When I saw the trailer for Condemned I was pretty impressed. It looked like a fun, indie splatfest despite some annoying characters. (but isn’t that part of the fun?) It had pustules, vomiting, tongue injection, stabbing, bludgeoning, and… was that Nick Damici?! Nice! That guy should be in every movie! The trailer paints the film as a Mulberry St./Rec meets Street Trash for (or maybe just featuring) millennials. Alright. I’m game.
Maya is sick of her parents constantly fighting, so she runs away to live with her boyfriend, Dante, and his roommates – a normalish young couple – in a squatters’ tenement. The place is an absolute shithole, which is quite a culture shock for the rich girl. (did she not know that her boyfriend lived in a squat?) The building is inhabited by some colorful characters – a junkie couple; a pre-op transsexual prostitute and her methhead Hasidic pimp; a roided-out dom-sub BDSM gay couple; a pretty normal seeming Latino; the crazy-eyed, favor-demanding super; a paranoid who doesn’t open his door; and an Asian guy who speaks Russian/English/Chinese and makes some sort of drugs that he puts into fortune cookies between bouts of hallucinations about a model that he’s obsessed with. You know, just a regular New York walk-up. The tenets’ combined chemical waste – hormone pills, roid piss, drug sludge, etc. – mix in the janky sewage system to form a toxic gas that turns people into boil-covered murderers. Coincidentally, they get locked inside the place just as that happens! Oh shit.
Condemned does indie splatter (mostly) right. The characters are outrageous enough to eliminate the need for backstory (or depth); the effects are practical and over-the-top; and the action is breakneck paced. (is breakneck an adjective? well, i’m using it as one) I don’t mean to disparage when I say the characters lack depth. That’s perfectly fine for this movie. It’s not a quiet indie shocker like Honeymoon. It’s an in-your-face, blood-soaked carnival ride. And that ride features a lot of barf and yellowish pus filled blisters. The effects are very competent. Which says a lot considering they are mostly used for gross out gags and comedic, cartoonish violence. Blood, pus, and other bodily fluids cover nearly every surface of the already filthy/disgusting apartment building by the end of this craziness. Now, you may think that all sounds like a shitload of praise to heap on a film, and you’re right. 10/10, right, Danger? We’ll, there’s a catch. This type of film is very niche. There’s a narrow band of horror fans that like comedy gorefests beyond the universally loved, Dead Alive and Evil Dead 2. (i’m assuming they’re universally loved because they should be) I happen to like this sub-sub-genre. But even I got a bit annoyed by the corny dialogue, winky references to punk/rock culture, and the weird tonal shift in the final moments of the film. And the over-simple story raised some major questions. Like: How is there only one exit? Isn’t there a fire escape? How is it possible that there are only two phones in the building (one broken, one missing)? Why don’t they just yell out a window? And on and on. But, when you ride a carnival ride you don’t ask, how old is this thing? Does that guy know how to run this safely? Am I going to live through this? No! You just strap in and enjoy it. And that’s how you should approach Condemned.
The Final Cut: Condemned is a fun ride. The filth and copious bodily fluids are sure to keep you squirming and the outlandish gore gags will keep you laughing and distracted enough to ignore some of the film’s shortcomings.
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