I've always had my doubts about the existence of Hell-- but after watching 1987's PRINCE OF DARKNESS those doubts are gone because I've been there and it's written and directed by John Carpenter. Hell is a lot more boring than I thought it would be.
31 days of Halloween here at Fish Manor involves watching something horror related and this year rather than revert to the classics as we are prone to do we decided we'd make a push for movies we've either not seen very often or better still ones we've never seen.
This one looked promising; it reunited Director Carpenter with Donald Pleasence who was the best thing about HALLOWEEN (1978) which is arguably a flawed classic of the horror genre. It stumbled right out of the gate broke all four legs and nobody could find a rifle to put it down fast enough so we kept with it.
I'm going to say it; John Carpenter is a shitty director. I know across the internet there are literally dozens of you throwing your arms up and screaming "Well what about THE THING!??? What about JOHN CARPENTER'S VAMPIRES??!!!" Carpenter fans are nothing if not loyal.
Carpenter is a shitty director but his writing is even worse. He wrote this one too.
This one gets a 6.7 on IMDB which just goes to show you don't go to IMDB for movie recommendations and or people who like John Carpenter Movies (and hey, I liked THE THING) are brain dead.
Here's the story;
There is a church that has housed a container in a subterranean basement since the 1500s and in said container is, I think, Satan.
There's the pitch. If I were sitting behind the desk at Mirimax (and I'd probably be standing because Harvey Weinstein once worked there and I'd be afraid to sit anywhere) I would greenlight that sucker because that sounds like a pretty good concept right there. I'd PROBABLY say something like "The 1500s? Wasn't California being run by Spain then? And wouldn't that mean this would be more a Spanish mission style place rather than what looks like a Catholic Church built around 1940? Maybe they built the church on the site of the mission but never looked in the basement? I'm getting ahead of myself.
The concept is interesting the execution is not. It's so not that I actually jumped over to thesaurus.com to find a stronger word for not because the execution is seriously film school 101 bad.
There is no art direction here. The scenes are always fully lit like it's high noon in Phoenix. And I mean every scene. They're inside this old decrepit church and they must have 3000 watt halogen bulbs in every room as well as the alley outside because when they look out the window at what's supposed to be 330am it's broad frickin' daylight.
The container that houses Satan or whatever it is that's in there looks like something aliens brought down with it's intensely glowing green sludge billowing around inside it. Nothing about it looks 500 years old. How much more interesting would it be if this was some kind of large pewter cylinder totally dark except for a few flickering candles set up all around it? Wouldn't you be like "oh this is just a box" and open it? I'm not sure I'd open a swirling alien like glass tube filled with what looks like radioactive kool aid but at least if I did the basement is so well lit I don't have to worry about not seeing anything.
The movie takes about 45 minutes to get going and you'd think there might be some character development to make us care about the people in this movie, yes? Well you'd might think that but you'd be wrong. The Tracy-Hepburn like romance going one here between a woman with a horrible haircut and a man with a moustache to match plays like Forest Gump and a Box of Chocolates and as a viewer I can't wait for these people to die so we can just end this.
All right so anyway-- this Chinese Professor who is a wise sage, and we know he's a wise sage because he's a Chinese Professor with one of those long Fu Manchu beards that somehow exist despite not being attached to his face, certainly not because he seems to be teaching Physics at a local Community College with a bunch of people who look like they're about 15 years past anything to do with Community College. He's approached by the Catholic Church when the guardian of whatever is in that tube dies of old age and next in line to watch the tube is Donald Pleasence and he knows from working with John Carpenter before that he doesn't want to go it alone on any mission.
The Chinese guy assembles a cracker jack team of students from his Physics 101 class because that's what you'd do when faced with the ultimate evil and you need a strong team. So Professor Birack and his students arrive at this church-- they come in several cars so Carpenter can do his version of the scene in the Exorcist when Max Von Sydow arrives at the House of Evil only Carpenter does it so much worse and with little or no impact.
Still with me? Good for you. Trust me this is better than actually sitting through it.
They go into the basement-- alone of course, nobody goes in pairs in these movies, and the thing in the tube shoots a stream of the radioactive goo into the eyes and mouth of one of the women who I pegged as first to die.
She was my favorite character because this is how she was referred to;
Anybody: Have you seen Susan?
Somebody else: Who?
Anybody: Susan. Radiologist. Glasses?
Carpenter must have thought he was in Play It Again, Sam territory with this exchange of dialoguebecause several different characters have this same exact interaction. Nobody can remember this poor woman and I don't blame them. There is nothing memorable about anyone in the cast.
All right so Susan gets shot with this goop and she becomes a slave to the thing in the tube and her main purpose seems to be to walk around and look spooky and spit into other characters mouths to make them become more slaves to the thing in the tube which is also apparently what all the homeless and the bugs in the neighborhood are.
They might all be scary if there were some shadows in this movie but Carpenter never met a lamp he didn't like so we can clearly see all the clothes they're wearing are pretty clean for homeless folk.
This is the kind of movie that if you were in it you would have seen the problem two minutes in, called the police and the whole things wraps up. All of the characters killed would have been fine if they just kept their mouths shut. I don't mean don't talk (although that would help too) I mean don't stand in front of people and tubes of radioactive goo with your mouth hanging open.
Sadly the Chinese Professor doesn't die a horrible death, nor does moustache. Missed opportunities for sure.
Satan's brilliant idea for escape is to shoot people in the mouth with this radioactive slime, turn them into zombies under his control (and they still look clean and made up as they stalk around-- you'd think getting sprayed with this stuff would stain but looks like it doesn't) who gather to shoot more people in the mouth with more goop and create more people standing around.
Because nothing is more exciting than watching people standing around.
Satan finally decides he has enough mindless zombies to stand around so he decides to do the ultimate in escape-- he sprays the happy go lucky member of our cast and she soons begins to show signs of giving birth to some horrible Satanic devil child as she lays in a cot and swells up. She also is the only one of the zombies that shows some kind of allergic reaction to the goop.
So just when you think she's going to pop out a devil kid the swelling starts to go down and then she gets up and decides a mirror a few doors down is the actual key to finding Satan. Lucky for us Donald Pleasence decided to hide in the room that holds this mirror or she might never have found it and we'd be stuck endlessly watching people stand around.
Eventually someone realizes the movie needs to wrap up so they do stuff and end our long nightmare.
So coming out of this I realize one thing, this is John Carpenter.
If you should be out anywhere and you see him with anything even resembling a camera get it away from him and smash it into a million pieces, it's the only way we can all be saved from more of this stuff.
Oh and he also thinks he's a musician, so the same seven chord Casio TM keyboard sound he comes up with in the first scene will drone on endlessly through the film. If anyone you know has a copy of this soundtrack in their music collection get them some help immediately, there is no time to waste.
One of the worst pieces of DREK I've ever sat through-- and I've sat through a lot.