With an assured visual style, Harlin stokes up the temperature to near-riot conditions before exploding the screen with electrifying special effects mayhem - floors glow red hot, barbed wire is vivified, the very pipes take on murderous life. A tough, entertaining, intelligent hybrid of hard-ass prison drama and horror-shocker exploiter.
A thoroughly credible hybrid of the prison film and the supernatural, it has plenty of shocks, of course, but also an actual story. What makes it work here is the skill and energy of a young director, Renny Harlin, and a surprisingly decent ensemble.
Starring as the prison in this rough penal pic with its special effects-laden horror story is the 87-year-old Wyoming State Penitentiary, which has attracted tourists rather than cons since 1981. The structure takes on all the menace of the house in Amityville Horror or hotel in The Shining.
Technically, and on a performance level, Prison earns time off for good behavior. However, the story feels as if it was conceived by someone working with an expired artistic license. [24 May 1988, p.8]
Prison has a generic, low-budget name, and for once you can judge a movie by its title. This prison-drama-meets-ghost-story turns out to be an object lesson in how cheaply and badly a film can be made.