spilling out onto the streets. church as the plot unfolds. He became one of the most prominent visuals in the film and its marketing, even though he didn’t have a single line of dialogue.
Carpenter also asked Cooper to once again reuse his infamous stage joke – using a microphone stand to “torture” someone – for a death scene that would eventually feature the star’s theme song. Rock music for the movie is playing in the background.
“” Can you get a bike over this guy’s chest? “” Cooper said Carpenter asked him. “I said, ‘Sure, you’ve come to the right person.'”
Cooper also hung around to see the footage in the mirror, which shows how far Carpenter was willing to go to get the right shot in a tight budget.
“We needed a photograph of the hand coming out of the mirror,” Carpenter said. So he and his crew removed the mercury that served as a ballast for a camera crane and used it to simulate liquid glass.
“It is very dangerous,” said the director. But Sandy King Carpenter was quick to explain that it was a fake hand, not the real thing.
“We’re not psychotic,” she said, “just a little cheeky.”
Disclosure: CNBC, Universal Pictures and Peacock, which are streaming “Halloween Ends,” are part of NBCUniversal.