2 February 2002 | EdYerkeRobins
Even Bad by Full Moon Standards...
I would consider myself a fan of b-movie label Full Moon Pictures. I've seen and defended many of their films, and a friend and I have an inside joke regarding this film and its rather tacky tagline, "There's No Parole... in Hell!". I decided to rent it and see if its really as bad as our jokes about the tagline suggest. Turns out it's even worse, because of disappointing villains and gaping holes in the plot.
The acting and effects, while far from Oscar-worthy are, like all Full Moon films, competent. The executioners have an interesting dark figure and profile, but their faces looked more like budget Halloween masks, particularly with those eyes; they don't have the character of, say, Puppet Master's puppet villains or even Killjoy. There might as well have been only one executioner, since their faces aren't clear enough that the differences are obvious, and, up until the ending, most of the killing scenes had but one executioner at a time (and when multiple executioners are featured, only one is really active at a time). Also, the aspect of the victims being randomly possessed and paralyzed by a mysterious force (which I recently found out is supposed to be the spirit of one of the tortured witches) before their slaughter takes away any menacing element of the executioners, as it appears that they are too slow or otherwise unable to pursue and kill any victim on their own, and can only "finish off" these "frozen" victims.
Though the executioners are pretty disappointing, the film's major problem is its poor plot. It's a great idea - an abandoned prison that is haunted by the ghosts of tortured witches and ghoulish executioners, but then all the disjointed mini-plots (for lack of a better term) are brought in. Funerals? Million-dollar rewards? Sex with a zombie? It doesn't help that the gaping holes between these sub-plots are made much more evident when the entire story seems to shift on the fly. The ending manages to tie a few together by luck, but it's also shifted to on the fly, underwhelming, anti-climactic, and abrupt (calling it rushed would be an understatement).
"Prison of the Dead" is a bad film, even by b-movie standards. Although no b-movie is perfect, and the only notable difference between this and any other Full Moon film may be just that it's easier to spot the plot holes, trying to fit the assorted mini-plots together isn't fun, and the executioners aren't as enjoyable as killer puppets/toys/dolls, ghetto clowns, or even demonic gladiator-possessed teens. As usual, the effort is there, but this time, it's just not entertaining!