You considered setting the film in the 1950s. Was this to get the story closer to the spirit of Quater- mass? You are asking me to think about something that was twenty or 30 years ago. I don’t remember. We only had $3 million to make this movie, so I would think that idea was abandoned for budgetary reasons.
Your pseudonym of Martin Quatermass was a nice tribute, but apparently Kneale was con- cerned that people would mistake Darkness as his creation. [Laughs] Too bad, too damn bad!
You went as far as to devise a bio for Martin Quatermass in the press materials. Well, he’s very dear to me. I only wanted to give him the best. [Chuckles] About Nigel Kneale, I’ll just say this: he’s beloved in horror and science fiction, but this guy was really mean. He was over at Universal working on the screenplay for a remake of The Crea- ture from the Black Lagoon and attached to that movie was the director of the original, Jack Arnold. Now Jack Arnold had lost his leg – he literally had one leg – and Nigel began to make fun of him. Make fun of him! You have got to be kidding me! What a piece of trash. Nigel was an enormous talent, but what an unkind man.
Here Comes The Devil: (top, L to R) Catherine (Lisa Blount), Brian (Jameson Parker), Howard (Victor Wong) and Lomax (Ken Wright) in the church, (L to R) Lisa (Ann Yen) and Susan (Anne Marie Howard) embrace the vile vial, and (inset) John Carpenter on set with Wong and Donald Pleasance.
Did exposure to these theories impact on your thinking and perceptions in a profound way? Absolutely. I began to obsess over quantum me- chanics. I was constantly thinking about its impli- cations because it violates common sense. For years I’ve considered – and talked with physicists about – what it would actually be like. How could you imagine a world like this? Nobody in the physics community ever really gave me a straight answer. There’s a famous saying by Richard Feyn- man: “Please don’t ask if you can possibly help it.” That wasn’t a very good answer, but the truth is nobody knows why. I’ve heard all the ideas that have been put forth, such as the human brain is wired for pattern recognition – blah-blah-blah –
and we are destined to always see the world in terms of classical logic. I’d still love to know what’s going on down there. I began trying to visualize it sometimes, but it’s impossible to do. It’s bizarre and complicated and there was only so much I could do in Prince of Darkness.
When writing the script, you revisited the works of Nigel Kneale, particularly his Quatermass cycle and The Stone Tape. I love The Stone Tape, but I’ve never actually seen it. I’ve only read it. Kneale was a tremendously imagi- native writer. I worked with him on a couple of proj- ects, and he was a rather unpleasant person, but a very good writer.
Like many of your movies, Darkness shares Love- craft’s emphasis on building an atmosphere of mounting dread. That’s important. Lovecraft is one of the master tech- nicians of written fear, so that’s where you want to go for inspiration because he had a genius for it. He wrote pulp stories and very often it would be the last sentence that would terrify you, as in a very famous story of his called “The Outsider.” It’s just brilliantly done, the mood, the imagery. Everything builds to that final sentence and when it comes, it leaves you aghast. That is what sends the chill down your spine. I took several things from Lovecraft for Prince of Dark- ness, but it was mainly the mood, that overall fore- boding that’s going on in the world, that something is very wrong. It’s clearly evident in his stories. There’s always something wrong with the hills or the trees, that kind of thing.
Were the cast members confused by the com- plexity of the script’s ideas and dialogue? Hell, no, they were fine with it. It was work and actors