Dylan Penn’s first starring role in this bloody fight for survival
A condemned apartment building in New York City becomes the site of a bloody massacre in Condemned. Eli Morgan Gesner’s horror film is probably most notable for its lead actress, Dylan Penn. She is the daughter of Hollywood star Sean Penn in her first starring role.
This is a gory bloodfest about toxic fumes turning the building’s various junkies and degenerates into homicidal maniacs with rotting flesh. Despite a deep cast of eccentric and bizarre characters, the thin plot takes too long to get going in this predictable horror movie. Gorehounds may enjoy its atmosphere but others will likely grow bored by the final act.
Maya (Dylan Penn) is a spoiled rich girl that runs away from home and her wealthy parents. She takes up with her rather nondescript boyfriend in New York City, Dante (Ronen Rubenstein). For a film with such a deep roster of bizarre characters, the lead couple stick out like sore thumbs as bland protagonists with their movie star looks. Dante is a struggling musician squatting in a condemned apartment building with his friend, Loki (Honor Titus).
Condemned since the 1980s, it is home to an eclectic cast of squatters all living on the fringes of society. The residents include junkies, meth heads, drug dealers and prostitutes. However implausible this scenario sounds, throwing upper middle class Maya into a setting like this one is a recipe for disaster.
The low-budget movie isn’t really let down by its cast…
The low-budget movie isn’t really let down by its cast…
The building has been kept working in some fashion by an elderly superintendent that never left, Shynola. After a first act that introduces us to the “colorful” neighbors, everyone begins to turn on each other after being exposed to noxious fumes from chemical waste. One of the neighbors is Cookie, an Asian chemist that cooks up drugs in his apartment and sells them inside fortune cookies. The toxic byproducts from his drugs begin to turn the trapped people into raving lunatics. The residents begin to see hallucinations and suffering from oozing pus on their skin. They develop murderous impulses against anyone they come in contact with. Maya and Dante struggle to survive as murder and mayhem now rule the day.
Condemned spends too much time introducing us to each eccentric resident. Eli Morgan Gesner delights in showing us the grotesque living conditions of each resident, from the large Jewish man known as Bigfoot living with his transvestite lover to Tess, a burnt-out model-turned-junkie.
Running a fairly brief 83 minutes even with a surprise post-credits scene, the thin premise ultimately proves tedious. The low-budget movie isn’t really let down by its cast, which does include names like Johnny Messner and Jon Abrahams. No, the gory premise offers no surprises or real tension once the audience realizes what is happening. Condemned has something to offer in its simple story but relies on shock value far too much in its character development.
Image Entertainment presents Condemned in decent Blu-ray video. Filmed with the RED Epic digital camera, the low-budget movie has fairly standard definition and sharpness. A mildly flat color palette is dominated at times by skewed colors, ranging from red tints to sickly green. This is a fine presentation of modern video limited by time and money from the production source. Its clean picture quality with average clarity won’t win awards but is certainly enjoyable enough for horror fans.
The 83-minute main feature is encoded in AVC on a BD-50 and presented in Condemned’s presumably correct aspect ratio, 1.78:1. Some banding and posterization creep into the video encode, noticeably in darker scenes.
Like most cheaper digital productions, erratic black levels vary from dull to mildly crushed. Shadow delineation tends to lack the density and depth of more expensive fare. The flat contrast offers a less than vivid experience. The transfer hasn’t been overly processed but this is not cinematography aiming for maximum detail. Medium-range shots are on the soft side for a new digital production.
Condemned comes equipped with a rather stout 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack. The immersive audio has a great surround presence. Its active design is backed with open dynamics and strong bass output. The low-budget film has a big audio presence that works nicely. This is a strongly discrete mix with excellent fidelity and fine foley work.
Optional English SDH subtitles are included by Image. They display in a white font.
Included with the review copy is a cool set of Condemned trading cards. I am unsure if all retail copies will include them but the set of 13 trading cards features details on each character that weren’t mentioned in the film itself.
Cast Interviews (16:56 in HD) – A series of questions are posed to several cast members, including how they first heard of the project and working with director Eli Morgan Gesner. Much less formal than the stuffy answers given on studio movies’ EPK material, the cast are entirely honest and straightforward with their replies.
Cast Table Reading (97:39 in HD) – I’ve never seen a complete table read of a movie included before as a special feature. This is the entire cast and director reading through the entire script around a table. Interestingly enough, a different actress than Lydia Heard read for the part of Tess. This is a unique look into the creative process behind most productions.
Entertainment Tonight Canada On-Set Interview with Dylan Penn (02:20 in HD) – A segment from the show interviewing Dylan Penn about dealing with famous parents in the business and her comfort with doing nudity.
Live Audience Commentary – I would recommend skipping this “commentary” almost entirely. Supposedly the live audience from a theater on 42nd Street, a rough audience likes throwing quips at the movie and characters. Which might have turned out more fun if the audience was funny in any way. Another problem is that this commentary has been poorly mixed. The movie’s regular audio almost drowns out the live audience’s comments. An almost worthless special feature.
Image Trailers – The following trailers precede the main menu: Some Kind of Hate (01:59 in HD), Bone Tomahawk (02:37 in HD), Dark Was the Night (01:51 in HD)
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Click on the images below for full resolution screenshots taken directly from the Blu-ray. The images have not been altered in any way during the process.