Prison (1988)

Starring Lane Smith, Viggo Mortensen, Chelsea Field, Lincoln Kilpatrick, Tom Everett, Ivan Kane, Arlen Dean Snyder, André DeShields, Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister, Stephen E. Little, Mickey Yablans, Larry Flash Jenkins, Hal Landon Jr., Matt Kanen, Kane Hodder

Directed by Renny Harlin

Expectations: Looks awesome, it has a director that went on to better things, Viggo and gore… I should like this.


Prison has a ton of stuff going for it. It stars Lane Smith, a character actor you know and love but probably don’t recognize the name (I didn’t). It co-stars Viggo Mortensen very early in his film career. It’s directed by Renny Harlin who would later go on to direct such favorites as A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master & Die Hard 2. The film is also produced by Empire Pictures and the wonderful John Carl Beuchler is on FX duty. In addition to that, the script was written by C. Courtney Joyner who later went on to write Puppet Master III & write and direct Trancers III. How’s that for some talent?

The film opens with an execution scene from the prison’s past. Lane Smith escorts the condemned man to his death by electric chair, but the dreamy quality of the scene suggests that all is not as it seems. As this is an 80s horror film, one can only assume that his soul cannot rest! Thirty years later, overcrowding in the prison system forces the state to re-open a penitentiary long since closed. They recruit Lane Smith, one of the old guards there, to head up the place as warden. Smith is haunted by the memories surrounding the electrocution, penetrating his dreams nightly. Before long, crazy shit starts happening for reals at the prison. It first comes to head when two men in solitary get a visitation from a very unwelcome spirit.

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