Directed by Kevin VanHook (2006)
Reviewed by MaT, added on Oct 21 2006
I would like to propose to the powers that be that Jake Busey be given an opportunity to audition for the role of the Joker in the next Batman flick. If you think about it, he's just about the perfect candidate. He's got the "crazy" angle down pat, he has a mouth full of giant grinning teeth, and he just looks damn creepy when he is acting insane. The only thing he would need to do would be to drop to about 43 pounds like Christian Bale in The Machinist and wammo, instant awesome Joker. The Joker should not be a gay cowboy, he should be the spawn of Gary Busey. But I digress...
Haunted Prison (formerly Death Row) is about a group of diamond thieves that hole up in an old abandoned prison on a small island and inadvertently come into contact with a group of kids filming a documentary about the supposedly haunted prison. As you would guess, the spooks don't take kindly to strangers and begin picking off the characters one by one. This flick premiered on Sci-Fi a couple weeks back and I was lucky enough to get an advanced screener of it. For what it is, Haunted Prison is pretty good, especially when compared to previous Sci-Fi channel films. Stacy Keach shows up in a prologue to tell how the guards and inmates in the prison went crazy and killed each other, he then chops off his legs with an axe. I didn't watch the Sci-Fi premiere so I'm not sure how much was cut out, but the screener I received had some good gore in it. One particular scene involved a girl who is chopped in half by a ceiling fan and another involved a dude chopped into pieces by the license plate machine. Nothing really original in the gore department, but what was there was well done.
Jake Busey is great in his role as the leader of the diamond thieves. His performance is completely over-the-top and he seems to channel his dad for quirky character traits. The rest of the acting is par for the course. The ghosts reminded me of what you would get if you crossed the remake of 13 Ghosts with a low budget. They show up every now and then to drag people around or to terrorize half naked girls in the shower (no nudity? B-film blasphemy!), but the main focus of the film seems to be the interaction between the various characters rather than a balls out gory horror film. That can be good or bad depending on what you are expecting. It does tend to get a bit boring here and there and characters do really stupid things sometimes, but that's true for most films right?
Haunted Prison isn't going to redefine the genre or anything, but for a Sci-Fi Channel film, it is pretty good. The people I was watching the film with were confused by the ending, and indeed, it seems to get a little too over-the-top and wonky. Still, Haunted Prison is worth a look if you catch it replaying on Sci-Fi in the coming months.