Since that's the case, I don't mind telling you that this is about a prison haunted by a little girl who was murdered by the warden (her father) by being burned alive in the prison furnace (hence the title -- see? no surprises). The warden also got burned alive and is a ghost. The cops and convicts spend the flick trying to solve a series of mysterious (yeah, right) deaths perpetrated by the ghosts. A couple of these are a bit grisly, but the fear comes from the ghosts in this one, and the SFX make-up people have done a truly outstanding job on this score. The girl-ghost is particularly eerie, with ash gray-black skin and glowing orange eyes, and the warden-ghost is genuinely menacing, too. The ghosts move in the jerky, flickering, now-you-see-it-now-you-don't way popularized by "The Ring," and again, nothing new but done well. Ten year old Victoria Hester does a marvelous turn as the ghost; she's got a great future as a scream queen.
Overall, the acting isn't bad. Aside from Hester, the big standout in this department is Ja Rule with a solid performance as a convict. Danny Trejo is Danny Trejo and Tom Sizemore delivers a decent but stereotypical corrupt prison guard. Michael ParĂ (C) and Jenny McShane have no chemistry and participate in a uniquely unappealing sex scene that ought to have landed on the cutting room floor. That scene and the sloppy ending are the biggest let-downs in this otherwise decent ghost story.
"Furnace" isn't going to get any standing ovations, but if you watch ghost flicks for the ghosts, you'll probably like it. It's a little better than average in that regard, and despite its derivative nature manages to bring on a couple of genuine chills. Worth checking out.
The special effects could have been much better. They go more for the standard "shock" type of scare, where the creature appears before you when you least expect it. This works only a handful of times, but before long it just starts looking like one of the editors let their twelve year old daughter have a go at it. If they had laid off the fire effect (though this does become important later on) and less of the choppy jumping effect for the ghosts, I think I could have looked past the general cheesy feel that they gave off anyway. One ghost, that of a little girl, looked much like just a dirty little girl. Even though the story established that she was essentially ash. The other ghost, that of an older man, was greyed out and looked more like a photo on some bad film than a ghost. Oddly his "ash" effect was better.
The plot left a good bit to be desired, more than once I found myself thinking "really? I mean, are you really expecting me to buy this load of bull?" One of the biggest problems was that of the "Furnace" for which the movie takes its name. It was obvious, even to the most casual observer, that this furnace would never have worked in any way shape or form, and while it looked ominous enough; that didn't quite make up for the fact that it just simply didn't fit in with the set. Perhaps had they tried to make the furnace itself more realistic, and less looking like something cobbled together by a set crew, it would have been better. Furthermore, the movie takes place (mostly) in a prison. However once again there are a number of plot problems, not the least of which being that outside detectives and prison guards are seen carrying firearms around open cells of inmates. Trouble waiting to happen, yet it never actually comes to that.
The movie doesn't really start coming together until the very end, when a long flashback scene explains everything that's been going on; at least in the past. Even then, when some of the earlier instances start making sense, the movie falls flat on its face. What could have been a very good ending fight, just ends up being this one woman screaming at the detective, while he fights with the spirit of the man that had been killing inmates. That's just it. The movie ends there and we never get to find out any epilogue or what really happened afterward.