The thing I remember most about Prince of Darkness is my dad's comment about how different the film would've been if Dolph Lundgren had been among the academics studying the thing in the basement. Dolph would've kicked all the evil-possessed people in the head in five minutes and that would've been the end of it. This was mostly on account of us having watched Dark Angel (or I Come In Peace) the week before. I can't remember how old I was seeing it that first time - around eleven or twelve at a guess - but I remember it was a sunny afternoon. When it came to horror films, dad would usually watch them first the night before to make sure there was nothing too distressing in there (the only one I remember failing this test was Phantasm). This meant the horror was offset slightly by the daylight streaming through the windows, but at the same time heightened by the fact I was inevitably watching the films alone. I saw some of the best films that way, and Prince of Darkness was one of them.
There's another childhood/dad memory linked to Prince of Darkness. When I asked my dad what the scariest thing he ever saw was, his answer would either be Eraserhead or Quatermass and the Pit.
This was before the internet and DVD and everything ever being available at the click of a button, so it was some time before I got to see the original BBC TV series. Eventually dad found a VHS copy and I found he was right - it was indeed incredibly scary. But more than that, there was something in the writing that was different from the majority of the horror films I'd seen before (which by then was a staggering amount) and at the same time a familiarity. This post is about that familiarity.
The connections between Nigel Kneale and John Carpenter are fairly well-known and well-documented. It would seem that Kneale was never particularly happy with the films that came from that connection. Carpenter hired him to write the script for Halloween 3, but after coming up with the previously unheard of idea of writing a sequel that had nothing to do with its predecessors (something I sometimes wish happened more often), Kneale fell out with Dino De Laurentis who wanted more gore. The script was rewritten by director Tommy Lee Wallace, although retains a lot of Kneale's signature ideas and themes. When it came to Prince of Darkenss, I don't know whether Carpenter ever considered hiring Kneale as writer again, but he did acknowledge his influence over the project by crediting himself as Martin Quatermass.
Prince of Darkness certainly feels like the Nigel Kneale film Carpenter would have liked Halloween 3 to be. There is one obvious similarity to Quatermass and the Pit that crops up in many of Kneale's other works - the idea of an ancient, buried artefact that may be extra-terrestrial in origin. In Kneale's story this took the form of a buried spacecraft that appears to be responsible for supernatural occurrences above ground. On investigation, Kneale's protagonist Professor Bernard Quatermass (Andre Morrell in this version) theorises that the creatures within perhaps experimented on humans, and that the origin of witchcraft and the devil in our culture is a direct result of these experiments.