Reviewed by: JimmyO
What's it about
Years ago, the Isla del Roca prison had a massive riot, killing guards and prisoners alike. Now a group of jewel theives and some college kids making a documentary are ready to feed this “haunted prison” more blood, guts and gooey things that come out of a slaughter.
Is it good movie?
Okay, let’s see. What do we have here… a woman cut in half, a man pushed through a jail cell like he were in a potato cutter, a couple of dudes in an electric chair and the most horrific of all… Jake Busey chewing the scenery until there is nothing left. Death Row will please most gore lovers. It’s not necessarily excessive because there is a plot as contrived as it is. And many of the actors are competent so it’s not just gore for the sake of gore, necessarily. The make-up effects were also pretty damn good considering the B-movie quality and the loads of guts pouring out of a chopped up man were pretty twisted. And yet, without the gore, this would have been a pretty ho hum experience. Again, most of the actors are capable, and I really liked Scott Whyte as the token geek and it was also a pleasure to see Stacy Keach in a limited role but no less bad ass.
But as far as acting, what the hell was Jake Busey doing? He is so over-the-top that he reminded me of a cartoon character leaving everyone else grounded. Don’t get me wrong, he was funny. But not funny in a “I meant to do that” way, funny in a “was anyone directing this guy?” way. One moment in particular when he sees bloody writing on one of his fellow criminal’s leg, I think he actually rubs his eye’s much like Bugs Bunny would after seeing something really insane. He slaps himself, raises his eyebrows, shakes his head, kick’s around and we are supposed to take him seriously? Come on. I’ve enjoyed his work occasionally before but this was beyond bad. And to top it all off, he had a blonde mop that made him look like Owen Wilson in any Owen Wilson comedy where he plays a dunce. This is a jewel thief? I didn’t buy it. This performance really deserves to be in the Elizabeth Berkley, Showgirls hall of fame.
As for Kevin VanHook, he really starts off this one pretty damn strong. His use of color to bring out the atmosphere and some cool shots that surround the murder set pieces work very well. He was able to conjure up a few good horror moments out of this. But as the story begins to unfold, it seems to fall apart starting around the end of the middle section. And the climax is so ridiculous and silly with the awful CG and just a nonsensical wrap up that it lost some of its credibility. The story just seems to end because they ran out of bodies to slice and dice and so they tried to tie it up all in one neat little package. It didn’t work.
Video / Audio
Video: This is a very good 1.78:1 widescreen presentation is really clear and keeps the atmospheric first two acts looking nice and bloody.
Audio: the Dolby Digital 5.1 was also in check. The sounds of a haunted prison came to life in all its spooky glory with the usual “slosh” of dripping gore.
The extras are good for this flick. I was happy to listen to the Commentary with Kevin VanHook, Scott Whyte and very sexy co-star, Jaime Mann. This is a so-so track that is not terrible, just not the most interesting. It is basically a positive look at the making of Death Row, so listen if you’d like.
Next up, we get an entertaining, albeit short An Axe to Grind: The Making of DEATH ROW (10:49) which is a little better than you’re typical talking head documentary with a look at many of the gore set pieces. This is a fun watch and producer Karen Bailey is kinda hot.
Are you ready for License to Thrill (Featurette) (3:53)? Well, if you can’t wait to see how someone gets stuck in a license plate cutter you are. Fun but too short. There a lot of other kills we could have done here in addition to this.
If you want a little more history on the “ghost nun”, then you can check out this Deleted Scene (2:28). That is maybe why they took out this scene. I think the whole ghost nun worked better without knowing this info.
For the point and click remote features, we have Still Gallery and Original Production Art. There are surprising ly few pictures to browse in this section.
Who loves Casper Van Dien? Come on, you can’t deny it. Here, we get to Casper Trailers in Kevin VanHook films including “The Fallen Ones” and “Slayer”. For Charsima Carpenter we get the trailer for “Voodoo Moon”. And finally, “Master’s of Horror presents John Carpenters Pro-Life”
And in case you are into it... you can find the script in the nifty DVD-ROM.
This is a tolerable, gore loaded old-fashioned blood-soaked prison flick. And this is why it is worth checking out. I had fun with the groovy kills, some effective casting and a capable director who is able to conjure up some effective horror . That is until Jake Busey starts hitting himself or trying to be tough with his You, Me and Dupree kinda sorta blonde hair. The guy can act, but he just seemed to be too far gone with this particular role. I also felt that getting towards the end they seemed to run out of ideas and just decided to go with a ridiculously over-bloated CG splattered final reel. This is a fun popcorn B-movie that is worth checking out if you’ve got nothing better to do.