Prison is a supernatural horror film directed by Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger, The Long Kiss Goodnight). It’s one of a growing number of ’80′s horrors that passed me by before the DVD-era. I have never seen it on TV and I don’t remember its theatrical release (I can vividly recall Ghoulies, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday The 13th advertising campaigns, despite being far too young to see them at the time – I was born in 1979).
The film stars Viggo “Aragorn” Mortenson, back in the days when he used to appear in low-budget horrors (for another watchable example, see 1990′s Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III). He plays Burke, a young petty car thief who finds himself incarcerated in a newly reopened prison. The prison had previously closed some years ago because of the aftermath from an ill-omened execution. A prisoner (Charlie Forsythe) was wrongly accused of murder and sent to the electric chair. His ghost still haunts the prison, which, due to budget cuts, has been reopened
After a quiet first night, things start to go wrong. Burke and a fellow inmate are charge with reopening the execution chamber which (predictably enough), houses Forsythe’s ghost. An inmate attempts to escape, and is literally constricted by pipework and electrical cables when the prison’s inner workings come to life. A stream of gory and macabre incidents follow, with the corrupt warden (played by the late Lane Smith) carrying out increasingly harsh punishments on the inmates, while struggling to keep a hold on his own sanity.
Prison is a cross between The Shawshank Redemption and The Twilight Zone. It has plenty of supernatural scares, gory deaths and some really cool special effects that stand up well even today. Chances are you haven’t seen it, so I won’t spoil the ending. It’s well worth watching if you can find it on DVD. Like most of the cult horror films I will be reviewing here, however, don’t pay too much for it.
Copyright © Steve Wilson and The Third Realm, 2014