A sinister secret has been kept in the basement of an abandoned Los Angeles church for many years. With the death of a priest belonging to a mysterious sect, another priest opens the door to the basement and discovers a vat containing a green liquid. The priest contacts a group of physics graduate students to investigate it. Unfortunately, they discover that the liquid contains the essence of Satan himself, and they also discover that he will release HIS father - an all-powerful Anti-God! The liquid later comes to life itself, turning some of the students into zombies as the Devil comes forward to release his father. Will these students be able to stop him?Written by
Alice Cooper originally asked John Carpenter if he could come to set just to watch a special effect, due to Cooper's manager also producing the film. Carpenter eventually decided to offer Cooper a role as the leader of the street people. See more »
(at around 1h 29 mins) After Walter crawls through the hole in the closet with "possessed" Lisa in tow, they're both in the other room with Prof. Birak, all standing up. You can see the obvious doubling of "short Lisa" by a stuntman - she's suddenly much bigger and taller than the two other men. See more »
The opening credits last for nine minutes. See more »
Television version is slightly reedited, suggesting that all that takes place in the film is just a dream that Jameson Parker's having:
after the opening credits there a new shot showing Parker's house from the outside (the theatrical version opens with a shot of Parker trying to perform a card trick).
at the beginning, after Parker watches on TV a program reporting the discovery of a new supernova, the narration goes on talking about the death of a millionaire and the discovery of a religious book in his library
all mentions of the dead priest, member of the Brotherhood of Sleep who took care of the church where the evil liquid is kept hidden, are deleted;
during the whole film, there are new inserted sequences showing Parker sleeping/dreaming in his bed
An old priest who belonged to a cryptic sect passes away. A new priest is assigned to the church and he discovers a bizarre basement with an even more bizarre object in its center - a big vat of green moving liquid. He summons the help of some investigators and the ensuing field study reveals some very frightening revelations about the liquid - it is the essence of Satan. Then the liquid leaks out of the canister...
After a few films in the studio system, most notably "Big Trouble in Little China," which undeservedly flopped, Carpenter returned to his roots in small budgeted horror/thriller films. The result was this and it could have hardly been better. The infamous eerie music makes an especially profound effect in this film, which admittedly starts slow, but when it takes of it takes all of your nerves with it.
Unlike many horror popular films this film focuses very heavily on conversation. Atmosphere is of course put first, but the dialog is very interesting and makes for a film that is frightening on a thinking level. There are a well timed moments of violence, but it is on a intellectual level where this film scares the crap out of you. Carpenter must have done a good amount of research as the characters try to use various scientific concepts and terms to describe what they are slowly falling victim to. The dialog very heavily resembles H.P. Lovecraft's writing, who was unrelenting in providing the rational and thought-out narration of his protagonist. One can bet that it is this element that made it necessary for this film to be made independently. The shock isn't visceral, but no less effective.
The only downside are a few really goofy moments ("I said a rich doctor!"), but they are ultimately forgivable and are not as sorely out of place as you might think. 8/10
Rated R: horror violence
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