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on September 15, 2003
Once in a while, a film comes along which blows all its expectations out of the water and delivers a movie which is truly memorable and horrifying. This is such a movie. From the dying breath of Charles Bands defunct production company, Empire Entertainment came this wonderfull, original and truly shocking film about a haunted prison. The atmosphere is efectivly creeping with long, dark corridors, low lighting and suspensful music combining together to create a truly masterful film. Lane smith is really convincing as the warden of the jail. His performance is extreamily powerful and demands respect from all the other prisoners. Viggo (from Lord of the Rings) in one of his earlier performances plays a James Dean character and even though it doesn't seem like he is trying at all, it is the restrained character identity he brings to the role which makes it just a little more believable. The special effects are great for a film of this age and not once did it seem to me that the people who were making this movie were uninspired. A truly great horror film, which was underated and deserves the royal DVD treatment.
Produced by Irwin Yablins (the same man responsible for Halloween and starting John Carpenters career)
Stephen Little was actually a real prisoner whilst this movie was being filmed.
Renny Harlins first American motion picture.
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on August 22, 2001
I cant believe this movie doesnt have a collectors edition tape and dvd yet.Its a great 80's horror movie that should not be overlooked.Its directed by renny harlin and stars viggo mortensen,chelsea field and lane smith.Its about an old school prison warden who is asked to take over a badly aged prison, where he was a guard in 1964.Anyway when he has a few of the prisoners on a work detail they let loose a very nasty spirit who goes after everyone.This movie is worth buying if you can find a copy.Get it,you wont be sorry.
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on March 9, 2006
Concider the opening credits sequence: creepy Charles Band music escorts a prisoner and his guards to the electric chair. We don't see the inmate, we ARE him: the entire sequence is seen from his point of view; the camera being both his eyes and ours.
We hear the man gasp none the less, and for a moment we remember being the masked killer Michael Myers in John Carpenter's landmark slasher "Halloween" which had the same cinematic trick in the opening minutes.

But as soon as the condemned man is sitting on his death thrown and a hood is being put on his head, covering his face, the camera angle changes: now we see him sitting in the chair, now sharing the guards' points of view. Meanwhile a clock is ticking, the condemned man is strapped tight, deadpan faces of the people around him looking at each other, and at nothing... Tention builds, and at the climax, when even the most experienced horror adict discovers that he's holding his breath in vain, the switch is pulled and sparks explode in our faces. The body is thrashing with convulsions, we hear the man's breathing being smothered. And just when the scene is about to be unbearable to watch....

Yeah, this is a B-movie with some balls and a spine, but beware the shivers crawling down that spine... for this is not your average prison movie - it's a horror flick, and knowing that, we immediately feel a sense of claustrophobia. Together with the characters, we are inside a prison, iron bars and high walls everywhere: So whatever it is that will cause the horror, there is seemingly no escape from it.

Filmed on location in a real prison and with use of real inmates as extra's, the tense atmosphere is created for the most part by the brooding faces we see. The furious lightning-spitting eyes of warden Sharp, the care-for-nothing glances of the guards, the pale, tired eyes of the inmates themselves, all are looking at each other with distrust, with disgust, and sometimes, with curiossity.

One inmate who constantly feels the eyes of others in his neck is Burke, a young, quiet guy with a flinch of James Dean - perfectly played by the then not-so-well-known Viggo Mortensen. His curious layed-out relationship with an old black guy hints at the much later filmed "The Shawshank Redemption" with the young quiet Tim Robbins hooking up with the old, experienced Morgan Freeman. But these guys overhere are all the more real and captivating, in that their motivation for being there and concequently being the persons they are, is less spelled out and more suggested.

"Lock down!" is being yelled throughout the building and night falls in. And when Burke is being asked to break through the brick wall that covers the entrance of the execution chamber, nasty things start to happen.
What nasty things is up to you to witness: but however cheap and worn-out the B-plot is, the story is tight and crammed with well written dialogue, solid action, touches of black humor, and truly gory effects. Just wait until that string of barbe wire comes to live, you'll understand what I say.

Next to "The reflecting skin" and "The Indian runner", this is easily one of Viggo's most intense performances, showing that less is defenitly more. The same goes for the other actors although most of them will not get into later A-grade movies.
It's also director Renny Harlins best thing - it's his second movie, coming straight after the lesser known but even suspensefull "Born American", another prison movie set in cold-war-Russia.

But for now... Lock down. It's your time to die. Nighty-night boys...
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on October 18, 2003
Plot: A prison that has been shut-down since 1968 is being re-opened because the government wont rebuild a new prison. The man who is put in charge was in charge of the prison before it was shut-down in the 60's and still has scary flashbacks because of it. A bunch of convicts are shoved into it, and in no time flat, people start dying.

Atmosphere: I would say this movie starts off strong in the atmosphere and hold it to the very end. It's atmosphere is very ominous and dark.

Acting: Very good here just like in Ghost Town(Which was made by Empire Products as well). Viggo Mortensen in one of his early roles, doesn't have to much dialogue, but is in more of a silent role here and does a fantastic job as the lock picking extraordinaire convict. His acting is miles ahead of everyone else here, though none of the acting is bad, it is all competent and fitting for the material.

Special FX: Very, very, very good. I was really impressed, this movie did not have a large budget, but the effects are great for what is, they are just as good as many bigger budget films.

