I have vague recollections of this movie’s box art from back in the VHS era but I never saw it. I’m not sure why that is the case, but as I was watching it this morning I was surprised to find it was an Empire Films production. I was a huge Charles Band fan growing up, mainly for the Puppet Master series and other Full Moon entries. Prison is an anomaly among Band’s output as it’s actually competent film with a real director (Renny Harlin) and scripted by Irwin Yablans — who normally worked as a producer for Compass Films and is the one who gave John Carpenter the idea for Halloween.
The derelict Creedmore Prison is re-opened twenty years after it’s closing due to a need for expanded inmate housing. Warden Eaton Sharpe (Lane Smith Rooster Cogburn, The Mighty Ducks) heads up the prison with a iron fist. Leading man Viggo Mortensen stars as the films heroic convict, Burke. Things in Creedmore become complicated for both men after an wrongly convicted inmate Sharpe cooked in the electric chair comes back for revenge. The vengeful spirit wastes no time setting out to kill people, first starting off by turning a prison cell into an oven, burning an inmate to death and starting on another (played by Tom Everett, who’d later team up with Viggo again in Texas Chainsaw Massacre III) before Burke manages to pull him out. This act of heroism puts Burke in the crosshairs of both Forsythe and Eaton. But since Burke is played by Viggo Mortensen, he’s too cool to let any of this fluster him.
The kills Forsythe commits against staff and prisoners are amazingly brutal, the highlight of which is a scene where a guard is strung up with barb wire and sent rocketing through the ceiling into the upper floor of the wardens office. The sense of brutality reminded me a lot of the early works of Clive Barker. Prison also has the good fortune of populating it’s cast with character actors. in addition to Lane Smith, Tom Everett, and Viggo Mortensen, Prison boasts performances from Chelsea Field (Masters of the Universe, Commando), Tiny Lester (Friday, The Dark Knight, No Holds Barred), and Kane Hodder himself as Charlie Forsythe. While watching it I had the thought that the film would be perfect for Scream Factory do to a blu-ray of, and was glad to find out that they have done so. If you’re like me and somehow missed this film back in the day, I’d say it’s worth while to give it a watch. Prison is solid film all around and I’m surprised it doesn’t get more love.
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