Prison Review: Old Viggo is Still Good Viggo

Today’s moviegoers probably cannot remember a time that Viggo Mortensen was an unknown.

His name is cemented in cinematic history with his wide variety of classic fims from “Lord of the Rings” to “Eastern Promises,” but everyone gets their start somewhere.

Mortensen’s start is the hidden gem 1988 horror “Prison.”

For the first time in Blu Ray and DVD, “Prison” is taken out of its chains and revived with a Blu Ray Collector’s Edition that takes you back to the film that featured Mortensen in his first starring role and “Cliffhanger” Director Renny Harlin’s first Hollywood picture.

The film starts of with a POV shot from the perspective of a Creedmore Prison inmate on death row, Charlie Forsythe, walking to his demise. The crime he is being put on the chair for? A murder he did not commit. A fact known by one of the prison’s guards, Eaton Sharpe (Lane Smith).

30 years after the execution of Forsythe, Creedmore Prison has been shutdown for years. Sharpe is now a prison warden, haunted by the taunting ghost of Forysthe. Sharpe is forced to face his fear when the state to reopen the old Creedmore Prison, little does Sharpe know that he is unleashing a supernatural evil.

On the first day of the prison’s grand reopening, inmates begin rolling in including Burke (Viggo Mortensen). Burke is a young quiet car theif whose plan of keeping to himself at prison is shortly thrown away after h and a fellow inmate are tasked with uncovering the old execution chamber of Creedmore.

Once the specter of Foyrsthe is broken out its shackels what follows is a blood soaked trail of revenge. Inmates and guards alike are picked off gruesomely, however Warden Sharpe refuses to let up and transfer the inmates.

It is up to Burke and Catherine Walker (Chelsea Field), a state employee who believes in prison reform to find a way out of the prison once Forysthe has locked Creedmore down to exact his revenge.

Watching “Prison” one cannot help but notice Mortensen’s striking resemblance to film icon, James Dean. Mortensen’s portrayal of Burke emulates the late movie star as well. A quiet anti-hero, whose facial expressions do more talking than his actual words; there is no shock as to why Mortensen would become an icon himself two decades later.

Harlin’s direction also elevates what could have been just an average horror film into cult fare. The film’s gruesome and imaginative death sequences makes one wonder why a film like this has fallen into obscurity. The death scenes in “Prison” are up there with any 80s horror film, which was the golden age of gruesome deaths done in-camera with practical effects.

Along with a great HD transfer of the film, the Blu Ray Collector’s Edition has an making of feature that has new interviews with producers and director Harlin. Scream Factory does not play when putting these together, the feature stories the making of and how a young Mortensen was cast and a young director without Hollywood experience would team to make this cult classic.

The other extras are not quite as exciting outside of the director’s commentary. The release has a theatrical trailer and the film’s screenplay but nothing that really makes you want to revisit Creemore like the making of retrospective.

It’s sad to see a film like this go underappreciated, however, Shout Factory just knows what to do to bring film’s like “Prison” out of it’s cell.

Brutal death’s with a high caliber performance that you do not usually find in horror films, “Prison” is a movie that anyone can sit down and enjoy, not just fans of the genre. A fresh HD transfer and a informative retrospective, Shout Factory reforms Harlin’s “Prison” as it gets ready to re-enter society. This Blu Ray Collector’s Edition will have you saying “Lets go to ‘Prison.’”

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