Deaths: Oh my gosh, yeah, hell yeah! The deaths are extremely gruesome; they are awesome death, so much so, I almost couldn't stand watching. I actually cried during one scene involving a man trapped in a room, I felt so sorry for the guy. :( Very effective death scenes to say the least, while you may not connect with the characters in terms of character development, you sure feel bad for the way they have to die. :(

Overall: As someone else said, this movie blows all expectations right out of the water!!! Why isn't this on DVD along with Ghost Town and The Dolls? With Viggo Mortensen's recent popularity you would have thought they would have put it outl we can only hope. :)

Go rent it or buy it if you can find it! :D

God Bless ~Amy
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on April 1, 2013
I'd never seen, nor had I ever heard of this movie before Shout Factory stated they'd release it in February. But I love 80's horror movies, and this being the US directing debut of Renny Harlin, and Starring Viggo Mortensen too, I had to check this out. This is a solid horror film as well as a solid prison film. The special effects gags are great. The cinematography is great, considering this movie was made on the cheap. And most of the main performances are good to great (the female lead was not very good, though). In short, this movie is bloody and fun, and the special features on the disc are top notch as well (instead of casting regular extras they used REAL PRISONERS from a nearby penitentiary). Fun flick, give it a watch.
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VINE VOICEon March 7, 2013
In 1964, a convict named Charles Forsythe (Kane Hodder) was executed for murder he didn't commit. Now in the present time 25 years later the old run down prison has been reopened as former guard now turned warden Ethan Sharpe (Lane Smith) has always felt guilty about Forsythe's death. New inmates like Burke (Viggo Mortensen) and others have arrived for it's their new place to stay, however some prisoners have accidentally uncovered the tomb of Forsythe until his spirit has returned back from the dead to get revenge turning the prison into a living hell.

Excellent and highly underrated supernatural horror shocker from the producer of Halloween Irwin Yablans with producer Charles Band and from the company who brought you "Re-Animator" known as Empire Pictures plus marks the debut of Renny Harlin (whom also held the same year's Nightmare on Elm Street 4). This well written and clever horror thriller with decent acting from a nice cast like Mortensen to Tommy Tiny Lester, Chelsea Field, Lane Smith and Tom Everett and a convincing location as this was filmed in an old abandoned prison in Wyoming as if it makes it authentic looking, the kills are quite gory and imaginative especially the memorable barb wire sequence and terrific dark photography to give it that creepy feel. I always enjoyed this movie for years since it was first released on video when i was 7 and been one of my fave supernatural movies for a long time.

Scream Factory has FINALLY gave this movie's overdue DVD yet even better BLU-RAY release that it deserves. We get a nice commnetary from Renny Harlin with features like a retrospective with cast and crew, 2 trailers, poster and still gallery, original screenplay on PDF format on the DVD version and brilliant remastering on the picture with superb sound quality, Scream Factory knows how to please horror and sci-fi fans and this is an underrated gem that is worth seeing.
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on August 1, 2010
I don't understand how they can waste time and money putting movies like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and Killer Clowns from Outer Space on DVD, or how every time you turn around, Hollywood is shoving remakes down our throats but, they can't take a little time and money to take a great movie like this one and remaster it to DVD. This movie was good enough to make a profit off of I'm sure of it. Great stars, great story line, and good special effects, how can you lose?
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on August 16, 2003
I've always loved this movie. I think I originally saw it on H.B.O. late one night. The movie never got any recognition. That's probably why it was only showed at 3 A.M. Those time slots are usually reserved for movies that skipped the movie theatre and came straight to video. This movie is not available on D.V.D. (as of August 16th, 2003). It is also out-of-print on V.H.S. I had to buy a used copy of it on ebay. I'm hoping that one day it will be out on D.V.D., but that may never happen. I won't hold my breath. I won't get into the movie's plot either. You can look that up on the internet. I just wanted to say that I liked this movie a lot and wish more people latched onto it. Another good movie from the 1980's that got little attention, was the movie "Ghosttown". Check it out. It to, is not available on D.V.D. and is also out-of-print on V.H.S. You can get used copies of it on ebay also. Definitely check out "Prison". I think that you will enjoy it. I did.
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on July 21, 2013
Fun, creepy, atmospheric, random violence, bloody death. What more could you want from a B-Movie? The ghost of an innocent man who was executed haunts a prison warden for revenge. From that simple plot comes a really good movie, I enjoyed every minute of it. And we get to see Viggo Mortensen early in his career, long before Lord of the Rings. For a B Movie the performances are excellent. The suspense is great. And the product from Scream Factory is beautiful. You can use the new animated cover as you see on the review page here, or there is the original cover on the reverse if you don't like this cover, flip it around. I like the animated cover myself. Scream Factory is doing us horror fans a public service by bringing these old movies back. I've never heard of this movie except by seeing it on Amazon and I enjoyed it immensely.
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on October 1, 2015
The folks over at Shout Factory are experts when it comes to remastering lost 80's horror gems and packing the Blu Ray releases with well made retrospectives and new interviews as extras. This piece of buried treasure starring a pre "Lord of the Rings" Vigo Mortenson went missing after its initial late 80's release but was thankfully rediscovered and given a proper DVD release. The movie itself is a well made and atmospheric haunted house movie set in a prison and is surprisingly effective. Check it out.
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