Saturday, 29 October 2011

Prison (1988)

Quite a simple premise, the spirit of a dead prisoner returns for vengeance when the prison is reopened for business and full of inmates again. Directed by Renny Harlin, this is yet another enjoyable movie from a man who has very rarely done wrong by me.

It may lack the impact it wants to have, what with the story twists and turns being really rather obvious throughout, but Prison still has some good moments of tension here and there and a few fantastic death scenes.

The cast are all pretty good, too. Viggo Mortensen does well in an early feature role, Lane Smith is fantastic as a strict warden, Chelsea Field doesn't get that much screentime but holds her own in a movie overflowing with testosterone and Lincoln Kilpatrick is excellent. Support comes from Tom Everett, Ivan Kane, Tommy 'Tiny' Lister and even Kane Hodder so genre fans should be more than pleased with the assortment of faces onscreen.

The script, by C. Courtney Joyner and based on a story by Irwin Yablans, does what is needed though things quickly become far too strange to be explained away easily so that starts eroding at your suspension of disbelief from before the halfway mark.

Harlin directs as competently as ever. There are some nice camera shots and some great use of lighting which, along with a bag of practical effects, often leads in to some supernatural event. The gore on display is effective but not overexposed and the nasty deaths hold up as well today as they did back in the late 80s. It's a shame that the score, by Richard Band and Christopher L. Stone, never comes close to matching any of the visuals and weakens a lot of the atmosphere being built up.

Personally, I always felt that while Prison seemed to come and go when it was initially released the main reason for that was not because it was a bad movie but because it was quickly overshadowed by Shocker, released the following year. While the two are very different movies, there are enough similiarities in the methods of the killer and the advertising artwork to have possibly encouraged moviegoers to wait and see the "Wes Craven film". Possibly. That's my theory and I'm sticking to it, especially because I quite like Prison even if it's nothing to set the world alight (ironically enough).

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