Maya (Dylan Penn) is a well off girl who lives with her parents on the nice side of town. The problem is her parents are constantly fighting and she can’t stand it. To get away she moves in with her boyfriend Dante (Ronen Rubinstein). On the surface this seems like a good idea but once Maya arrives to Dante’s home she learns that he lives in an abandon apartment complex in New York City that the city has deemed condemned. Dante shares this apartment with his best friend Loki (Honor Titus) and his girlfriend Alexa (Genevieve Hudson-Price).
As Dante leads Maya to their new home together we meet the group of weirdos sharing the rundown building. You’ve got the old grumpy man who has lived in the apartment his whole life, a couple of junkies that will do anything for a fix, a large Jewish man named Big Foot who lives with his girlfriend who he also pimps out, a gay couple who look like a pair of WWE wrestlers and are into humiliation and Hitler and of course a drug dealer named Cookie who dreams of being with a pop star.
For the most part the apartment building is functional despite its condemned status. There’s running water, electricity and the toilets sort of work. All things considered it’s not too bad. But after everyone’s waste continues to funnel into the non-working sewer system things begin to build up. Eventually Cookie dumps some orange, presumably toxic, waste down the toilet and it mixes with everything else down there. This then pollutes the water and anyone who comes in contact with it begins to vomit and get disgusting boils that pop up everywhere on their body. Before too long the toxic mixture drives everyone angry and they begin to attack one another.
This is of course the plot of the new film Condemned, from writer/director Eli Morgan Gesner. The film has some ideas that I kind of like. I love being confined to one location and a giant run-down apartment building in the middle of New York City is a pretty terrific location. Sadly I can’t really say I liked the movie.
I assume the intent of the film is to gross you and just make you feel filthy in general. In that sense I’d have to say it’s a success. This movie is really disgusting. The boils people get grow to a rather large size and when they pop they release a greenish-yellowish goop that looks to be extremely sticky. Mix that in with a fair amount of projectile vomit and blood and you’ve got one big mess! There were a few moments that kind of reminded me of Street Trash, which is a good thing.
Unfortunately there were only a few moments that brought Street Trash to mind. The majority of the time I couldn’t help but think of the more recent Septic Man. Any time a movie makes you recall Septic Man, that’s bad. What I mean when I say that is that the film just feels gross to be gross and is in general kind of boring. It’s not really entertaining or all that fun. I think too much time was spent trying to up the level of nastiness and not enough time was spent on developing characters. You have all these different characters that could be interesting but they all come across as lazily written clichés. And most are far too over the top.
This might be nitpicking, but one thing that really bugged me was the character of Loki and his guitar. Loki wants to be a rock star and his most prized possession is a bass guitar he owns. At least it’s supposed to be a bass guitar. Multiple times Loki claims that his bass is a Gene Simmons edition bass, one of only 175 that were ever made. This is supposed to be like the axe bass that Simmons made famous. The problem is what Loki has is clearly a guitar. Now maybe it’s just because I played bass for a bit, but this is extremely annoying to me. Actually get it right and get him a bass or just say it’s a guitar. There is a huge difference between the two instruments. If Loki is as in to music as we are to believe, he would most certainly know that what he has is actually a guitar and not a bass.
Condemned also features a lot of what I would call music video style editing. Occasionally this can work in a narrative film but more often than not I find it to be distracting. I’m not sure if Gesner has ever done any music videos but his previous film is a documentary on skateboarding and hip hop so that may explain this approach. Hopefully he moves away from that on future narrative stories he may tell.
Condemned has its moments, particularly those when it seems to channel Street Trash. The majority of the film, however, feels a bit lost and struggling to find its way. A couple of re-writes to add a little more depth to a few of the characters would have gone a long way. I can’t say this film is for me, but I’m sure there are some out there that will dig it.
Condemned is out now on Blu-ray from Image Entertainment.