Prison is one a of small group of post Nightmare On Elm Street supernatural shockers that took place within the US penal system. Why this was the case is anybody’s guess, but Prison is far less well known that it’s more popular brethren “Shocker” and “House 3: The Horror Show”. But does that make it a less worthy, or enjoyable film? Well, you should read on to find out…
From the 88 Films website:
Thirty years after frying its last prisoner, Charlie Forsythe, Creedmore Prison is open for business once more. Problem is, Charlie still haunts the joint and is looking for vengeance on its warden, Eaton Sharpe, who framed Charlie and watched as he was juiced for a crime he did not commit. Amongst the new inmates is Burke, who soon realises that if the prisoners don’t help exact revenge, they too will face the wrath of Charlie Forsythe.
So, as with pretty much every other prison set shocker, we are dealing with the vengeful spirit of a wrongfully slain prisoner. And as is also often the case, fate conspires to hand the spirit an opportunity for vengeance. Yes, the plot is a cliché, and somewhat hackneyed, but it works. And it works really rather well.
Prison is a pretty low budget film. Made by Empire Pictures, and produced by legendary schlock producers Irwin Yablans and Charles Band, Prison is a film that uses every trick it can to maximise it’s impact. Shot inside the actual decommissioned Wyoming State Penitentiary in which it is set, Prison really does look the part. The rotting old prison give the film an instant boost to it’s production value. And it provides the filmmakers with ample opportunity to exploit it’s dark, dank corridors & cells.
Yes, the plot has more holes in it than a block of swiss cheese, but that’s a given at this level of film-making. Indeed, the film captures the humdrum brutality of the prison far better than some “serious” dramas have managed. This verisimilitude is probably helped by most of the extras being actual inmates from a nearby prison. So no fake “hanging out in the yard” play acting in the background. These guys are just doing what they normally did, day in, day out.
Acting wise, we have a pretty good cast of familiar character actors and low budget icons. Most familiar to viewers is the films “heroic” lead, Burke played by future Aragorn Viggo Mortenssen. Over a decade before his career defining role, Mortenssen was a jobbing actor. And like many others he appeared in a number of low budget exploitation films. He gives a solid, believable performance, despite the supernatural shenanigans happening around him. Indeed, much of the cast are far better actors than the material deserves.
The films effects are sparsely used, but are very well done. With John Carl Buechler heading up the effects department, this was always going to be the case. We get a few nice gore shots, and some impressive electrical effects for the time. Most of these use had drawn animation, which for me still looks superior to any CGI produced today. Soundwise, the film is adequate. Visually, it looks good, being lensed by Band regular Mac Ahlberg.
As with many of 88 Films releases, the extras are somewhat spartan:
- High Definition Transfer.
- 5.1 Remixed Soundtrack.
- Original Stereo Soundtrack.
- Original Trailer.
- Archive Stills Gallery.
- Trailer Reel.
- Reversible Sleeve with Alternate Artwork.
And that’s it. If you are lucky, you can find a copy with a nice slipcase to go over the amaray case.
Prison: The Verdict:
Prison is a fun little film. Sure, it isn’t quite as, ahem, electrifying as Shocker, but it provides enough chills & thrills to satisfy most horror fiends.
3.5/5 Fiends. Good, but not great.
Buy Prison on Blu Ray: Amazon.co.uk