Plot: A group of high school friends are reunited for a funeral, or at least that’s why they thought they were headed to an old, abandoned prison. In truth, they’ve been assembled by Kristof (Patrick Flood), the eccentric son of a wealthy newspaper owner. He has a plan to make them rich, if they will do as he says and forget that he tricked them into thinking one of their friends was dead. His father’s paper is hosting a contest with a one million dollar prize, to whoever can locate the Talon key, an artifact rumored to open a long hidden section of the prison. Kristof needs his friends to enter and win, as he is not able to since he is related to the paper’s owner. As part of his plan, the group will use a Ouija board to contact the spirits of the prison and use them to locate the key, or so they hope anyway. In truth, the seance raises the spirits of the prisoner’s executioners from the dead. Now these executioners need to kill the trespassers then use their bodies as vessels to escape the prison once and for all. Can anyone survive these executioners or will the ghosts of the prison finally be free?
Entertainment Value: I am a big fan of both David DeCoteau and Full Moon, so I had to check out Prison of the Dead. This is a low budget production of course, but that’s never a problem with these collaborators involved. The story involves a seance at an old prison that awakens some violent spirits, who want to kill humans and use them to escape the confines of the prison. This one has a lot of talking throughout and not a lot of action, but the atmosphere is pretty solid. The location used adds a lot to the mood, with a creepy vibe that elevates the material. The horror side of things is slim beyond the atmosphere, as the kills are routine and not flashy at all. There’s some tension and the executioners are a nice touch, but the horror elements are a little weak. The cast is passable, aside from some overly dramatic moments, but I appreciate the entertainment found in melodrama, so I didn’t mind. While DeCoteau is often able to overcome slim budgets, here the material is held back by the lack of resources. More creative kills would have added a lot to the movie, as would some better makeup effects, so the movie suffers in those aspects. I do think Prison of the Dead has some bright spots, so if you’re a fan of Full Moon or DeCoteau, give it a chance. But don’t expect a cult classic, as you’ll be let down in that regard.
No nakedness. But this is a DeCoteau movie, so there’s some buff guys in their underwear, of course. The bloodshed is minimal and never graphic, with the violence just off screen. So we see a splash of blood or someone coughing up blood, but never the wounds or the direct violence. I’m sure this is partly due to the budget limitations, but I still wish it had more creative, visceral kills. The dialogue is hit and miss, with a lot of the film’s duration focused on various conversations. I think the film is too talky for its own good, but I imagine the budget limits forced the emphasis on dialogue over horror elements. Some humorous lines are here however, as well as some melodrama from the more ham fisted cast members. I wish this was a little wilder with the dialogue given how much talking there is, as when the movie does goes a little bonkers, it is more fun to watch. So lots of chit chat and some fun lines, but not a lot of memorable zingers or exchanges. Not much craziness happens, but I sure wish it did.
Overall Insanity: 0/10