Every great actor has some garbage at the beginning of their career, and Viggo Mortensen is no exception. A great example would be "Prison," a little B-movie set in a nasty prison -- Mortensen has some nice moments and the kills are both creative and nicely grotesque, but most of the cast is instantly forgettable and the plot is incredibly confusing.
Creedmore Prison is reopened after being vacant for thirty years. A new crop of prisoners are brought in to live there, including the quiet car thief Burke (Mortensen). who immediately impresses the others by being relatively nice to everybody who isn't, well, a jerk. On the very first day, Warden Sharpe (Lane Smith) orders the old execution room to be opened -- only for a bright light and electricity to flood out of it.
And almost immediately, people start dying -- a man is fried alive in his cell, another is brutally cut up in the ceiling, and another is throttled with barbed wire.
Sharpe blames the inmates, but it soon becomes obvious that a more supernatural threat is responsible. Safety inspector Katherine Walker (Chelsea Field) begins to investigate the prison's history, and discovers that the spirit of an executed prisoner -- who just happens to look exactly like Burke -- is getting revenge for his death thirty years ago.
"Prison" is not a terrible movie -- just a rather inept one. It's one of those horror movies where most of the characters are indistinguishable from each other, the motivation of the ghost is murky at best, and there are important answers never given. For instance, why do Burke and Forsythe look exactly alike? Are they father and son? It's never even touched on, and the resemblance adds nothing to the movie.Read more ›
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32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Renny Harlins Lost MasterpieceSept. 15 2003
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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. Trivia: 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.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
A VERY COOL MOVIE!Aug. 22 2001
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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.
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
CAUGHT!March 9 2006
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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...
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
For Viggo and Horror fans alike!!!:Oct. 18 2003
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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
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Forgotten ClassicAug. 1 2010
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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?