Trailer Terrors: Prison (1988)

Horror has a new home.

Directed by superstar Finnish director Renny Harlin (A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, Exorcist: The Beginning), Prison is a phenomenal (if not slightly cliché) film that I learned about while watching the equally great documentary Never Sleep Again.

Starring Viggo Mortensen (with a spot-on performance by veteran Lane Smith), the plot revolves around a haunted prison which hosts the spirit of an angry former inmate named Charlie Forsyth. It seems 'ole Charlie has been trapped in the facility's electric chair and when the prison undergoes some renovations all hell breaks loose as Charlie released to wreak havoc on its new denizens. Pretty standard fare for a film involving ghosts and/or a prison, but the real surprise is in Harlin's treatment of the script which features plenty of dark atmosphere, ultraviolence and a fair amount of gore.

The fact that this film hasn't seen a DVD release is a shame as it deserves to be more well known than it is, especially given that Harlin has gone on to deliver a fairly consistent stream of hits including ANoES: The Dream Master, Die Hard 2 and Deep Blue Sea (say what you will about Deep Blue, its a modern day ode to Jaws). The effects are well-executed, the acting is solid and the overall tone is generally downright creepy. I'd hesitate to compare it to Wes Craven's Shocker (though I did enjoy that film as well) just for the fact that Prison is so much more disturbing. There's one scene involving the chair and barbed wire that is particularly gruesome (so much so that it inspired the films marketing campaign).

If you can find a copy, borrow it. If you are lucky enough to know someone who can transfer it for you, buy it. At the very least, watch the trailer and beg somebody (anybody) to give it a proper release on DVD/Blu-ray.


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