The Condemned: Film Review

The Condemned Film Still - P 2012

The Condemned Film Still - P 2012

This undercooked thriller lacks the scares that its provocative set-up would seem to promise.

Roberto Buso-Garcia's psychological thriller concerns a young woman battling the ghosts of her father's past.

Atmosphere trumps genuine scares in The Condemned, a psychological thriller/ghost story from Puerto Rico that is unwisely being marketed as a horror film. Although directed in effectively creepy fashion by Roberto Buso-Garcia, the film’s leisurely pacing and overall restraint will likely leave genre fans dissatisfied even as its lack of depth will turn off art-house patrons.

Partly inspired by a real-life incident, the plot concerns the return of Ana (Christina Rodlo) to the small village of Rosales where she grew up. It was there that her elderly father (Axel Anderson), an American doctor, founded a free clinic for cancer research decades earlier and where he met her mother, who later committed suicide. 

With her father now dying, Ana is determined to honor his legacy, previously tainted by scandal, by converting their family’s mansion, now inhabited only by a devoted caretaker (Rene Monclova) into a museum commemorating his achievements. She quickly discovers that their presence is not only unwelcomed by the impoverished villagers, who treat them with undisguised hostility, but also by the apparently haunted house itself, with things, as they say, starting to go bump in the night. Eventually the dark secret behind the ominous goings-on is revealed in an inevitable climactic twist.

Although the film boasts fluid camerawork and atmospheric if monochromatic visuals, the narrative tedium and flat performances eventually induce a soporific effect. Director Buso-Garcia displays little affinity for the genre trappings that would elevate the contrived storyline, and the screenplay’s efforts to provide thematic echoes of the island’s colonial past merely feel strained. For all the undeniable ambition on display, The Condemned falls hopelessly flat.

Opens March 1 (Strand Releasing)

Cast: Cristina Rodlo, Rene Monclova, Axel Anderson, Rocky Venegas, Luz Odilea Font

Director: Roberto Buso-Garcia

Screenwriters: Roberto Buso-Garcia, Danielle Schleif, Luis R. Trelles

Producers: Adiela Marie, Roberto Buso-Garcia, Roy Chacko

Executive producers: Erica Motley, Ivan de Paz, Raul Rosado, Enrique Ubarri, Miguel Villafane

Director of photography: Pedro J. Villalon

Editor: David Franklin

Production designer: Luis Lopex-Baquero

Costume designer: Suzanne Krim

Composer: Angelica Negron

Not rated, 95 min.