There are elements of our lives that don't so much lack explanation but defy it. John Carpenter's "Prince of Darkness" is a unique film with just enough Sci-Fi and just enough suspense to create a really intriguing horror film that probes those depths just beneath the surface of our subconscious.
Like any good horror film Carpenter's film tries to pull audiences attention toward something they're afraid of. From the beginning of the film the motif is established that the order of the universe is mirrored and belied by a chaos. From the sub atomic world that defies a natural order to the antimatter and such our world only makes sense until it doesn't.
The film begins with this wonderful rhythm that stands out as something I don't think I've seen before or since. It begins like a lot of films do, opening titles with short scenes intercut. Donald Pleasance's Priest finding out about a secret order after a death. Meanwhile Victor Wong teaches a class of what look like doctoral students about physics.
We hear a lot of what is now really cliche dialogue in the classroom setting: Schrodinger's cat is talked about as if these PhD level students are hearing this for the first time. The students include Lisa Blount and Jameson Parker as well as Dennis Dun from Big Trouble in Little China.
While this sort of dialogue might be cliche now it really wasn't quite so much in the 1980s. Before Quantum Physics was the go to explanation for every Sci-Fi element ever it really wasn't getting talked about much outside of the usual educational programs.
Pleasance finds something the Order of Sleep was keeping secret and asks Wong if he might spend the weekend studying it. Wong explains to the students it will really help their grades to do this bit of experiments over the weekend and thus the movie proper begins as a number of university types get locked in an abandoned church to determine if the priest has in fact found physical proof of evil.
They're never heard from again. The end.
Though all the information I've given you, as well as more, is explained in this amazing 20+ minute section that fits this tight rhythm and is pushed along by Carpenter's score. As an audience member you feel like they're getting set up for something big. While it might be simplified to "scientists killed one by one by satan" it never really feels like that.
This is a film made on a small budget that looks great to this day because it used practical effects and moody lighting on good actors. Though there might not seem to be a big story going on it is there and you feel it in a way so many films today seem to have given up on. There's the general creepiness of using insects as well as a deeper horror in the fact that everyone who sleeps near this evil begins having the same dream.
While the chaos of our lives might be something we try to shrug off Carpenter made a great film by reminding us that even if we don't focus on it we'll never escape it.