Caleb (Erik Stern) drives around an ancient pick up truck that is beat all to hell. His back is stooped and withered with age yet he continues to do his gardening work with little complaint and only asking for a glass of water from time to time. Caleb lives in a hovel and frequently argues with his “baby brother” Lester. It turns out Lester (Erik Stern again) is Caleb’s alter ego who is much younger, stronger, and smoother with the ladies. That’s right. Caleb dons that tattered toupee and he becomes a young stud with sicko tendencies. Not only does Lester wear the toup but he makes use of a variety of disguises from a down on his luck Texan (eat your heart out Matthew McConaughey) to a Latin Lothario.
The police are baffled and do not want to admit there may be a serial killer in town and the media is angry that the police haven’t solved the crimes or even made any noticeable progress in developing any leads. The only thing the police do know is that the killer is a “real weirdo.” They have no idea how right they are on that count. Reporter Russell (Jeremiah Beecher) finds himself in the middle of the hunt as he tries to spur the police into action. His lovely girlfriend Flo (Kay Neer) is also in a predicament because Caleb happens to be her gardener. Russell eventually puts one and one together (if it were two and two this couldn’t have happened) when he realizes the women were murdered with gardening tools. Of course it must be the weird gardner! He calls the clueless and bumbling police and lets them know of the suspect. The film made no secret of it from the beginning and Russel is right though it is part of Caleb’s splintered personality that is carrying out the murders. The real joy comes in the creepy reveal as to why Lester is in Caleb’s mind or Caleb is in Lester’s. The police and Russell are finally on Lester’s trail but they will have a tough row to hoe if they want to stop him from killing yet again.
THE LOVE BUTCHER is a pretty fun trip overall. The kills are interesting if not ambitious and the gore effects are serviceable for a low budget romp like this. The plot has a touch of cornball as well though it’s a little edgy due to the misogyny on display. The most interesting thing about THE LOVE BUTCHER is that some aspects of the film foreshadow not only slasher tropes in general but even seems like it may have been a seed of an idea for MANIAC. Caleb lives in a rundown basement apartment that is constantly bathed in blue and red light, he also has some serious mommy issues as well. The acting isn’t going to blow anyone’s socks off. Not in a good way anyhow. Erik Stern is over the top as both Caleb and Lester. Caleb’s gorkish mannerisms and Lester’s pseudo-suave malevolence are played out with exaggerated movement, squinty leering and ridiculous delivery. Jeremiah Beecher is almost unbearable to watch in his only role as the whining reporter Russell and no one in the flick really show much in the way of chops. Oh, one other thing… the most ridiculous line has to be “No one loves a cripple or can abide a mental moron.”
Code Red’s release of THE LOVE BUTCHER is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen with an English mono track. It has a menu but only features two options…”Play with the Love Butcher” and “Hear the Love Butcher Commentary.” The commentary features director Don Jones. There is no forced trailer and no slate of Code Red trailers.
An unnamed priest is assigned to a defunct parish and its abandoned and run down church when the last priest is found dead. He finds a mysterious swirling green fluid has long been encapsulated in an ancient cylinder kept in the church’s basement and it is accompanied by an equally ancient and cryptic tome. Within the cylinder is the ultimate evil, the Anti-Christ or the Son of Satan. It has been watched over by the secretive Brotherhood of Sleep for millennia. The book includes passages that the priest cannot understand and he soon realizes he is out of his league on his own. As the fluid seems to become more active, the local homeless population appear to respond to it by behaving in a hypnotic-almost zombified-manner. He quickly seeks out the aid of Dr. Birack (Vincent Wong) and his team of scientists to help him stop the growing evil from escaping the capsule and destroying the world. The team includes academics and students alike. Two of the students, Brian (Jameson Parker) and Catherine (Lisa Blount), have become close and become lovers as the study progresses.
The young incredulous scientists believe they are on a fool’s quest and Birack isn’t entirely convinced either until it is discovered that the codex contains mathematical equations. Unwittingly the priest has provided multiple hosts for the Anti-Christ to use to facilitate its return. Everyone in proximity of the cylinder have the same nightmarish dream. It shows a mysterious figure emerging into the smoke from the front of the church they currently occupy. There is a voice that explains it is a tachyon transmission that is only effective through the unconscious mind and that they are broadcasting from the year 1999 so the people in the past can alter the events that lead to this apparent apocalypse.
Dr. Birack dismisses it as merely a dream even though the priest tells him otherwise. Robert Grasmere’s character Frank doesn’t believe in the spiritual nonsense and decides not to go along with the others. He is stabbed to death by an elderly street person unbeknownst to the team. They have not yet realized the gravity of their situation or the fact that they are trapped in the church until Frank returns as a demonic messenger. In one of the films most frightening scenes he stands in the parking lot as insects crawl out from him calling, “Hello…hello…hello…” telling his former peers, “I have a message for you…I’m afraid you’re not going to like it.” After pronouncing their doom his body melts into a mass of gore and insects as everyone watches in horror. Just prior another tech met a grisly end as he has a bicycle jammed through his chest in gruesome fashion. The perpetrator being none other than Alice Cooper as the seeming leader of the street people performing one of his signature stage acts for the camera.
Finally the priest and professor have figured out that the creature the order protects is anti-matter and is the Anti-God. Jesus was a benevolent extra-terrestrial who helped imprison this evil deity and the Brotherhood of Sleep were the caretakers. Now knowing what they are up against, things spiral out of control as members of the crew are infected by the fluid and become possessed one after another. These meat puppets carry out the necessary work to help the Anti-Christ possess Kelly (Susan Blanchard) as its avatar. She becomes an indestructible monstrosity who reaches through a mirror into the dimension in which its father is imprisoned and begins to draw him forth. The priest attacks her with an axe to no avail and finally Catherine tackles her through the mirror as the priest shatters the glass trapping them both on the other side. Afterwards Brian is still haunted by the transmission which seems to indicate that they have ultimately failed. When he awakens he must decide if he will continue to fight the future or if he will aid in bringing about the apocalypse.
PRINCE OF DARKNESS is classic John Carpenter. It possesses several of his hallmarks including: science combating evil, a team of flawed heroes besieged, and evil as a contagion or a disease. In PRINCE, evil is a scientifically quantifiable reality. Like the alien in THE THING and Sutter Kane’s writing in IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS, the green fluid has the potential to spread from person to person like an infection. In other words, the evil is contagious. Like HALLOWEEN and many others the ending is ambiguous with the evil apparently surviving if not actually overcoming humanity’s attempt to stop it. PRINCE OF DARKNESS is a haunting story that still has the ability to scare today. All of the acting is journeyman work and the effects hold up well today.
Scream Factory has released a collector’s edition Blu-Ray and DVD packed with special features. Commentary with John Carpenter and interviews with John Carpenter, Alice Cooper, Alan Howarth, and Robert Grasmere. There are also trailer and radio spots, a still gallery the alternate TV opening and Horror’s Hallowed Ground. An Easter egg is the Q & A for the PRINCE OF DARKNESS 25th anniversary screening at Screamfest 2012. Two audio tracks offer 5.1 and 2.0 DTS audio to choose from and 1080p high def widescreen picture looks great.