Prince of Darkness 4K Blu-ray Review
There is definitely something in the film
Prince of Darkness 4K Review
Faith is a hard thing to come by these daysA priest dies and a secret sect is uncovered; a sect that has been protecting an ancient evil; an evil that has formed a religion. But it is awake and gaining strength. And without anyone to guard it, who is going to protect the Earth?
Whilst there is something slightly amiss with Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness is does contain some delicious ideas. Drawing inspiration from Nigel Kneale’s intelligent SF and Horror (especially Quatermass and the Pit) and a new found love of theoretical physics and atomic theory, the director, writing under the outrageous pseudonym of Martin Quatermass, postulates combining the ultimate evil with the intriguing notion of anti-matter. The fact that the evil is a tub of rotating green goo, hiding in a cellar, doesn’t matter, it’s the idea that Jesus and his disciples recognised the evil for what is was and dedicated their lives to protecting the world, and thus formed a religion that spread about the globe is both hilarious and ingenious.
When Father Loomis (Donald Pleasance) recruits Quantum Mechanics Professor Howard Birack (Victor Wong) and a group of his grad students to a disused church in LA, it soon dawns that the goo in the cellar is, in fact, the trapped essence of Satan, whose even more powerful Anti-God father is seeking a way through to our dimension. As a mob of possessed homeless people gather outside, and one by one the students succumb to the evil, who will be left to save the world? The first hour of the film is splendid; the gradual build-up, the mystery, the story revelations and the music building to something tangible is suddenly and dramatically halted when our heroes become trapped as the sun comes up. Then, for an agonising fifteen minutes, the film drifts around not really knowing what to do until night again falls for the swift and rather unsatisfying conclusion. Gotta love that postscript dream though!
However, there is definitely something in the film despite its shortcomings, and whilst Carpenter might not have the convictions of his own ideas, what is presented remains, for the most part, classic.
Prince of Darkness 4k Picture QualityPrince of Darkness was shot 35mm film. This 2018 release was made using the original camera negative which was scanned at 4K resolution, in 16bit, with the application of a HDR Dolby Vision workflow to the restoration process which resulted in the creation of a 4K DCP (Digital Cinema Package) utilised for the creation of this Ultra HD Blu-ray release.
The disc presents a native 4K 3840 x 2160p resolution image in the widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and uses 10-bit video depth, a Wide Colour Gamut (WCG), High Dynamic Range, and is encoded using the HEVC (H.265) codec for HDR10 and Dolby Vision. We reviewed the Region free UK Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Prince of Darkness on a Panasonic 65DX902B Ultra HD 4K TV with a Panasonic DMP-UB400 Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
Colours are so rich and so bold
The original filming process has always been a tad on the soft side and no amount of extra resolution is going to improve that, however, this new 4K scan does reveal more definition in the image than has previously been available. Both skin texture and clothing weave show improvements, however marginal, as do the various instrument panels and printouts strewn around the makeshift lab in the church. The degradation around the cylinder’s top and the sores on Satan’s spawn have keener edges. Locations shots are also improved, the definition of building fascias, lawns and shrubberies of the university, the sunsets over the church, all show cleaner edges.
But it is with the WGC and HDR where the real benefits lay; the colours are so rich and so bold, they seem to drip off the screen; flesh tones particularly have that ‘Californian glow’, while still retaining a natural hue. All the primaries come off well, reds are vivid and strong, check out the depth of colour on the sores, likewise the depth of the green of the goo. Points to the sunset again for superb colouration. Blacks are deeper than ever before and the wider range allows for some nice shadow detail, and adds punch to the image. Although, when it is dark, the grain looks suspiciously like noise, particularly on faces, but it’s not that distracting. The white end is well represented with plenty of highlights that show no clipping.
Digitally there were no issues to contend with and the original source is clean and tidy. Grain is kept to acceptable levels, barring the note above.
Prince of Darkness 4k Sound QualityUnfortunately the disc has not been up-graded to the immersive surround tracks, so no Dolby Atmos or DTS-X, what we do have is the same DTS-HD MA 5.1 track that has adorned previous releases (be sure to select it, the default is LPCM 2.0). The surrounds are well used to bring out the ambience - the university grounds, the whirling of the goo in the church, the interference in the ‘dream’ are good examples. Indeed, there is a good surround environment set up that helps to maintain the oppressive and claustrophobic nature of the trapped students. Bass is well maintained, but never drops to subterranean levels, yet there is plenty for the sub to do. The score makes full use of the speakers, placing the action front and centre. Dialogue is clear and precise, given directionality when needed and sounds very natural. There is very little wrong with the track and it always remains on the right foot, even if there is little to really get excited about.
Prince of Darkness 4K ExtrasThe UHD has no extras at all; but the overall package is pretty impressive. Listed below are the contents as provided by the advertising material; we have been unable to view them.
UHD – Film
Blu-ray – Film
Blu-ray – Extras
Malevolent: Unearthing John Carpenter’s PRINCE OF DARKNESS: A brand new retrospective documentary produced by Ballyhoo Motion Pictures and featuring interviews with Cinematographer Gary Kibbe, actor Peter Jason, actor Alice Cooper, composer Alan Howarth, script supervisor Sandy King, visual effects supervisor Robert Grasmere, stunt coordinator Jeff Imada, Carpenter biographer John Muir, film historian C. Courtney Joyner, music historian Daniel Schweiger and Producer Larry Carpenters.
Intro by John Carpenter – Interview with director John Carpenter originally recorded for a French DVD release in 2003
Scene Analysis by John Carpenter - Director John Carpenter analyses key scenes from Prince of Darkness, in an interview from 2003
Audio commentary - With John Carpenter and Peter Jason
Sympathy for the Devil: Interview with John Carpenter - From 2013
Horror's Halloween Hallowed Grounds with Sean Clark – ‘Fun’ tour of the film’s locations hosted by Sean Clark
Prince of Darkness 4K Verdict
As part of a multi-movie deal with Alive Pictures, director John Carpenter was given complete creative control over Prince of Darkness, it’s a shame then that he doesn’t quite have the convictions of his delicious ideas. When a cylinder of green goo, that has been hidden and protected by a secret religious sect, is found to be the son of Satan, the grad students examining it gradually succumb to its evil as the son wants to bring his father into the world. The magnificent build up is suddenly halted about an hour in as the film seems to have nowhere to go before suddenly racing to its rushed conclusion, and yet, there is something about it that keeps fans coming back for more; me included.
The 4K UHD set from Studiocanal, as part of their Carpenter releases, following They Live 4K and The Fog 4K, is pretty good. The new 4K picture reveals more detail, gives a hitherto unseen depth to the colours and increases the black level. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround sound is the same as previous releases but is well separated and dynamic with good bass. The extras package is amazing with a new feature as well as a wealth of previously available material. Not much more to ask for!
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £17.99
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