A group of squatters living in a condemned building fall victim to a mysterious virus that turns them into homicidal maniacs.
Have you ever seen a movie that sounded like it had potential to be awesome but when you watched it you were more than just a little let down? In a nutshell that pretty much sums up my feelings for Condemned. On paper the premise sounds all sorts of kick ass and I went into it expecting a fun little horror film along the same lines as REC/Quarantine or even Demons 2. I mean come on, you have a bunch of people trapped in an apartment building with no hope of escape while an ever-growing horde of insane murderers is stalking them and tearing them to pieces. Sounds like a great time, am I right? Yeah, I thought so too but unfortunately I was wrong. While Condemned isn’t as nearly as bad as some of the online reviews I ran across would have you believe it still isn’t anything special, which is unfortunate because I think that had it been handled properly it could have really been something great.
One of the biggest problems that I had with the film was the fact that there is just way too much build up. The pacing is more than a little off and it spends a lot (and I do mean a lot) of time introducing us to all the freaks, weirdoes, and assorted losers that live in the building. I think that there are just too many characters and some of them could have been taken out of the equation because many of them are just too much alike (hell, over half of them are interchangeable junkies that behave exactly the same way). It seems to take forever for things to get going and once they do the film is nearly over. After spending over half the movie focusing on the unlikable characters and hinting that some of them are infected with some sort of virus that makes them act weird we eventually get to a point where people start dying. Unfortunately it isn’t really worth the wait though as all the death scenes are quick and pretty much just crammed into the last half of the film (and none of them are really anything to write home about to be honest). To me it sort of felt like writer/director Eli Morgan Gesner forgot that he was writing a horror script until he was nearly done and then realized that he should throw in some blood and guts at the last second.
The tone of the movie was also really off. I don’t think it knows if it is supposed to be a horror film or a comedy as there are elements of both sprinkled throughout. Going by the blurb on the DVD it reads like a hardcore horror flick but it actually plays out like a horror/comedy at times. Most of the comedy just doesn’t work (the bit where one of the infected people goes on a rant about Sex in the City while she has a huge blade impaled in her head is painfully bad) and I don’t think that it should have been integrated into things at all because it hurts the movie more than it helps. I think it would have been a lot better film overall had it been a lot more serious as the humor feels very forced and really took me out of things. I don’t know if Gesner was going for a Gremlins-like tone or what but it just doesn’t work. The entire film is a little schizophrenic at times and I’m not exactly sure what the people behind it were trying to do. Is it supposed to be a horror film? A comedy? A horror comedy? I’m not certain, and I don’t really think that the people responsible for it knew either.
I also just didn’t really like any of the characters. The main character Maya is just sort of there and while she is nice to look at she really lacks any sort of personality (plus she obviously isn’t very bright as she runs away from a nice home to live with her loser boyfriend in a shithole abandoned building with a bunch of freaks and losers just because her parents bicker a lot. Honestly. That is her whole back story).Her boyfriend Dante is even worse as he has even less of a personality than she does and doesn’t see a thing wrong with living the way he does (why are these two a couple again? I have no idea). Aside from them the rest of the characters are pretty forgettable as well. In addition to the slew of drug addicts that I already mentioned we have a fat slob called Bigfoot that is apparently in a relationship with a transgendered prostitute (that also happens to be one of the many junkies that appears in this film), two guys that are really into S&M (one of them tortures the other one and makes him drink piss), some dude that won’t come out of his apartment for most of the movie (he finally does toward the end for about a minute but doesn’t do anything important), and a weird old guy that looks kind of like a demented George Jefferson (I still don’t quite get what the point of having him in the movie was). Needless to say I had a lot of trouble rooting for any of these characters and wasn’t too broken up when they eventually started getting killed off.
I wanted to like Condemned. I really did. I went into it with very high expectations because it sounded like something that I would really be into but walked away feeling pretty disappointed (and a little frustrated when I think about how good it could have been). It isn’t the worst film that I’ve seen in a while but I really don’t think that I could ever sit through it again. Check it out if it sounds like something that you might be into but keep in mind that you are most likely going to feel very underwhelmed after you watch it.