A group of graduate students and scientists uncover an ancient canister in an abandoned church, but when they analyze the substance within, they inadvertently unleash an evil force that threatens all humanity. Ralph Potts reviews the Ultra HD Blu-ray release Prince of Darkness from Shout! Factory.

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The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:


Extras:


Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

79



Details:

Studio and Year: Shout! Factory
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 102 minutes
Genre: Horror

Disc Format: BD-100
HEVC:max CLL: 1000/max FALL: 630
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1/ Stereo
Subtitles: English SDH
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Lisa Blount, Victor Wong, Jameson Parker
Directed by: John Carpenter
Music by: John Carpenter
Written by: Martin Quartermass
Region Code: A


Release Date: January 19, 2021


"It is Evil…It has Awakened"


Synopsis:

“A group of graduate students and scientists uncover an ancient canister in an abandoned church, but when they analyze the substance within, they inadvertently unleash an evil force that threatens all humanity.” – Shout! Factory


My Take:

Master of horror John Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing) directs this terrifying battle between mankind and the ultimate evil. A group of graduate students and scientists uncover an ancient canister in an abandoned church, but when they open it, they inadvertently unleash a strange liquid and an evil force on all of humanity. As the liquid turns their co-workers into zombies, the remaining members realize they have released the most unspeakable horror of them all. Terror mounts as the team must fight to save the world from a devilish fury that has been contained for over seven million years.
I have previously seen Prince of Darkness (probably on cable TV back in the day) but, it has been years and my recollection of it was scant. I remembered bits and pieces but, in general this revisit was more or less like seeing it for the first time. As a fan of John Carpenter’s films this one didn’t stand out and, after watching it, I can kind of see why. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the storyline, characters or direction. It just feels exactly like a typical horror film where smart people do dumb things.

I like Donald Pleasence and didn’t feel as though his character got a big enough role for him to be effective. There wasn’t anything clever about the development of the impending evil and, for me there were no moments that proved remotely chilling. I did like the final minutes of the film though. I suspect that if I had some history with Prince of Darkness from its early days, it may have contained some intrinsic nostalgia that would have made seeing it more meaningful. I hope that is how it resonates for its fans. For me, my reaction to it would be best described as lukewarm.


Replay Value:


Parental Guide:

The rating is for frightening images, violence and thematic material.


AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.


UHD Presentation(HDR-10): 80
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)



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    • Resolution:
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UHD Presentation (Dolby Vision): 80
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)



    • HDR: Dark Highlights:
    • HDR: Bright Highlights:
    • HDR: Expanded Color:
    • Resolution:
    • Visual Impact:




Dolby Atmos Rating: 78
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)



    • Level of immersion:
    • Soundstage integration:
    • Audio object placement:
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    • Entertainment factor:


Prince of Darkness comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Shout! Factory featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound.

Prince of Darkness was shot on film. There is no mention from the studio as to whether it was restored for its Ultra HD rendering so, we’ll just have to take it at face value.


It's important to note that the ultimate goal for any release on home video is to present a film in the highest possible quality based upon its original elements. A film like Prince of Darkness has an aesthetic that incorporates film grain and the use of optics that won't result in the type of high gloss, tack-like sharpness of a film shot using digital cameras. This isn't a problem and shouldn't be seen as such.

This horror film utilizes a visual aesthetic that supports its subject matter’s thematic tone. The cinematography uses lighting schemes, shadows and low-lit environs, that can often impart a dark visual aesthetic. This is purposeful and, comes across in this rendering. In most respects, the transitioning of those scenes is smooth but, on occasion there is a noticeable level of crush that results. Looking at the film's opening sequence the improvement in depth and definition is noticeable.

I could detect some finer details present during interiors and in backgrounds during wide angle shots, such as those of the interior and exterior of the church and later in the downstairs room where the cannister is kept. The nighttime exterior shots of the areas surrounding the church didn’t offer a marked improvement in dimension, but sharpness was predominantly stable. The color range in the film is narrow, with only the occasional use of vivid color appearing onscreen.

I found the presentation to be very tame in terms of its use of dynamic highlights, both bright and dark, however some of that is owed to the nature of the photography. Save for the scene where the street people (led by Alice Cooper’s character) emerge from the darkened alleyway into the sunlight, the image didn't make any visually compelling use of interstitial black levels offset by vivid bright elements. In general, the image, which looked fine overall, lacked a stark improvement when compared to the Blu-ray rendering, which may speak to the quality of that encode.

Aside from the aforementioned black crush, I believe that what we are seeing is a faithful rendering of the film’s elements, which when all is said and done, is all we can ask for. The question now becomes, is the Ultra HD version worth considering? I would say that if you’re a fan and want to own Prince of Darkness in 4K with Dolby Atmos sound, the answer is, yes. If you’re happy with the 2018 Blu-ray and are hoping for a night and day difference, the UHD rendering may disappoint you.


