Condemned – Written and Directed by Eli Morgan Gesner (RLJ Entertainment)
In the tradition of great grindhouse cinema and a return to horror in the same sick vein as the infection film [REC] and the disturbing indie gem THE SUPER, comes the first feature from documentary filmmaker Eli Morgan Gesner. This brutal, gritty and twisted story entitled the CONDEMNED surrounds squatters who live in old apartment building on the lower East side of Manhattan. The variety of disturbing and realistic characters dwell within this residence keeping the insidious actions hush from the CDC and city authorities. Within each apartment, you find all kinds of cruelty, violence, occupations, fetishes and addictions. Wanting to live on the wild side, a young, rich girl named Maya (Dylan Penn) runs away from her wealthy life and family to stay with her sexy and bad boyfriend Dante (Ronen Rubinstein) as well as another couple hooked on living on the edge. As Maya gets acclimated to her new life and the variety of degenerates in each apartment, a virus is infecting the residents of the building from the numerous waste, chemicals and biomaterials that transforms them into sick, sore covered, crazy, rage filled monsters looking to slaughter everyone. Will Maya and Dante survive within the darkness of monsters and mayhem? The CONDEMENED shows you what lurks in those long hallways, scratches behind closed doors and what makes those sounds moving up the stairs towards you.
Without a doubt, Gesner created CONDEMNED as homage to sex, drugs, rock & roll and the horror sub-genres of infection and the haunted house films. With each part of this film as equally as important as the other, Gesner tells a story at the core of it. The story reflects the under belly of the city and how it swallows up those in it. Using a condemned building as the stage for this tale, he populates it with a variety of races, cultures and heritages gone done terrible paths and making terrible choices. The buildings residents range from drug dealers to meth heads to S & M players to abusive psychopaths and more. With all these seedy and disgusting characters, you at first see only the evil that has evolved from the location and situations. However, the film does not sit in the grit and evil as it takes it step further sending a message about a downtrodden community in the most unlikely place and the choices they have made. The idea that these residents, this community within this hell hole do not want the CDC, police or authorities to come in and tear this building down because it’s all they have left is sick and powerful. The great thing about the horror genre is that it gives filmmakers not only an emotional storytelling platform but the tools to create films that are a mirror reflection on the dark side of society and the human monster. Something that many people are on the inside and dare not want to confront but rather live though these characters and stories.
With that being said, the film is a lot of fun to watch! A bit methodical at the start but it does not take away from the overall sense of dread and tension. It is truly a portrait of horror happening to those in the building as the infection takes over on different levels and with different reactions. Just like any quality infection film (Mulberry Street, [REC} or 28 Days Weeks), it starts with one getting infected. Now please don’t think that the CONDEMED is a film on the level of the ones mentioned above. It falls somewhat short of that level but definitely has a wicked bite, smarts and a sickness to it that makes it really worth your time. Shot in a natural feeling light design, it creates a sense of claustrophobia, danger, uncertainty and an atmosphere that life at its lowest point for these residents. CONDEMNED has quality kills and some brutal action scenes with kick ass weapons and monster style characters including a crazy looking monstrous man called Bigfoot! One of the true strengths in this film, is not only the well casted group of talent that portrays some really despicable characters but the practical FX work and makeup that shows their transformation into realistic versions of demons and monsters within the tainted grounds of the building.
Hats off also to Gesner and crew also for the location scouting and set design. The transformation of the building within the dark corners of Manhattan becomes a character in itself, a haunted hell house! The apartment building’s façade has the appearance of being sick and infected that wants to grab you almost the first moment it appears on screen. In the end, the CONDEMNED is toss your popcorn horror and gore, blood soaked thrill ride! With some really great extras on the Blu-Ray and DVD through “RLJ Entertainment”, it will satisfy just about every type of horror fan out there. With opaque shades and ferocity similar to the [REC] franchise, turn off the lights, keep a weapon by you, pray and enjoy great indie horror film making in the depths of the twisted and sick nightmare haunted house film called the CONDEMNED. Pick it up on Blu-Ray and DVD right now or rent it on VOD.
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