Prince of Darkness, Shadowzone, and Talk to Me

Prince of Darkness – 1987, US, 101m. Director: John Carpenter. Streaming: Peacock

Shadowzone – 1990, US, 89m. Director: J.S. Cardone. Streaming: Tubi

Talk to Me – 2023, Australia, 95m. Director: Danny Philippou, Michael Philippou. Streaming: N/A

PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1987) The death of a priest leads to the discovery of a secret sect—not even the Vatican knew of its existence—known as the Brotherhood of Sleep, which operated within a rundown Los Angeles church that contains a mysterious green liquid locked away in the basement. A research team of scientists is brought in to study the goo, which seems to have sentient properties and may, in fact, be Satan itself, or at least a close relative. The team is too busy deciphering archaic scripture and solving mathematical equations to notice the slimy evil slowly influencing the minds of the neighborhood’s lower intelligences, including insects and—gasp!—street people. There’s a bunch of talk about Jesus having been an alien, a church cover-up lasting millennia, and even time travel! It’s all trivial to the film’s real purpose, which is to become yet another possession/slasher variant as characters are whittled down by impalement, stabbing, neck-snapping, and decapitation. The silly plot is further hampered by flat direction by John Carpenter and stiff acting by a mostly uncharismatic cast. There’s some interesting stuff thrown in to keep viewers awake—a man’s body disintegrates into a puddle of bugs and gore. But these scenes are too few and far in between the plodding screenplay. C

SHADOWZONE (1990) You have to admire a movie like Shadowzone. Here’s a film that makes absolutely no sense within the realms of its science-based story, yet it’s professionally made, features good acting and likable characters, and is entertaining enough to carry its largely preposterous story from beginning to end. Square-jawed NASA bigwig David Beecroft is given special access to a top-secret, government-funded research facility (dubbed “Project Shadowzone”) located inside an abandoned underground bunker, where scientists are doing advanced experiments in deep sleep and its dream states. Beecroft’s visit is the result of the death of one of the project’s volunteers—judging from their physiques, these male and female volunteers were apparently chosen based on their centerfold layouts. One of the subjects reaches beyond the normal dream state and into a Lovecraftian dimension filled with ugly, shapeshifting creatures. One of these beings eventually crosses over into the real world and forms the shapes of the characters’ worst nightmares, which for the lab’s in-house cook is a giant, mutated rat. Shadowzone resembles From Beyond in large parts and its story structure seems to have been modeled after Alien. That doesn’t prevent the movie from being highly enjoyable for what it is. Excellent make-up FX by Mark Shostrom (Evil Dead II, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3). B

TALK TO ME (2023) Mia has problems. Not only is the poor high school student trying to recuperate after the untimely (and mysterious) death of her mother, but she has to deal with the fact her ex-boyfriend, whom she still has romantic feelings for, is now playing Double Tap with Mia’s best friend (Alexandra Jensen). The arrival of an evil specter, which attaches to Mia during a Let’s Get Possessed and Live Stream It party, doesn’t help matters, especially after it claims to be the spirit of Mia’s mom. Played by Sophie Wilde, Mia exudes such a healthy amount of energy and brains within the first act of Talk to Me that it becomes all the more disappointing when she transforms into a complete idiot—that cliched character audiences scream at to not go into the basement? Mia goes into the basement. The same can be said for the film itself: after a good start, the script stumbles and turns into a hodgepodge of murky character motivations and predictability, including an ending you can smell coming a mile away. It often feels with some of these films the writers lose interest halfway through working on the script—you know, one of those good concept, poor execution deals. This is all the more disheartening given the overwhelming amount of praise Talk to Me received from critics dubbing it the next great horror flick. It’s not. C

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