Whoa! It has been quite some time but I am back with another review! I hope everyone’s 2021 has started off better than last year’s horror movie. This time I’m here to talk about Brian Jagger’s PARANORMAL PRISON.
Here’s a quick summary: A YouTube channel called ‘The Skeptic and the Scientist’ investigates a haunted prison desperate to capture new content for their channel. Little do they know they’re in for a lot more than just subscription-worthy footage.
Something that is important to note about PARANORMAL PRISON is that it is a pseudo-documentary found-footage style film. I’ve said this many times here but this is my least favorite style of film and the horror community seems to be pretty split down the middle about preference on this style. However, I never turn down an opportunity to check out a new indie horror flick and I went in with an open mind.
The film is centered around a handful of individuals: a YouTube channel called ‘The Skeptic and The Scientist’, Matthew (Todd Haberkorn), Sara (Paris Warner), and their crew, Ashley (Coryn Treadwell) and Jacob (Brian Telestai). There’s also the groundskeeper and I guess tour guide who seems to be unnamed. Matthew is a skeptic and, in being so, it does make him a bit of an asshole during their investigation. Sara is a scientist and is actually a believer in the paranormal and throughout the movie explains what equipment they’re using and why. I did find her character to be necessary and helpful for viewers who don’t necessarily understand the technical aspects of “ghost hunting”. Ashley and Jacob are the camera and sound crew who also seem to express their own inner turmoil from time to time throughout the film.
PARANORMAL PRISON utilizes a combination of practical effects and CGI. The practical effects appeared to be limited to the location itself and a few other things like steam, which could easily be done using a fog machine or possibly even added in post using a video editing software. There’s other stuff used like contacts to change eye color and some small notable details. The other CGI effects all have the appearance of being added in post. Like a lot of other fans of horror, I’m not a big fan of a lot of CGI but, for a movie like this, I don’t see any other way to pull off what they’re trying to do unless everything “scary” is just going to be off-camera.
Speaking of scary, for me personally, PARANORMAL PRISON mostly lacked that element. I know I’m a hard sell when it comes to scares in pseudo-documentary-style films generally because I can anticipate what is going to happen and how it’ll likely be executed. However, there was a scene that utilized the aforementioned contacts that had my heart racing a bit while I thought to myself, “Whoa! This is going a different direction than I thought!” But it was quickly shut down after dialogue indicated that it was a joke. Where I did find the film successful in terms of scares is the tension and anticipation of something getting ready to take place. Especially in scenes that involved the skeptic, Matthew, and the utilization of a mannequin.
One issue that stood out to me in PARANORMAL PRISON is that I can see other viewers having a problem with the use of a politically incorrect word that came up a few times during the movie. Although some viewers may be less sensitive to this dialogue choice, I do think that it could make some people feel potentially vulnerable when watching it and I’d hate for that to ruin the viewing experience for other watchers. This is something that may have been overlooked or was deliberately used to hone in on the fact that the filming is based in a rural location. Either way, it was something that stuck in the back of my mind during my viewing experience.
PARANORMAL PRISON does wrap up relatively quickly towards the end of the film. There is a lot of investigation and potential scares packed into an hour and ten minutes. They even added a pretty fun twist in the end. Without spoiling it I will say that the twist is something simple and has been done a bunch of times throughout “scary movies” but regardless it was fun to see unfold. Do stick around during the credits to see a little added bonus to the plot.
Despite the gripes I mentioned, I did enjoy my experience checking out PARANORMAL PRISON. This movie is definitely for people that like watched ghost movies. Especially for fans of films based within The Conjuring Universe, REC, or the Hellhouse LLC movies. If you have the chance to check out PARANORMAL PRISON on a streaming service you’re subscribed to, be sure to watch and like it. I’ll see myself out…
PARANORMAL PRISON is now available in select theaters and VOD.
Disclaimer/Editor’s Note: Nightmarish Conjurings doesn’t endorse seeing movies in theaters at this time due to the pandemic. Please consider VOD and/or Drive-In options and, if you go to the theater, please be safe.