Movies From the Black Lagoon: Furnace

Movies From the Black Lagoon
Furnace - 2006, Unrated
by Tom Doty

A possessed oven haunts a prison, which rocks a troubled history, in this better than average direct to video effort.
It all begins with homage to those old RKO Pictures. They were famous for using a series of newspaper headlines in the openings of their films to provide the back-story. Here they go with a montage. The camera glides over a scrapbook devoted to the ghoulish happenings that have occurred at a correctional institution. Those who don't mind reading their movies will soon learn that the history of Black gate Prison goes back to Colonial America, where it got off to a lousy start as the site of a certain lost colony. The newspaper articles get more current and soon establish that "Black gate" excels in areas that would inflame liberals. No self-respecting warden is proud of the fact that their jail has the highest rate of suicide but it really burns when the chosen method is self-immolation.
The film does not require reading glasses from this point on though you will be asked to suspend disbelief as the latest series of events unfold. It all starts with a detective being called in to investigate the jail after a guard commits suicide. It's a riveting scene that sees the young man ignore his "Penthouse Magazine" styled wife and proceed straight to the bathroom after returning from work. The wife is not deterred and coos at the door saying that it's time to celebrate their anniversary. Her attempts at seduction have an unusual effect however and she soon hears a gun shot.
This brings in detective Turner. He's a tortured soul who is still reeling from the violent deaths of his wife and child (who were murdered by a felon seeking revenge on the cop). Turner is bothered by the fact that the guard was missing several fingers and had hastily bandaged his hand before coming home to take his own life. His investigation soon reveals that there are a lot of things going wrong at the prison and they all began when an old wing was reopened to make room for out of state prisoners.
Turner soon uncovers the wing's history and it isn't pretty. He discovers that the wing houses a furnace, which figured prominently in the disappearance of a previous warden's daughter. Meanwhile people are dying all over the facility from heat related injuries and those deaths leak out of the jail and begin to effect people working on the case. It all comes down to a fiery finale that pits Turner against a sadistic guard and a vengeful spirit. It's a lively finish that perks up the picture after a stagnant middle section which fails to address the time honored question in haunted house flicks-Why don't they just leave?
This one gets by with a mix of talented thespians and tight direction, by William Butler. Mr. Butler knows from horror movies and has appeared, as an actor, in some of the biggest franchises (he apparently got tired of running from zombies, Jason, and Leatherface) Butler's also good with actors and he actually gets a good performance out of Tom Sizemore (despite the fact that the edgy star stormed off the set a few times and was wrapped up in his legal hassles at the time). Michael Pare (Streets of Fire) anchors the film as Turner and manages to carve a character out of a wooden script (there's a Pinocchio joke in there somewhere but I couldn't find it). There's also some good gore here but skip the last ten seconds which hint at an unnecessary sequel.
Best Line: " He's got residue in all the right places."

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail and to read to children every Wednesday at 10:30am at Borders in Hagerstown. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: