Paranormal Prison (2021) Begs to Be Locked Away Forever
Title: Paranormal Prison
First Wide Release: February 19, 2021 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Brian Jagger
Writer: Brian Jagger, Randall Reese
Runtime: 70 Minutes
Starring: Todd Haberkorn, Paris Warner, Corynn Treadwell
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Paranormal Prison kicks off with the history of a dilapidated prison that is notorious for its former residents. A Youtube channel that needs to rake in more viewers decides to film there and test out a new device built to detect the presence of the supernatural. The hope is that by proving ghosts are real, they can save their career and change the course of science. Once inside, they discover that the past didn’t stay in the past, as they are attacked by various specters of former inmates trying to communicate a message from the other side. And this message might be deadly.
Soulless and derivative, Paranormal Prison offers viewers nothing more than a regurgitation of paranormal investigation found footage cliches.
What already starts out with a threadbare plot unfurls into something so basic and tidy that the entire film feels like one long episode of a ghosthunter reality tv show. Mimicking essentially every haunted asylum/prison movie before it, Paranormal Prison stretches the imagination on what ghosts would do and what humans can do. Obviously, it’s fine to suspend disbelief when dealing with mysteries or science, no matter how farfetched the explanation may be, but this film takes excessive liberties. The found footage film even has a score for crying out loud! And an annoying one at that. It’s almost as if Paranormal Prison was made to piss off fans of the subgenre.
What’s worse is the cast of characters headlining the feature. Youtubers are hard to capture on film in a way that makes them anything other than relentlessly irritating. Very few movies can do it. And this crew is no exception. Besides a few throwaway stories about past traumas and interests, we know effectively little about these people and are given very few reasons to care about their survival, let alone their success.
Forgoing a well-structured plot for word vomit history lessons, Paranormal Prison suffers from its abysmal pacing. This is incredible for a film that clocks in at roughly seventy minutes. Pair that with atrocious acting and a lack of ambition, it’s just a hard film to sit through in its entirety. The setting alone should be a slam dunk for this type of film, as there is still plenty of uncharted territory and timely themes to be mined for good social commentary. Instead, we just get more of the same, lifeless, listless horror that crows the queues of unsuspecting Netflix or Amazon Prime subscribers lost without a film recommendation on a stormy night.
It’s hard not to make comparisons and I avoid them as much as possible, however, Paranormal Prison is simply a poor man’s version and inverse version of Grave Encounters. Obviously, the similarities between these two films can be identified by even the most blasé horror fan but what rubs me the wrong way is how Paranormal Prison finishes. Eschewing the found footage formula for something more Discovery Channel approved, the film ends on a relatively "good" note.
Now, I’m never one to say that horror should see its characters punished. There is something wrong with a film that has no real stakes and that is the crux of the problem with Paranormal Prison. Not only does it fall into tropes we have seen before with twists coming from a mile away, but it also doesn’t have the bite that could actually excite horror fans to distract them from the tangled mess of a script.
An amateur effort that is more painful than enjoyable to watch, Paranormal Prison fails at all levels telling a compelling and coherent story. Low stakes, poor acting, shallow characterization, and muddled storytelling makes this indie film one to outright avoid. Devoid of many, if any, positives, this film is an absolute slog to endure. After careful deliberation from the jury, I hereby sentence this film to life without the possibility of parole, or in this case, never thinking about again.
Overall Score? 3/10