Fed up with her parents’ bickering, poor-little-rich-girl Maya (Dylan Penn) moves in with her boyfriend who is squatting in an old, condemned building on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. With neighbors that are meth heads, junkies and degenerates, this depraved hell hole is even more toxic than it appears: After a virus born from their combined noxious waste and garbage infects the building’s residents, one by one, they succumb to a terrifying pathogen that turns them into bloodthirsty, rampaging killers and transforms their building into a savage slaughterhouse.
November 13, 2015
Eli Morgan Gesner
Eli Morgan Gesner
Dylan Penn as Maya
Ronen Rubinstein as Dante
You know how when horrible atrocities fill your newsfeed online or splash across the television? Perhaps a tragic loss of life in a violent terrorist attack somewhere across the world. And then major world leaders take to the airwaves to “condemn” these actions? You know, we hear it at least once a day?
Well, let’s apply this overused and obvious terminology when taking a closer look at the 2015 film, Condemned, which received its world premiere at the 2015 Screamfest Film Festival.
I condemn the filmmakers and anyone else who greenlit this absolutely terrible attempt at a horror film, appropriately titled Condemned. You made it so darn easy by naming it that.
In this instance, I find it infuriating that the lowest score my esteemed editors will allow, is a ½ out of a possible total of 5. For you see, Condemned is not worthy of anything higher than a zero. Negative score? If I could, I would.
Maya (Dylan Penn in what is her screen debut) leaves behind her sunny Southern California existence to escape her constantly fighting parents – moving to New York City to shack up with her aspiring musician boyfriend – the oh-so cleverly named Dante (Ronen Rubinstein). The building where he lives is a condemned slum, filled with low-lifes, drug-makers, S&M aficionados and junkies. All of their piss and shit and drugs and drug-making waste end up creating a toxic environment infiltrating the air ducts and sewer lines, turning almost everyone into homicidal, pizza-faced, weapon-wielding crazies. And havoc (albeit boring havoc) ensues.
Let me get the one (THAT’S ONE) positive thing out of the way. The gore and grisly make-up effects of the infected was pretty clever and gross. Good. Great. Now what about the rest?
It wanted desperately to be like the recent horror classic REC, and it also tried to go for the same qualities of the mid-‘80s horror hoot, Demons by Lamberto Bava (both in its spreading pestilence theme and popping sores gore effects). Finally, throw in a bit of Romero’s classic The Crazies and you’ll have the recipe attempted by the Condemned filmmakers. Well, this particular recipe sucks, so don’t sample it.
There are no characters to root for here. There is no character development of any kind. Characters are randomly introduced, only to be shown 20 minutes later. A character appears in the climax – one who we’ve never, ever seen before. And since the building is in lockdown, where the hell did this guy in the hazmat suit come from? Not that I really cared.
The film didn’t know what it wanted to be. It’s very serious in the early stages, but as people become infected and then begin attacking their building-mates, they start spouting off bad one-liners. In one instance, a model-turned-junkie continues to chase after our two leads (can you believe they were the last ones left – never saw it coming) with a knife in her forehead, lamenting her former life of model glory. It wasn’t funny. It didn’t work.
There were no surprises in the way the film was shot. Every “boo” moment (none of them effective) was exactly where you would expect it to be placed, and shot in the way you have seen in any number of other horror films.
And the constant shots of various bodily fluids flowing through the plumbing of the building, leading to the other filth where it would eventually create the stinky and hazardous chemical problems which will turn the tenants into mutants – well, after the first five or so journeys through the sewer hookups, I think we got the fact that this most-recently introduced vomit was going to the same place. The need to spell it out each time was unnecessary.
What would have given the film a little heart (other than a lead character with any journey or qualities to enjoy), was the introduction/inclusion of some characters in the rundown building who were there because of dire circumstances – perhaps a single mother with a small child, just trying to make a life for her little one. Some sort of sympathy for the love of God. Again, everyone living there was a deviant. The fact that Maya came from a different and affluent background didn’t make me care for her.
Speaking of caring, the acting in this film… Well, I was about to make some reference to the worst of high school performers, but that somehow insults young actors in their recent school production of Harvey. And that’s just not fair. Not one performer provided a good moment of solid acting. Not one. And I have to bring up the fact that our lead, Dylan Penn – is the daughter of skilled and Academy Award-winning actor Sean Penn (who was on the black carpet, supporting his daughter for the screening). She’s also the offspring of House of Cards’ Robin Wright. I will lay most of the blame on the script and director for Penn’s lackluster performance, but as an actor, she had zero personality or skill. All right, I’ll say it: This apple didn’t fall far from the tree – it was thrown into the next county – landing in an orange grove. I’ll give Penn the benefit of the doubt, due to her acting genes, but this was in no way a good example of a fine thespian. As for everyone else in the film – awful.
As a side note, the producer/director of last year’s incredible Dark Was the Night produced here. One has to wonder, “What in God’s name were you thinking?”
Avoid this film at all costs. There is nothing here worth your time. In fact, follow my lead and simply “condemn” it. Ugh.