Monday, March 11, 2013

SCREAM FACTORY APPRECIATION MONTH: Prison aka Renny Harlins Awesome Movie You Need to Watch

Fans of Nightmare on Elm Street 4... Have you seen Prison? Do you remember when it came out? I was a bit young to actually get to watch it the theater and wouldn't see a true rated R movie in the theater for quite a few years; rated R horror movie in the theater for quite a few years after that and somewhere in the there I remember being exposed to the poster for Prison, the Fangoria article that features some of the most amazing brutal effects I have ever enjoyed without seeing a movie and eventually I believe I saw parts of the movie we're here to discuss today. I never appreciated it beyond the most amazing poster/cover art and effects from the Fangoria article unless the Scream Factory release and, most importantly, the making of feature that has some terrific interviews (no Viggo, but what would you expect). Let's talk about one of the last installments in the soon to fail Empire Pictures. Let's talk about Prison.

From the start of the movie you'll be taken off guard. There's a beautiful false start that I clearly didn't remember from my initial viewing years before that surprised and titillated my senses. Goose bumps even. Maybe it was the fact that I was a bit under the weather, breaking fever after fever and perpetually getting chills without consequence of the movie itself. That doesn't mean that the pairing of sick and horror doesn't go together beautifully. Sometimes the best way to watch a movie is ill.

Take for example 1984. I watched the movie adaptation of 1984 starring John Hurt sick as a little bitch recovering from a strange wine/pill hangover. I had eaten horse painkillers. Large pills designed to cure horses (real horses) of their ailments. They were large pills. I chased them with wine. Then I had a ruckus night in the middle of a barn being chased by a chickens that were being thrown at me by my gorgeous Austrian girlfriend and her friend. Lots of wine. Many tosses of the chicken. I may have gotten laid. I may have vomited. If I didn't vomit that night I vomited perpetually at work the following day. I left work, got some McDonald's chicken nuggets, went home and passed out drinking nothing but orange Hi-C and not touching a single nugget for a day and half. When I came to I read the end Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. My eyes blurred with strange horse pill/wine sickness. My mind scattered. Starving. Cold. I became so enamored that I managed to watch the entire movie shortly there after and became a lifelong Orwell conspiracy theorist. It stuck because I watched it in a vulnerable state that might be a state that was not unlike Winston at points within the book/movie. What a great way to tie yourself to a piece of literature. To a well made film with brilliant music and bleak outlook.... Weren't we talking about Harlin's Prison?

So I watched Prison, fairly ill and in bed and was absolutely taken with its strange effects and bleak feel. The real prison used in the movie was haunting, more so for the cast members who reacted to said prison with genuine fear and claustrophobia. I guess I was picking up what Mr. Harlin was putting down. I was eating it up. Everything from Viggo Mortenson's bad boy, James Dean look and feel to the real life inmates used to balance out the Hollywood cast and lighting. This film is pure dark. It's camp when it needs to be camp with moments of 80's horror humor as only Empire is capable of delivering. Lane Smith, who I was previously familiar with as the prosecutor in My Cousin Vinnie, was a terrific warden. The story of the ghost  of executed prisoner past come back to revisit hellfire upon a recently renovated prison ripe for the killing is a genius concept and executed brilliantly to make us care for the protagonists (who are all prisoners) while hating the evil warden (who should be the archetype, good guy, John Q law). The only thing missing here is a professional wrestler and Jason Voorhees... who show up in the form of one prison inmate named tiny (played by Zeus from the WWF and No Holds Barred) and Charlie Forsythe (the aforementioned ghost) played by Kane Hodder.  Tie it up in a Charlie Band score and serve to unsuspecting Scream Factory Blu-ray purchaser as simple 80's horror movie and you'll have a horror fan.

As previously stated, the making of special is absolutely complete with the exception of the ever elusive Viggo. Plenty of Harlin who has always intrigued me and who was the subject of one of my favorite making of features as a kid, the making of the Nightmare on Elm Street 4. Charlie Band. Richard Band. Producers. Hodder. It's a good time. Beautiful cover art and packaging though I still feel solidarity toward the original artwork that shocked the shit out of me in Fango and on the shelf of Long Valley Video.

Here's a full listing of the features/extras. It's a value at the offered price when you take the history of this film, what it has inspired (even if you don't realize how far it took the career of Harlin and Mortenson).

Audio Commentary with Director Renny Harlin
Hard Time: The Making of Prison - An all-new retrospective with Director Renny Harlin, Producer Irwin Yablans, Screenwriter C. Courtney Joyner, Actor Tom Everett, Stunt Coordinator Kane Hodder, Special Makeup Effects Creator John Carl Buechler, Executive Producer Charles Band, Composer Richard Band, Production Designer Philip Duffin, and Production Assistant Patrick Denver
U.S. Theatrical Trailer
Poster & Still Gallery
Original First-Draft Screenplay (PDF format)

You can pick it up at DiabolkDVD HERE (supporting the little guy is important). Also make sure to "like" Scream Factory over on FaceBook and follow their releases. You can also stop by their website HERE to peruse more titles and get acquainted with their product line and upcoming releases of which there are many. Save your pennies. Start a swear jar. Start a masturbation jar.

As for the moral of the horse pill/wine/barn incident of my youth... well... Chicken McNuggets conquer all. More so Orange Hi-C. More so beautifully sculpted troll doll hair pubes of the 1980's as worn by Suzanna Hamilton.

Also, sick days are the best days to watch horror movies. I miss real sick days as a kid and feel I wasted precious hours watching the Price is Right and the same TBS, cut up version of the Breakfast Club. Regrets. I've had a few.


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