'Condemned': Film Review

Condemed Still - H 2015
Courtesy of Paul Sarkis
Makes spoiled food seem appetizing by comparison.

A group of squatters in a dilapidated apartment building on NYC's Lower East Side becomes infected with a zombie-like virus in Eli Morgan Gesner's horror film.

Sporting a title that practically invites derisive comments, Eli Morgan Gesner's debut feature makes it hard for a film critic to resist by being one of the most egregiously awful horror films in recent memory. Concerning a ragtag group of squatters in a rundown building on NYC's Lower East Side (in real life it would have become a luxury condo by now), Condemned is strictly for those genre fans who find Troma films too subtle and sophisticated.

The film begins with rich girl Maya (Dylan Penn) eagerly accepting her boyfriend Dante's (Ronen Rubenstein) offer to move in with him when she gets upset over her parents' loud bickering.

Not the best move, as it turns out, since the building the unsubtly named Dante lives in is a virtual hellhole, a dilapidated house of horrors populated by junkies, hookers, drug dealers, misfits and degenerates. Of course, if this film had been made back in the '70s it would have been a documentary.

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After introducing such characters as the bulked-up, S&M-loving, neo-Nazi male couple; the diaper-wearing shut-in; and the aptly named Bigfoot and his transsexual hooker girlfriend, the film sets its plot, such as it is, in motion when a Heisenberg-like drug manufacturer introduces his by-products into the building's plumbing system. As a result, the residents become seriously infected with a zombie-like virus that produces the sort of gross deformities and body mutations that are the film's raison d'etre.

Not, as the folks at Seinfeld would say, that there's anything wrong with that. Good horror films have been built on far flimsier premises. But director/screenwriter Gesner fails to invest the proceedings with any wit, insight, relatable characters, interesting dialogue, genuine scares ... anything really, other than the opportunity for special effects/make-up artist Brian Spears and his colleagues to have a field day. Their imaginatively disgusting contributions are the highlight of the film, although walking in Greenwich Village's Halloween Parade would be equally rewarding.

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Lead actress Penn is the daughter of Sean Penn and Robin Wright, and while it's admirable that this genetically fortunate young actress is trying to make her own way in the industry, she really needs to consult with them more.

Production: Caliber Media Company

Cast: Dylan Penn, Ronen Rubenstein, Genevieve Hudson-Price, Lydia Hearst, Jon Abrahams, Honor Titus

Director/screenwriter: Eli Morgan Gesner

Producers: Jack Heller, Jason Sokoloff, Dallas Sonnier

Director of photography: Richard Henkels

Production designer: Rayna Savrosa

Editors: Aaron Crozier, Zach Wolf

Costume designer: Stacey Berman

Composers: Daniel A. Davies, Sebastian Robertson

Casting: Matthew Maisto

Not rated, 83 min.