When he was serving time in a haunted prison, Judge David Johnson made friends with the murderous spirits and that kept him from being burned alive on more than one occasion.
Somewhere between Heaven and Hell lies the furnace.
Another day, another haunted prison movie. Is the Furnace worth a look?
Facts of the Case
Inmates and prison guards alike are killing themselves with startling frequency at Blackgate Prison, a maximum-security facility, and grizzled Detective Michael Turner (Michael Pare') is dispatched to investigate the malfeasance.
Turns out that it might not be depression and suicidal tendencies that are leading to these guys offing themselves, but something far more malicious and—dare I say it—supernatural. Something is definitely freaking out people and it's coming from the old furnace in the prison basement. The responsibility to defuse the hellish nightmare falls to Turner and the prison psychologist, while the spooked inmates continue to panic more and more. Said inmates are played by prison movie-mainstays Ja Rule and Danny Trejo. Tome Sizemore's there too, scowling and acting like a jackass.
There's a moderate amount of horror to be found in the eerie goings-on of Furnace, but I think it's be more accurate to label this movie as a crime procedural rife with whacked-out supernatural elements. Most of the plot is taken up with investigating. Detective Turner interviews people from the prison and digs around old files and reads weathered newspaper articles and makes connections and seeks counsel with the attractive prison shrink and cross-references toxicology reports and eventually gets to the bottom of the creepiness by reluctantly accepting that there is such a thing as ghosts and turns out that the nutty inmates might have been on to something when they were talking about unnatural occurrences.
Nothing new there. Which begs the question: how good is the mystery then? Answer: blah. There's plenty of build-up to the secrets behind the vengeful sprits and the deaths and how the old warden and her daughter might be connected but I think you'll be able to figure out the back story no problem, well before the unsubtle hallucinatory sequence that coughs up all the exposition you would ever need. It's a fairly methodical, almost lethargic trek to the reveal. But to be fair, things pick up a little more toward the end with an obligatory prison riot and the ghosts on the warpath. So there's that to look forward too, though it doesn't spring the film as a whole from the rut of mediocrity. Also, Tom Sizemore's character is supposed to have a major narrative twist associated with him, but it fails to resonate.
As for the gore and horror, the genre fallback convention is in full effect: the creepy-looking looking little girl. By now I've lost count of the number of horror movies that have utilized this particularly tired standby, but with Furnace I think we're in triple digits by now. Two ghosts run around causing havoc, the girl, and another ghost that manifests himself out of the ground, both of which are charred black. They both move around unnaturally and have giant eyes and stare and freak everyone out. Everyone except me. You can count on a handful of tepid jump scenes but almost no gore (the standout is when some hapless inmate has his hands burned to the prison bars in a gooey mess) and that adds to a horror movie that doesn't horrify.
A predictable mystery and a dearth of bloodshed and shocks make Furnace an experience you won't kick yourself for missing.
The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and 5.1 Dolby Digital surround mix are both up to par, delivering a visually and aurally pleasing presentation. The extras are weird. The six alternate scenes feature mostly footage cut from the kill scenes, which is odd, and the cast interviews are highlighted by a bizarre interview with Sizemore.
This derivative genre flick will likely disappoint fans of both horror and mystery. Pass.
Roast some marshmallows and leave me alone.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Genius Products
• Deleted Scenes
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