Cell 213 – Damnation, the review: a horror within the prison walls

The review of Cell 213 – Damnation, a prison-set horror film where the protagonist is the victim of disturbing hallucinations, tonight on Mediaset Italia 2 on primetime TV.

Cell 213 - Damnation, the review: a horror within the prison walls

Attorney Michael Gray is used to using dirty methods to turn cases in court in his favor. One of the last hearings ended with a postponement as the prosecution witness was threatened by a thug he hired, thus favoring the imminent acquittal of his client.

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Cell 213 – Damnation: an image

As we tell you in the review of Cell 213 – Damnation, Michael is now grappling with a new assignment, relating to the defense of a murderer who is already locked up in a maximum security prison, the South River State Penitentiary, managed by the enigmatic Warden Warden. During the interview with the criminal an unforeseen event takes place and the lawyer’s pen is used as a weapon to commit suicide by the prisoner – who had already confessed to his heinous crime – but as the only person in the room Michael is found guilty convicted of murder and subsequently sentenced to life in prison. Life sentence to be served in the same cell as the victim, that room 213 in which a disturbing mystery is hidden…

From cell to cell

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Cell 213 – Damnation: a shot from the film

Only some time before the Spanish Cell 211 (2009) had given new life to the genre of prison films, proposing a violent and captivating update of the genre that immediately smelled of cult. Two years later a similar operation was attempted in terms of title and setting, but centered on themes more closely related to horror: as already underlined by the title, in Cell 213 – Damnation prison is nothing but the battlefield for the umpteenth, everlasting, struggle between Good and Evil. Right from the start, the impression is that of finding yourself in front of a production released in the late nineties, both as regards the photographic style – with a mix of dull and bright colors depending on the moods and what is about to happen on stage – than for the management of the story and the characters, far from that James Wan or Jason Blum touch that has characterized the sector in the last decade.

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In the heart of hell

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Cell 213 – Damnation: a moment from the film

In certain passages, therefore, a partially nostalgic hint shines through, with the progressive unveiling of the mystery concerning the penitentiary and the secrets contained in it which manages to keep the attention high and the tension up until the final twist, complete with a pseudo-biblical revelation on one of the main figures in the tale. Too bad that in the course of the hundred minutes of vision together with the aforementioned strengths, as many weaknesses are highlighted, starting with a not always convinced and convincing management of some of the secondary characters up to a handful of situations that force the hand excessively on the story . From thanatophobia, or the compulsive fear of dying at any moment, to the choice of sending the unfortunate protagonist to serve in the prison morgue up to the fact that he has been sexually sold to a fellow prisoner, Cell 213 – Damnation runs the risk of putting too much iron on the fire only to then resolve the key issues with a simple “because yes“, with no real explanation as to why what actually happened.

Atmosphere issue

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Cell 213 – Damnation: a shot

At times it almost seems to be faced with a faded copy of the gothic (2003) by Mathieu Kassovitz, a film that was excessively missed by audiences and critics at the time of its release: also in this case we have a role-playing game, with the lawyer protagonist who finds himself on the other side of the barricade: from having to judge to being judged , law of retaliation nuanced here only in certain superficial declinations. Certainly the immature Eric Balfour – in a cast where the supporting actors of Michael Rooker and Bruce Greenwood shine – is not Halle Berry and the barely diligent direction of Stephen Kay has nothing to do with the imperfect but visionary one of the French colleague and also the budget for special effects is very small. Cell 213 – Damnation in any case, it is a painless vision, especially dedicated to omnivores of prison horror who will find bread for their teeth here.

Conclusions

A young lawyer, with few scruples when it comes to winning a case, is convicted of the murder of one of his clients, which occurred under mysterious circumstances during an interview in prison. Prison where he is now locked up and in which he will discover disturbing secrets that will seriously jeopardize his physical and mental health. As we told you in the review of Cell 213 – Damnation, this direct-to-video horror has some good ideas but suffers from just as many naiveties, both narrative and stylistic, while still managing to keep the interest and curiosity of the public constant until that final revelation that puts everything under another perspective.

Because we like it

  • At times a successful atmosphere.
  • The story has both discrete cues…

What’s wrong

  • …is obvious, avoidable, naïveté.
  • An anonymous director and protagonist.

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About David Martin

David Martin is the lead editor for Spark Chronicles. David has been working as a freelance journalist.

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