John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness – Complete Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Alan Howarth Incorporated – 2008
Music composed by John Carpenter
In Association with Alan Howarth
You have to have Prince of Darkness if you are at all serious about horror film music because it’s one of the best. The fact that Alan Howarth has gone back to produce the music for this film in its entirety, should excite anyone big time.
I’ve loved this score since I first saw John Carpenter’s movie back 1987 in the theater on Fort Polk, Louisiana, where I was stationed in the U.S. Army. What I’ve always admired about this music is not only dark and scary, but the main theme is heroic and romantic all at the same time. It’s a true display of the two composers’ skill at constructing music that gets to the heart of this film’s emotional core.
Alan Howarth continues his impressive feat of releasing all the music for another John Carpenter film he was associated on, spread out over 2-CDs. Altogether there is 134.60 minutes worth of music that should have you rushing to AlanHowarth.com to purchase before the 1,500 units are gone.
It is appropriate Howarth kicks the CD set off with the spooky transient message from the future “This Is Not A Dream.” This warning is almost as scary as the cinematic terror Carpenter and Howarth conjure with their superb score. If you really listen to the fuzzy distorted voice and think of its meaning, it will stay with you and cause your mind to wonder its infinite meaning.
I think the low keyboard notes that begin “Opening Credits” are as iconic as the eight piano notes in the theme” for Halloween or even Jaws. Listening to this again now (I wore out my cassette of the Original Soundtrack because I played it so much) Prince of Darkness is ground-breaking and should be considered a landmark because of the long-form nature of tracks that run over 8-minutes (7 of them). I can’t think of a horror film score that preceded it that had as many music cues that run for that length of time. In doing these, Carpenter and Howarth almost approach the tracks as progressive rock tunes because they are ever changing, always pushing ahead into Devilish gloom and darkness.
There are so many compositional aspects to the “Opening Credits” that make it cool. You’ve got the deep reverberating keyboard line that grabs you by the balls. Then there is the use of unholy choir vocals “OOoooooooohhhhhh” that sounds not only ghost-like but reinforce the sacrilegious nature of what is being contained in the spinning green large canister underneath the church setting. The love theme in the track is hugely important because it helps make you care about the characters and lets you know there’s more to this movie then just the supreme personification of evil.
Next up is the Film Version of “The Underground Church.” Carpenter & Howarth take their time building this cue with little sparkling notes that are surrounded by a wall of doom. You just feel something is about to be unearthed and come into our world bringing death and darkness. Two minutes in, the wicked choir voices denote the arrival of the ungodly power that’s been stirred up and about to be unleashed.
I’m convinced that “Love At A Distance” and the scene that it supports is one of the big reasons why Prince of Darkness film carries so much of an impact. Think about it. If you don’t feel the deep connection of love between Brian Marsh (Jameson Parker, who pulls off one of the most criminally underrated acting jobs of all-time) and Catherine Danforth (Lisa Blount), than the climax of this movie won’t hit you like it does.
There is grim somberness to “Will No One Tell Us.” This is the scene where religion and science can’t fully answer what’s going on within the church. Priest (Donald Pleasence) and Professor Howard Birack (Victor Wong) really make this sequence work and the music does its part to support their performances.
The bass drum that pounds the beat for “The Team Assembles” really propels this piece and keeps momentum sustained for over nine-minutes. It’s definitely a rock-like approach, which was a brilliant choice by the composers. The little spooky sounds that are added along the way keep things really interesting and fun.
A keyboard whispers “Translation” as low “Wwwhhhhooooooooo.” It’s the kind of thing to make your skin tinkle with fright. “Cross Bar” pulsates with a metallic signal that doesn’t sound human.
Keyboard murmurs “Susan’s Intuition/We Were Salesman” along the same lines of “Translation.” The stinger that comes a minute and half in made me jump because I turned up the volume to hear the low soft airy synthesized sounds that play before it strikes.
Something is materializing in “Psychokinesis.”
Big notes prophesying the coming absence of light resounds in “Darkness Falls.” The sinister choir voices seem to signify the eventual outcome for the world as we know it. This is scary stuff if you think about it. This is getting to something I’ve always felt about Prince of Darkness. That it’s a horror film for the mind as much as it’s a thrilling movie sporting supernatural action.
I like the slow burn of “A Message From The Future.” It’s not obvious that the short communication that’s coming from a dream that everyone starts having within the church is bad from the composition. The music is mysterious, fascinating and encourages making an effort to understand it’s meaning. But as the cue plays longer we get hit with a stinger that confirms the malicious intent of who’s behind it. There can be no doubt who that is, when the choir voices rise and synthesize from liquid form into ultimate evil.
The last track on CD 1 is a ten-minute tour de force of unspeakable terror called “Hell Breaks Loose.” It begins with the love theme that is beautiful and glues us together with the onscreen character’s plight. Listening to it without the film is just as potent as the music clearly tells the story and will bring you back to the experience the movie gave. Around the three-and-a-half minute mark, things amp up as the keyboard rhythm accelerates towards doomsday.
CD2 begins with “I Have A Message For You”, which is delivered by the guy who gets consumed with bugs. I’ve always found this scene both creepy and funny at the same time.
“Mirror Image/The Only Thing That Matters” has a wonderful juxtaposition of the threat of the dark one infiltrating our world from the other side and with what should be considered the most aspect in our lives, love. The first five minutes build up to unrelenting terror symbolized with big dark keyboard lines and stomping percussion. The cue mellows out over the last two minutes to express the moments of tenderness that gives this film it’s warm heart.
Carpenter & Howarth are deliberate with constructing “The Devil Awakens.” There are moments within this cue that you can hear keyboard tonality lines that the duo used in similar fashion in Big Trouble In Little China. The deep pulsating keyboards, metallic swishes that move across audio space and the active drums & percussion made me think of “Jack Burton, Pork Chop Express & Lo Pan.” The bright little keyboard that twinkles through the last half of the track sounds great against the ominous wall of sound surrounding it.
“Through The Mirror” is powerhouse of supernatural force breaking though into our world with its only intent on destroying us. Carpenter & Howarth add layer upon layer of sounds until the mirror explodes into thousands of pieces of reflective glass. The last two minutes makes your hair stand up as you can feel how close we came to end for all, but the love theme lets us know we are okay for now.
An Alternate Version of “The Underground Church” comes as a bonus track and then you get The Original Soundtrack Album, which Howarth says had to be less than 50-minutes long.