Dolby Vision vs HDR-10:

I utilize the TCL 55P607 UHD Dolby Vision HDR flat panel in my review system to enable me to compare the visual quality of titles that contained the Dolby Vision metadata versus its HDR-10 counterpart on the same disc. All titles are first watched via my JVC front projector. I then select specific scenes which are watched on the TCL, first via HDR-10 then via Dolby Vision. The TCL isn’t among the top tier flat panels with DV, however it came recommended by AVS Senior Editor Mark Henninger, and calibrates/performs extremely well for a set at its price point.

The cumulative A/V score will still be based upon the HDR-10 rating, with the DV rating serving as informational only for now.

Comparing the DV and HDR10 presentations for Prince of Darkness, I found the HDR renderings to essentially be identical. As I alluded to earlier, this film’s elements aren’t consistently lent to bright color and vibrant highlights. When I switched back and forth between various segments in both DV and HDR10, any minute differences were negligible and not enough to warrant a rating difference.


Dolby Atmos:

In listening to the Dolby Atmos mix I found it to be of the laid-back variety, which considering the source material, wasn't surprising. More isn’t always better and this soundtrack doesn't contain an overabundance of elements that would allow for a busier object-based mix with respect to the overhead channels. In general, its use of audio objects placed above is limited to atmospherics and musical accompaniment.

As an enthusiast I appreciate a well-crafted sound mix that draws me into the onscreen elements, regardless of where the sounds are emanating from. This Atmos mix is fair, occasionally broadening the soundstage and incorporating point by point cues, on and off camera. I thought it was a decent fit but, couldn’t help but feel slightly let down by it.


For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Blu-ray Video:


Video: 86
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)



    • Resolution/Clarity:
    • Black Level/Shadow Detail:
    • Color Reproduction:
    • Fleshtones:
    • Compression:


Audio: 80
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)


    • Dynamics:
    • Low frequency effects:
    • Surround Sound presentation:
    • Clarity/Detail:
    • Dialog Reproduction:
    • DSU/DTS Neural:X Rating * (non-rated element): NA

Prince of Darkness comes to Blu-ray Disc from Shout! Factory featuring 1080p AVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound.

Here is a great looking encoding from Shout! Factory that reflects this catalog release in a positive light. Images are resolute with appreciable definition and clarity. Colors are cleanly rendered across the board. Fleshtones lean toward being warm which gives complexions a mildly rosy tinge. Blacks are dynamic and punchy while appearing just a tad crushed. The films dark sequences exhibited very good balance between light and dark content with appreciable but not definitive visibility of detail in backgrounds. Grain is present and appears moderate with only a few instances where it takes on more prominence. I didn’t see any overt signs of digital noise reduction or other fidelity damaging manipulation.

The 7.1 Dolby TrueHD (Atmos core) track readily handled the elements contained in the recording. The presentation retained a front-loaded perspective with well-defined dialogue. I would have preferred a bit more depth/weight to sounds and voices but, that is a limitation of the recording and not the encoding. I would rather have it sound natural than artificially enhanced and hokey. The soundfield is one dimensional but, has discernible front channel separation and good clarity. The soundstage opens up here and there and provides bass response that is proportionate and adequate. Considering the age of this recording dynamics had fair solidity. The rear channels supply ambient extension that broadens the soundfield and enhances envelopment. Compared to today’s movie soundtracks this presentation sounds a bit dated however all things considered I was okay with it.

Bonus Features:
  • Disc 1: Prince of Darkness Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Audio Commentary with John Carpenter and Peter Jason
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Disc 2: Prince of Darkness Blu-ray
    • Audio Commentary with Writer/Director John Carpenter And Actor Peter Jason
    • Sympathy For The Devil – Interview With Writer/Director John Carpenter
    • Alice At The Apocalypse – Interview With Actor Alice Cooper
    • The Messenger – Interview With Actor & Special Visual Effects Supervisor Robert Grasmere
    • Hell On Earth – A Look At The Film's Score With Co-Composer Alan Howarth
    • Horror's Hallowed Grounds With Host Sean Clark
    • Alternate Opening From The TV Version
    • Theatrical Trailer
    • Radio Spots
    • Still Gallery



Final Thoughts:

Prince of Darkness is a popular and mostly well remembered John Carpenter film that, for me, is an average genre film that lacks the execution of some of his other works. It comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray in this Combo Pack from Shout! Factory featuring a fair/faithful Ultra HD video rendering, Dolby Atmos sound and legacy bonus material. I think that diehard fans that are set up for 4K/HDR/Dolby Atmos are probably going to want to add this to their collection and, they have my blessing. I appreciate the fact that the Dolby Atmos mix is also included on the Blu-ray version which is always welcomed. Genre fans that are not familiar with the film may want to consider a rental prior to purchase.












Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS2000 4K Ultra High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman color calibration software and Portrait Displays C6 HDR2000 colorimeter from Portrait.com)
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7706 Audio/Video Processor
Emotiva XPA-7 Gen 3 Seven Channel Amplifier
Emotiva XPA-11 Gen 3 Amplifier
Panasonic DP-UB820 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Oppo BDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/Roomie Remote V6 Universal Remote Control
SVS Ultra Tower Speakers (Gloss Finish)
SVS Ultra Center Channel (Gloss Finish)
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Niles Audio In-Ceiling/In-Wall Series Speakers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems