Sunday, March 4, 2007

Prison of the Psychotic Dead (2006)

The now-abandoned Buffalo Central Station is said to be one of the most haunted places in America, with paranormal experts being able to capture numerous orbs in photographs and hear ghostly voices on EVP’s. Reports of cold spots and equipment malfunction, as well as persons experiencing dizziness and nausea, are common when investigating this site. With its blood-soaked past, it’s easy to see how a pain-filled place like Buffalo Central Terminal can be haunted, which, again, is why it is the perfect spot for a horror movie to be filmed in. Prison of the Psychotic Dead (aka Prison of the Psychotic Damned) succeeds in part because of its spectacular location at the Buffalo Central Station.

Five people arrive at the long-abandoned Buffalo Central Terminal to film a documentary about the supposedly haunted monstrosity. Reyna (Susan Adriensen) and her cameraman Jason (Jim Vaughn) are hoping to catch some paranormal activity on film and save Reyna’s floundering career. They bring three women with them: Aurora (Demona Bast), who has certain psychic abilities, Kansas (Melantha Blackthorne), who is hoping this excursion will convince her father not to cut off her trust fund, and Nessie (Noel Francomano), who only wants to help Reyna on one of her projects. As they wander the decaying structure’s vast tunnels, hallways and floors, strange noises and experiences began to occur. The Buffalo Central Terminal is a place who’s past is beset by tragedy…it has housed train accidents that killed over 200 and was even converted to a mental hospital for the criminally insane where doctors performed horrific experimental procedures on patients. Fires, murders and accidents plagued the structure until it was shut down. After it closed its doors permanently, a serial killer took up residence, raping and violently killing his victims. Strange and violent stories still surround the structure today, which begs the question, will the five survive the night in this hall of horrors past?

First of all, the filmmakers could not have picked a creepier place to film a horror movie. Buffalo Central Terminal sent shivers up my spine, even as I explored it through the TV screen. From its grand entrance to its dark and decaying basement, it speaks of a past long ago, but not forgotten. This low-budget film is shot halfway like the Blair Witch Project, where a character shoots film with a hand-held camera, and the other half is shot like a normal movie. It’s really the best of both worlds because the audience gets both the voyeuristic point of view as well as the characters’ point of view. Both views come in handy when the characters become separated from one another and truly creepy and horrific things begin to take place.

There are some great, cringe-worthy scenes in the film; nothing too over the top or with too much gore, but just enough to make you go, “Yechhhh!” A few creepy and scary moments also made me jump, which is rare for a horror film to do nowadays. I do wish, though, that more of the ghostly tormentors had been shown instead of focusing on the giant orb that attacked the group. This was all a bit hokey to me and so much more could have been done to really scare me. I did enjoy the spook that attacked poor Nessie and I wish I had seen more ghouls like that! Aurora’s “doll collection” scene was a sight to behold, and probably my favorite from the film. If you pick up this film, you’ll know which one I mean.

The performances were great all around. It’s rare for an independent film to have strong performances from all the actors, but Prison of the Psychotic Dead managed to pull it off. Melantha Blackthorne was great as the tough-as-nail Kansas who has a secret to hide. I also loved Demona Bast as Aurora – she is gorgeous and a wonderful actress. Noel Francomano brought an exuberance and amusing innocence to her role as Nessie, while Susan Adriensen as Reyna held the fort down as the authoritarian with her own secrets. Jason, played by Jim Vaughn, brought much comic relief to the tense atmosphere of the film.

Prison of the Psychotic Dead was a great “haunted asylum”-type movie, especially for it being low budget. With great performances, an entertaining (and fact-based) story and one hell of a creepy setting, Prison of the Psychotic Dead makes for a great late-night viewing. Just be sure to check your dollies before you go to sleep…

Available on Amazon!

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