USA / 1988
Writer and Director: John Carpenter
Cast: Donald Pleasence, Jameson Parker, Victor Wong, Lisa Blount, Dennis Dun, Susan Blanchard, Anne Howard
After making a number of conventional Hollywood movies in the mid-80s (Starman, Big Trouble in Little China), John Carpenter returned to the horror genre with which he first made his name (Halloween, The Fog and The Thing) for this genuinely unnerving movie, a refreshingly new take on the familiar theme of Man versus the Devil. “Refracting the traditional conflict of Good and Evil through quantum mechanics and sub-atomic physics, the sometimes talky script remains engrossing thanks to Carpenter’s chilling atmospherics,” Time Out wrote, adding that the “claustrophobic terror generated by fluid camerawork and striking angles is reinforced by a narrative which builds slowly but surely towards a heart-racing climax.”
Carpenter used the pseudonym Martin Quatermass as his writing credit for this supernatural drama, with Donald Pleasence starring as a priest who uncovers a secret that may threaten the future of mankind. Deep down in the vault of his church lies a canister of green fluid, which contains the Devil himself, entombed by his own father millions of years before. The priest turns to a scientist, Dr Birack (Victor Wong), and his students for help, and they in turn look for computers and science to provide them with the solution. The mysterious green liquid has the ability to possess, however, and the students are forced to save themselves from each other and an army of zombies at the church door. Then there’s the small matter of saving the world from Satan himself…
Consciously returning to his indie roots, John Carpenter has fashioned a low-budget horror movie that avoids the use of a starry cast and places the emphasis instead on good old-fashioned chills allied to modern technology. The director also co-wrote the haunting music (echoes of Halloween) and there’s an inspired piece of casting with Alice Cooper playing the gaunt and pale leader of the zombies. Scary stuff, definitely not for the faint of heart.