By: Jay Dyer
John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness (1987) makes up the second film in his “Apocalypse Trilogy,” preceded by The Thing, and followed by In the Mouth of Madness. The plot to Prince of Darkness is so wacky and over the top, it bears analyzing, as well as the rest of the trilogy (which we will eventually get to). In this 80s treasure, Carpenter treats us to a blender mix of faith meeting reason, quantum physics, Satanism and Gnosticism in one massive smorgasbord, guaranteed to satiate the campiest palate.
Added bonus – writer “Martin Quatermass” is none other than John Carpenter himself giving a nod to the British science fiction series classic, Professor Quatermass. Double double bonus – school may be out for Summer, but detention is just beginning, as Alice Cooper is featured as the leader of the gang of hobo zombies that lock our science team in the abandoned church.
We’ll never know what combination of Stephen Hawking documentaries and hallucinogens Carpenter was on when he concocted this oddity, but we can always be grateful, as the powers of darkness seem to have been invoked. Our film begins with the blonde half of the Simon and Simon (Jameson Parker) duo noticing the strange stellar phenomena of the syzygy, a conjunction of the sun and moon. In astronomy, the syzygy is an occultation, where an apparently larger body passes in front of a smaller one, and as with almost all ancient mythology, signifies some massive shift in globo-political settings. For Simon and Not-Simon, it signifies the end of all (where’s the buddy cop/P.I. when you need him?).
Mystified, we see a pile of bugs gathering (bugomancy is the forgotten practice of divination through nasty ass bug groupings) outside a physics lecture from the great Victor Wong as the appropriately Asian-named “Professor Howard Birack.” “Time and matter,” Professor Wong explains, “and order – order exists, but it is not what we had in mind.” Time was thought to be an arrow, but Newtonian physics has collapsed with the rise of quantum mechanics and for this, we should have been more Zen, the good professor untangles.
While on the surface, the scientific establishment is at war with “faith,” we discover the professor is a secret pal of Fr. Donald Pleasance. Before we launch into that, however, it is very synchromystically bizarre that Victor Wong in real life studied under liberal theologians Paul Tillich, Reinhold Neibuhr and Martin Buber, while later studying under Frankfurt School and CIA-affiliated “abstract” artists like Mark Rothko. Not only that, but Wong reportedly died the evening of September 11, 2001, one of the last century’s pivotal events, vaguely mirroring the pivotal cosmic events in Carpenter’s film.
The professor and Fr. Pleasance meet to discuss a plastic treasure chest of secrets left by an esoteric “Brotherhood of Sleep” (yes, the Brotherhood of Sleep) operating secretly underground, viewed askance by Vatican bureaucrats. Is Carpenter hinting at what is really the case with the Vatican “underground,” being controlled by a Satanic network? This is argued to be real in books like William Henry’s Lucifer’s Lodge, where a steady stream of ritual Satanists have risen even to the levels of papacy (as well as being backed up by the books of dubious figure Malachi Martin). For Carpenter, however, the secret Brotherhood of Sleep is marked by the enigmatic phrase “The sleeper must awaken,” oddly reminiscent of Herbert’s Dune. The meaning seems to be the appointed time has arrived for the externalization of the hierarchy, where the cryptocracy will emerge to invoke the whore of Babylon and inaugurate the last days in a Crowleyan fashion.
This is made evident when the generic Asian computer scientist decodes the Brotherhood’s cipher, written in Coptic, Latin and differential equations (instead of laughing, just roll with it – it’s more fun!). The overtly Gnostic text suggests the mysterious vat of green goo stashed in the private crypt of the Brotherhood is the source of all cosmic evil, stated by Fr. Pleasance to be substance itself. In fact, Fr. Pleasance even notes that the Church intentionally sold people a fable that evil was a matter of the heart, when all along – it was matter, substance. As a result, we may conclude Nickelodeon perpetrated this illuminist conspiracy in the 80s by “sliming” failed guests on You Can’t Do that on Television (I am joking). The large vat of green goo actually resembles Nyquil so we can conclude this was the Brotherhood of Sleep‘s true secret.
The differential equations translate (obviously) as:
“So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” (Apoc. 17:3-5)
In my classic preacher voice, I have decoded this prophetic text in my Bible Study video found here:
Who knew times tables were so esoteric!? As the team of scientists assigned to study the Satanic Nyquil unravel more of the bitch ass algorithms, evil (identified as anti-matter, and thus an “Anti-god”) transmits messages through subatomic tachyon particles (for those who have not seen the film, I am not making this up – John Carpenter truly peered into the Mouth of Madness). The future transmission is revealed to be a warning from the future, the year 1-9-9-9 (ie, 666) to prevent the arrival of the Anti-God in the flesh, the Antichrist (?). As mentioned, while the team is busy doing their esoteric homework, the possessed homeless have trapped the team inside the church to ensure the birth of the Antichrist (through one of the bland, frumpy, unnamed 80s chicks). Heading up this gang is Alice Cooper, who enjoys bugs and stabbing people. The Anti-God being crafty, vaginal canals are dispensed with and the old magic mirror gateway becoming the choice method of netherworldly transport.
However, Simon and Simon are also crafty, having foiled numerous petty criminals and Simon 1 breaks the mirror, unfortunately losing his 80s hot redhead to the netherworld. While this is certainly a traumatic loss, the loss of an 80s hot redhead is nothing compared to the arrival of the Antichrist, if you do your moral esoteric calculus (just punch it up on that Casio Calculator John Carpenter recommends – with that sweet Casio he uses to score the film with the eerie dur-dur-durs…ahhhhs ahhhhhs).
The moral of the story is simple and poignant. Beware of Fr. Donald Pleasance – or any Roman Catholic priests that have the face and head of a large baby (MST3K joke) and pay attention to Simon and Simon, which you’ve probably forgotten. Jameson Parker could be your only hope against the Antichrist. Also remember to not join any religious orders that go by the name of Brotherhood of Sleep, and avoid Nyquil, as it is actually concentrated Satanic evil. Quantum physics is Zen, and if you love a hot redhead, keep her away from mirrors and do not fuck with any bands of homeless hobos led by Alice Cooper – you won’t get no more Mr. Nice guy treatment.
See also my analysis of Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China.
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