cast: Michael Paré, Tom Sizemore, Danny Trejo, Ja Rule, and Kelly Stables

director: William Butler

85 minutes (15) 2006
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Revolver DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by James A. Stewart

Arguably the greatest challenge for any horror film is to avoid cliché. There are few genre-defining offerings such as The Shining, Halloween, Friday The 13th, and so on. Furnace will not be added to that list, it is, however, a decent flick which keeps the suspense up for the most part, and makes only mild use of the big bumper book of horror film clichés but not to the detriment of the fare on show.

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Detective Michael Turner, played by Michael Paré (Starhunter, BloodRayne) starts to get suspicious when a series of mysterious deaths occur in a high-security prison. Initially it is thought that the deaths are simply suicides, but as the investigation unfolds it becomes clear that there is something more sinister at work here. Turner becomes suspicious as the murders coincide with the relocation to a dormant wing of Blackgate Prison, but this being America, more room was need in the penitentiary network, so at least part of the story is based on truth. Like any film about prison in America, a rapper is brought to play the lead black-guy in prison and Ja Rule is the chosen rap-star in this offering.

For a low-budget movie there are a couple of cult big hitters on show, Tom Sizemore (Heat, Piggy Banks) and Danny Trejo (From Dusk Till Dawn, Spy Kids) but their parts are seriously underplayed and it feels like director, William Butler struggled to get the best out of them. Butler does move the film along at a zesty pace and makes good use of the dilapidated prison in which Furnace is set.

On the flipside, some scenes are a touch too dark and the obvious twist later in the film do get a big thumbs down from this reviewer. And interestingly there were rumours of discord between the production staff and director which may have played a part in some of the poorer direction in the second half of the film, but Butler seems to have made his peace afterwards in a note to all on the team as he pointed out in an interview: “I sent them an email and said you know despite our disagreements some of your notes raised the bar on the quality of the movie, so you know it’s a good thing to have the ability to acknowledge that they have good intentions.”

All in all, Furnace is okay, not bad, not great. The length is just about right, any longer and the clichés alluded to earlier could have crept in en-masse but Butler does a commendable job in avoiding this. That said; it does feel that this is a case of what could have been… as the film limps toward a slightly convoluted ending.