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After Charles Forsythe was sent to the electric chair for a crime he didn't commit, he forever haunts the prison where he was executed. Flash forward several years when the prison is reopened, under the control of its new warden Ethan Sharpe, a former security guard who was present at Forsythe's execution. When prisoners are ordered to break down the wall to the execution room, they unknowingly release the angry spirit of Charles Forsythe, a powerful being distributing his murderous rage to all, leading up to the Warden himself.Written by
The high altitude sun in Wyoming caused shooting issues in the scene where the prisoners are stripped to their underwear and forced to stand outside all day. Due to technical issues, the scene was shot over and over and the prisoners in the background become sunburned on one side of their bodies only as extras were not provided sunblock. See more »
When Lasagna is shot in the back by the ghost-manned machine guns, empty squib blood packs fly out of the bullet holes in the front of his shirt. See more »
I hear you can take anything on four wheels, man, and fly it away to heaven.
Well don't believe everything you hear.
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A rundown prison is about to re-open after twenty-years as Warden Sharpe (Lane Smith) plans to use the 300 new inmates to clean the place up and get it into working shape. One of the inmates (Viggo Mortensen) helps break down a sealed execution room, which unleashes the spirit of a previously killed convict and soon strange murders are happening throughout the prison.
PRISON is a film I skipped for over two decades because I thought the story just sounded downright stupid. There's certainly egg on my face because while the story is lacking and there are some major flaws here and there, for the most part this is a pretty well-made film that manages to have some very good performance and a terrific atmosphere. A lot of credit has to go to director Renny Harlin who made this just before A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4 and three years before breaking into the mainstream with DIE HARD 2.
What works so well with this movie is the atmosphere created by the director. The rundown prison makes for a wonderful setting and I thought the entire thing had a rather authentic feel. Just watching the film you could really feel yourself inside these prison walls thanks in large part to the atmosphere, which is perfectly captured by some very good cinematography. The cinematography also works extremely well during the murder scenes where all sorts of crazy stuff is usually happening. The death sequences here are original to say the least, although they're certainly a lot different than the type horror fans were wanting to see during this period.
Speaking of which, it's easy to see why PRISON didn't get too much love when it was originally released. Released during the era of slashers, I'm not sure how many people wanted to see a haunted prison movie and especially one that didn't feature that many gory deaths. What death scenes are here are quite unique but I'm sure most people were wanting Jason and Freddy. Not some invisible killer. As much as I enjoyed the majority of the film, there are still some problems including the story that really doesn't add up to much. Another problem is that the 102-minute running time starts to drag a bit towards the end.
Another good thing working for the film are its performances with Smith being extremely good in his role as the warden. I thought he did a very good job and delivered an intense performance, which is going to remind many of the one Tommy Lee Jones gave in NATURAL BORN KILLERS several years later. Mortensen also does a very good job leading the film and it's easy to see even here that he was destined to become a strong actor. Chelsea Field is good in the role of a social worker and supporting players Tom Everett, Ivan Kane and Lincoln Kilpatrick also turn in good work.
PRISON is quite original when you think about it, although there are some flaws here that keep it from being much better. People who overlooked the film back in the day certainly deserve to give it a shot.
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