The last member of an obscure order of the Catholic church The Brotherhood of Sleep dies and the secrets held by the order for centuries are passed to a priest (Donald Pleasance). These include a large ancient glass cylinder containing a constantly swirling green goo and an equally ancient book.
The priest asks for the help of physics professor Howard Birack (Victor Wong) to discover more about the object and the book. Birack offers his students the chance to help as a an exercise that will count towards their grade. They assemble at an old church, mostly science students from various disciplines, mainly Professor Birack’s students but also others who are students of Dr Leahy (Peter Jason). Birack’s students include Brian (Jameson Parker) with a porn moustache, Catherine (Lisa Blount) who slept with Brian, Walter (Dennis Dun) a gay Asian/American. There’s also Lisa (Ann Yen) a linguist and theology student who works on translating the book using a computer. I could barely remember the others because there seemed to be so many and you learn very little about them.
Gradually as the book is translated the Priest and Birack discuss the findings. The green goo is Satan, the Prince of Darkness. The goo is the offspring of the anti-God, some sort of being of anti-matter and anti-energy who wishes to destroy creation but has been banished to another dimension by advanced aliens. One of the aliens, Jesus Christ came to Earth to warn people about the anti-god but the primitive humans of the time couldn’t understand him and he was killed but his warning was preserved even while others built a church of lies around him.
None of this is actually shown at the point of it being discovered, such as when Lisa translates the passages but it is relayed to us during philosophical discussions between the Birack and the priest. In fact Lisa is the only student you see actually doing any work. The others seem to just set up their instruments and equipment yet are rarely seen using it. One thing they do discover is that the complicated lock on the top of the cylinderr can only be unlocked from the inside, which of course means that Satan is not imprisoned in the container.
Outside the church the homeless, the drunk and the insane are gathering, often just standing in groups staring at the church. One of the main one of these is Alice Cooper. They barely pay attention to them even though the priest does tell them that the evil in the cylinder affects the weak-minded strongest. One student Etchinson leaves for the night. Everyone else is staying in the church and camp beds have been set up for them. Etchinson gets outside and he senses that the crowd gathered outside are not just harmless and passive. He goes to get his bicycle but Alice Cooper is standing there holding it. When Etchinson approaches him he removes part of the bicycle frame and sticks it right through Etchinson’s body, killing him
Inside they are having their own troubles. No-one has seen the liquid Satan dripping out of the cylinder and pooling upwards on the ceiling. One student Susan goes into the room and she gets a jet of Satan juice right down her throat, turning her into Satan’s bitch. Later a lardy slaphead called Mullens is looking for her in the cylinder room She comes up behind him and snaps his neck and leaves his body lying there with green goo dripping into his mouth. Wyndham, one of Leahy’s students, wants to leave even though not much seems to have happened. He goes outside and gets attacked by a tramp with pair of scissors who stabs him in the neck and he’s also attacked by a swarm of beetles. The only person in the church who sees this is Susan
Walter goes for a nap and he has a very disturbing dream of the front the church and some half-hidden figure emerging from the doorway while a voice says “This is not a dream… not a dream. We are using your brain’s electrical system as a receiver. We are unable to transmit through conscious neural interference. You are receiving this broadcast as a dream. We are transmitting from the year one, nine…” The dream is interrupted by Brian shaking Walter awake to tell him that Mullens is missing and they are having meeting to talk about what they are planning to do
Birack wakes up and the priest asks him if he was dreaming. The priest tells him that everyone dreams that same dream when they sleep next to the goo. I’m not sure if it was here but the at some point Birack mentions tachyons being used for communication because they go backwards in time and since no-one’s ever found any yet you can’t say any different and anyway, mathematics, so shut up.
Lisa goes for some well-earned rest on one of the camp beds but doesn’t see Susan lurking in shadows. Susan straddles her and spews a jets of the green liquid from her mouth into Lisa’s. Gradually the students are being taken over. There’s a really nice scene where Lisa sits at her computer typing “I live” over and over and then when one of the others sees what she’s typing she writes “You will not be saved by the holy ghost. You will not be saved by the god Plutonium. In fact, YOU WILL NOT BE SAVED! ” I think it’s here that they hear Wyndham’s voice calling from outside. He’s just standing there and his voice is strange and warbly. He has something to tell them. “Pray for death,” he says then his head falls off and he falls apart because he’s made of insects
Kelly has been marked for special fate. Earlier she burned herself on the cylinder and was left with a burn shaped like the Blue Oyster Cult symbol. She gets the whole cylinder full of liquid down her throat while Walter has to watch from a side room where he is trapped for hours by Lisa just standing there staring at the door, just watching Kelly and giving the others a running commentary of what he sees while the other non-possessed people try to smash a hole in the hole in the wall to let him escape.
Eventually Satan is fully absorbed into Kelly’s body which starts deteriorating. She starts breaking into the room where Walter is hiding with blasts of telekinetic force but the others manage to break through the wall and rescue him. She gets up and find a small compact mirror. She pushes her hand into the mirror but it is too small to bring the Anti-god out
The possessed start attacking the others while Kelly makes her way to a larger mirror. Satan calls to its father and reaches into the mirror where there is a realm of darkness and the Anti-god who starts coming through the mirror. Catherine sees this and in desperation she dives at Kelly and both of them fall into the mirror. The priest who was waiting nearby with an axe smashes the mirror. The possessed all fall down dead and the crowd outside all wander off.
They think it’s all over but that night Brian has the dream again this time without interruptions. The voice says “This is not a dream… not a dream. We are using your brain’s electrical system as a receiver. We are unable to transmit through conscious neural interference. You are receiving this broadcast as a dream. We are transmitting from the year one, nine, nine, nine. You are receiving this broadcast in order to alter the events you are seeing. Our technology has not developed a transmitter strong enough to reach your conscious state of awareness, but this is not a dream. You are seeing what is actually occurring for the purpose of causality violation.” The figure in doorway emerges fully and its Catherine. Brian wakes from the dream to find Catherine, her flesh rotten and broken, lying beside him. Then Brian wakes up again. He goes to the toilet and approaches the mirror, reaching out to touch it and the film ends just before his finger touches the surface, leaving it uncertain if they really did stop the anti-God
Even though I do like the film the acting is pretty poor, the characterisation almost non-existent and the story doesn’t flow very well. It seems more driven by ideas than by action or character and no matter how good the ideas are they can’t really carry the film which seems burdened by a slow pace and a lot of heavy portentous dialogue. I think this will be more for John Carpenter fans than general viewers