DIRECTOR: Joel Vallie
Leila Garza Stockwell
Ben is a young guy who has been in an accident that has left him suffering from brain damage which has affected him his entire life. When Ben gets involved in a fight with his brother-in-law and is hit by a car. He awakes to find that he has abilities that have been gifted to him that he didn't have before. These new skills also show Ben horrific nightmares that begin playing with his mind. What is real and what is not?
When I initially saw the poster for Beautiful Prison, I almost passed on the movie as I thought this was going to be a Sci-Fi Drama based on the artwork. It wasn't until I sat down and saw the trailer where I witnessed toothy demons, chase scenes, and blood-soaked carnage. It was at this point that I decided to give the film a watch and hoped for the best. At worst, I went into the movie preparing myself for a silly, low-budget, zombie movie. A film I've seen many times.
To my complete shock. Beautiful Prison is a movie that is unlike anything that I think I've seen in the horror genre this year. I went in expected this half-assed indie zombie movie and left utterly mindfucked with what I just witnessed. It was a movie where I needed a few days to come to terms and think about the film I had just watched. This is a genre-bending and at times sombre story with a few brilliant ideas that tell a tale of what is essentially the human condition.
Beautiful Prison begins a little slow. I fear that its first forty minutes or so will have impatient viewers turning it off and giving up. I say this as I almost gave up myself. I was so confused by the story and wild mix of genres that I almost passed this off as a mess of clashing ideas and styles. The movie in its first forty minutes throws a lot of ideas at the audience but I say stick with it. We have elements of dark subject matter that involve drama and domestic abuse. Scenes that play like comedy horror and the weirdest being a telenovela.
It's at around the halfway point of Beautiful Prison where everything starts falling into place. The movie has what can only be described as a reveal. I don't want to say twist as it doesn't feel like that at all here. It feels like every little piece of this weird puzzle begins falling into place for the audience and it comes across as an a-ha moment. It's not shocking but explains why the first half of this movie is so weird and a clashing of genres. I think, for the most part, this is one of the smarter ideas I've seen this year in indie horror.
Is Beautiful Prison always successful in its storytelling? No. There are moments where things aren't entirely clear to me, but that may be a case of me still not connecting all the dots as this is one bizarre little movie. This also could have been a case of our two writers having so many grand ideas that they just didn't have the time to thoroughly execute within it's running time. I can't fault Joel Vallie and Eric Machiela for trying. With so many poorly made horror films, at least this decided to be a wildly different.
Another issue that I had with the film is from about the fifty-minute mark up until the hour and ten-minute mark, the movie becomes so ludicrous. The movie after a very dark first fifty minutes adds a little levity and comedy to the story and while it makes sense in the scheme of things. It sort of kills the vibe for roughly twenty minutes. The joyriding, the date to the movies, the dressing up to meet at the airport is all a little silly. It took me out of the story for that chunk of the story. Once things return and come full circle, I enjoyed the last ten or so minutes.
Visually, I found that Beautiful Prison is a rather impressive looking indie film. With the blending of the different genres and an almost absurd quality to what's thrown on the screen, it worked for me as a whole. The makeup and creature effects were also great for the most part. I think I may have noticed a few poorly produced computer-generated touches here and there, but it's not enough to bring down the quality of the films look. Within the small budget, they did a lot.
Lastly, the acting is pretty hit and miss for the most part. The standout for me here is Kristen Barrett. She delivers the most heartfelt performance of the group of actors. In her last scenes, they turn out to be pretty heartbreaking. Kaelin Stockwell is our main star and he seems to have a lot of fun in his role, and you'll see why with a few of the more outlandish moments. A few of the supporting characters come across as trying way too hard, It was actually distracting at times. But it's not a total loss.
DEATH TOLL: 3
BLOOD AND GORE:
- Someone is hit by a car.
- A few scenes of domestic violence.
- A child is thrown head first into a nightstand.
- Guy breaks open wound (blood gushes out).
- An old lady has her head repeatedly smashed in a fridge door.
- A demon vomits blood all over a person's face.
- A woman is hacked to death with a machete.
- Someone blows his head off with a shotgun (offscreen)
- A hand is stabbed with a machete.
- Someone is burnt alive.
Beautiful Prison is a genre-bending and weird little movie. We have dark domestic drama meets comedy horror. The film can't be faulted for trying to throw so many wild ideas at the viewer. While not always successful in its approach, the filmmaker, writers, and cast deserve a hand for at least trying something a little different. You can't fault a movie for trying to be original. The movie also contains a rather clever reveal that warrants this movie a watch.