Horror films always incorporate other genres, and director Joel Vallie who co-wrote with Eric Machiela, does just that with his dramatic and romantic movie Beautiful Prison, distributed through Midnight Releasing. His movie created and filmed in Mexico, contains subtitles for the translating of Spanish speaking moments, but overall it is in the English language, some consider it a smart move, as the jury clearly still out if horror fans are more welcoming for foreign horror movies today than in previous decades. Vallie generates an interesting topic, with his independent movie by placing the viewer on an emotional ride concerning when a loved one falls into a coma, whether they hear and do, they dream and if they do, is it pleasant or a constant memory nightmare.
The storyline starts as a normal story about a disabled young man (abusive upbringing from his father, who suffered brain injury) taken care of by his sister Angela (Kristen Barrett), in a manner of reward and remorse, as he took the brunt of the beatings for her. Most of the film presents itself as a narrative focused around Ben (Kaelin Stockwell) while living in Mexico, which in the beginning we learn about Ben and his world. He is unable to focus on his factory job, obsession with a regional television actress Jubilee (Leila Garza), which all adds to the strain on his family life, yet Angela brings special lunches and enlists his only friend Jerry (Benjamin Chamberlain) to help Ben, in daily life and he covers up for Ben’s mistakes at the job. After a violent and unprovoked accident, with his resentful and cruel brother-in-law, Chente (Ernesto D’Alessio) results in Ben shoved into a street and plummeted by a passing motorist and his world turns darker. He awakens in a hospital, with restored intellect and supernatural abilities, allows him to control the happenings of his life similar to Phenomenon (1996). Endowed with his talents Ben wastes no time to discover a new world and reward himself of pleasures, however, it results in a nightmarish landscape of so-called friends now as terrorizing demons and others haunt him. Ben continues to develop psychic powers but needs to use them to defend against the demons, their nasty bites invokes new gashes in his arm and each time they invade more aggressively his outlook becomes more bleaker. Soon our hero Ben learns to regain control, maintaining it becomes another challenging that in order to regain control over his life, he needs to revisit his past and face the horrific memories that haunt him.
This film employs a vast arrange of techniques to generate sympathetic characters thanks to a strong supporting cast, but Stockwell owns the role of Ben, and provides a stellar performance. The story provides plenty of twists with friends becoming demons and an increased level of terror at key moments to incite the audience to enter the Beautiful Prison. Vallie’s film, simmers on low for most of the film, and perhaps a tad too long, while using the creative visuals helps it do not excel every portion of the movie. The film’s horror elements have positive moments but this contains no splatter effects, nothing for a gore hound, it is more dramatic with brother and sister love, and obsession real and fantasized. At times, it feels at like the late Robin Williams’ film What Dreams May Come (1998), with regard to the love and horror mixtures, but it works for a diversion for a passing viewing.
Joel Vallie, conjures wonderful flashes of brilliance with his independent flick, and followed by an impressive cast, to nail a few moments of tension, the stretch to label the film with horror undertones, becomes a tad too much, thriller yes, a horror movie sadly no. Once again, even if a movie contains a demon, it doesn’t automatically make it a horror flick, if it did then Ghost (1990) with late Patrick Swayze inclusion in the industry needs to occur, but it doesn’t – why, because it is fantasy and thriller, evil ghosts exist but so what they present themselves in Casper. Therefore, if you seek Drama and Romance with mixture of Thriller (horror) make it double bill with Ghost and Beautiful Prison.