All John Carpenter's films are underrated, but perhaps none so much as Prince Of Darkness, which revolves around a priest (Donald Pleasance), a quantum physicist (Victor Wong), and a research team investigating a sentient, apocalyptic liquid held by an ancient brotherhood in the basement of a decaying church. Virtually the entire film takes place within this church, and virtually the entire film is composed of conversations and dramatic monologues, but Carpenter raises it to such a pitch that it feels more liturgical than theatrical, as if the very fact of watching the film constitutes some occult ceremony. Similarly, Carpenter's synth score is more intrusive and overwhelming than ever before, with the result that, for the first time, it feels like a critical component of his auteurism, and even becomes continuous with the ceaseless, musical speech - Donald Pleasance, in particular, anticipates the cello-votte that he will adopt in The Barchester Chronicles - replacing the auteurism peculiar to a writer-director with that of a composer-director, and transforming directing itself into something more like orchestration. At the same time, Carpenter's trademark suspense is largely curbed, or at least transformed into the suspended liquid itself - suspense as a spectacle, rather than a register - with the result that what turns out to be an invasion narrative, in which the liquid colonises various members of the research team, plays out in a very different and even more disorienting way from The Thing, the clearest point of reference. Whereas The Thing derived its horror from the ambiguity of who was infected, and subsequent evocation of a hive-mind, here there's very little ambiguity about who's infected, while each infected member becomes a completely self-sufficient, autonomous embodiment of the liquid, replacing metonymic with metaphorical identification. As a result, the distributed, mobile gaze of the Thing is replaced with a series of discrete, heavy gazes - the gaze of eyeballs, rather than eyes, as unrelenting as daylight - that seem to bring what they're looking at into existence, in a kind of visualization of the Schrodinger's Cat thought-experiment discussed at length in the opening scenes. It's an exercise in how quantum horror might appear - or, at least, provides a surrogate gaze, capable of visualizing in a way that doesn't immediately and instinctively recur to classical physical reality - drawing an aesthetic connection between satanism and quantum physics that makes the opening, mystical-physical discursions strangely plausible. What's extraordinary is that the collective vision - or, rather, each of the individual visions - of this satanic presence is a dream-prophecy of 1999, in the form of a piece of grainy, low-budget footage that looks like nothing so much as the digital, handheld horror that started to become fashionable around that time, and that forms such a sharp counterpoint to Carpenter's own lush, hyper-cinematic aesthetic. Figured alternatively as a liquid-image, a world beyond the mirror, and the legacy of the satanic gaze's co-option of tachyons, hypothetical particles capable of moving faster than light, it's not only an extraordinary vision of where horror would go in the next decade, but the very kernel of what makes the film terrifying - a meta-prophecy, a time capsule from the future that means that, unlike most horror films, it's even scarier and more unsettling some twenty years after it was made, and its conclusion feels even braver and more auteurist, rivalling that of The Thing as the most unimaginably beautiful in Carpenter's 80s catalogue.