When rating a horror movie, I go by the chill factor (no pun intended) and the "grip" it keeps on me throughout the viewing. Furnace (Unrated) was creepily chilling, gripping me from the beginning: yellowed newspaper clippings against a dark prison background with shooting flames devouring everything in sight. The stories headlined a warden's daughter "gone missing," an old prison closing under mysterious circumstances and something about an Indian burial ground. It was an eerie start to a thrilling, supernatural horror film.
Furnace (Unrated) opens with a guard smashing his fingers while aiding in the re-opening of the walled-off section of the prison, then going home and doing something horrible, leaving his young wife devastated.
Bad things are happening to so many of the prisoners that the detective played by actor Michael Pare opens an investigation to determine what's going on in order to stop the death and destruction.
The main female lead is played by lovely, talented Jenny McShane who plays a prison psychiatrist. McShane and Pare are well cast in these roles.
What happens when the detective calls on "The Doc" to help get to the bottom of the mystery? What is one of her aging patients hiding? He's an inmate named Simon and knows something about the warden and his daughter from long ago? But what? Is he the killer or is it something more sinister? Are supernatural forces at work? And what does the prison furnace have to do with the tragedies?
One predictable outcome is that Pare and McShane's characters are attracted to each other, but the bedroom scene is not what you would expect. The evil finds them and causes one of the most frightening scenes in the movie. McShane's dramatic skills dominate this scene, which is my favorite scene in the entire movie. Realistic performance!
A performance you'll have to see for yourself to find out what happens and learn the answers to the above questions.
I highly recommend this movie--on the stipulation that you lock all your windows and doors before it commences. You might start jumping at your own shadow.
In addition to McShane and Pare, Ja Rule puts in a surprisingly good performance as a troubled prisoner. But it's no surprise that veteran actor Tom Sizemore gives a great performance as the prison guard you love to hate. He has it "in" for our brave detective so causes more twists in this chilling horror.
True horror buffs will not want to miss this one! Great graphics!
ENDNOTE:The cover fits the movie, but I was disappointed that it had pictures of four male actors on front, but relegated Jenny McShane to the back; she was, after all, the lead actress. Hmmmmm...
Reviewed by: Betty Dravis, August 2009
Author of "Dream Reachers" (with Chase Von)