Prison

Production Year: 1988
Release Date: 02/19/2013
Studio: Shout/Scream Factory
Collection Number: 1310

I'll be the first to tell you I'm not that fond of movies involving the paranormal, especially movies involving hauntings.  I always think to myself  "just leave the house."  Roll the credits the movie is over, that simple.  But what if you couldn't leave?  What if you were confined there and had to suffer through it, that's an idea I can get behind.  That is certainly something this film plays on.

Scream Factory knocks it out of the park again with their release of Renny Harlin's Prison.  This is another flick that I had unfortunately never seen, another that prior to this special edition did not have a proper US DVD release.  I really hate to sound biased. as all of my Scream Factory reviews have been overly positive, but it's just nice to see a US company put so much effort into each of their titles.

The story is a pretty simple one, it starts out in a dark prison with a very violent electric chair execution and a warden who is visibly shaken by it.  Years later the prison is condemned, but due to a growing inmate population and state budget cuts it's immediately reopened and a number of prisoners are brought in to not only inhabit it, but to also clean it up.
 I guess crime doesn't pay after all, right?  The warden from the beginning returns to run things and right off the bat it's evident that he's not just power hungry but suffering from some pretty intense nightmares due to that past execution.

During the renovation of the jail an oddly polite prisoner (Burke, played by Viggo Mortensen) unwittingly unleashes an evil spirit which slowly begins to torment and in some cases gruesomely murder various inhabitants of the prison.  Eventually it's revealed that the ghost is actually one of a wrongly convicted inmate and not all is as it seems with the warden.

Prison ends up being a very well done horror movie with a great cast and crew.  You've got Viggo Mortensen in one of his very first starring roles along with Renny Harlin behind the lens of his first US produced film.  The prison is very eerie, and while it was shot on location a lot of credit has to be given to Mac Ahlberg for the overall look of the film.  The acting, direction, and photography of the movie are superb and take what could have been a very shlocky film to the next level.  However there are a few issues with the film, a few overly stereotypical prisoners for instance, however my biggest nag with the movie comes in the form of a newspaper image that's revealed towards the end of the film.  It's really hard not to say more without spoiling a lot of the movie.  It's just a bit confusing as it's plain as day and you think eventually there will be a big reveal where all will be explained but that never happens.  While a little internet digging didn't turn up much but speculation, I'm guessing this was all wrapped up in an early draft of the script and just didn't make the cut.  Aside from that, I really enjoyed Prison.

The film is presented in a new high definition transfer with a lossless 5.1 audio option.  The film's PQ is great, but it does suffer from some softness and a few scratches here in there.  The audio isn't as good however, as it sounded a bit all over the place on my set, dialogue was a bit light in some scenes and over powered by the film's sound effects.  Extras wise there's a very well done retrospective featurette on the disc with interviews from a handful of the cast and crew, a poster/still gallery, and rounding out things is an audio commentary with Renny Harlin.

All in all another solid outing from Scream Factory.

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