Condemned isn’t quite the movie that I was pitched. People trapped inside a condemned building with zombies seemed like a pretty generic idea for a zombie flick. But what the Condemned actually delivers is actually far greater, with significantly less zombie though in my opinion. The zombie genre is incredibly broad, and so I have a hard time to argue against these being zombies. But if I had to compare them to a zombie style, thus far. I would compare them to the rage zombies from 28 weeks later. My personal view of zombies has always been tied more closely to Romero’s work and the Return of the Living Dead franchise. But that’s just me.
Condemned opens with rich girl Maya (Dylan Penn), hiding in her closet as her parents fight while on the phone with her boyfriend Dante (Ronen Rubinstein). Dante convinces Maya to run away to New York to live with him, which she does. After sneaking into a bar to watch his band play and meet some of his friends, Loki (Honor Titus) and Loki’s girlfriend Alexa (Genevieve Hudson-Price). After which they return to their apartment, which is located in a condemned building as they state that living in the city is simply too expensive. When the enter they building they’re greeted by Shynola (Anthony Chrisholm), along with some of the building’s other colorful occupants. Including but not limited to, a pair of junkies Tess (Lydia Hearst) and Vince (Jon Abrahams), Roxy (Kevin Smith Kirkwood) a transgender prostitute and her pimp Bigfoot (Jordan Gelber), a S&M fetish couple Gault (Johnny Messner) and Murphy (Michael DeMello), along with Cookie (Perry Yung) who runs a meth lab on the top floor. The next day Loki starts getting ill, manifesting a fever as well as boils, which at first is assumed to be chickenpox. Meanwhile Cookie gets a large order in and leaves the building to deliver, locking the building shut behind him, trapping everyone inside. Only to be run over a killed quickly by incompetent police officers who back over him. Loki’s condition continues to get worse eventually spinning out into violence. As it turns chemicals from Cookies meth-lab mix, various drugs, and diseased human waste have contaminated the building water supply creating a deadly disease. One that infects any that come into contact with the tap water as well those who come in contacted with the infected. Maybe, that last part is left a little unclear. One by one the building’s inhabitants succumb to the illness and spiral into violent paranoia. Until only Maya and Dante are left, trapped inside the condemned building with the insane infected…
I like that this is a departure in many ways from standard mindless zombies. As here the inhabitants of condemned building retain both their personalities and intelligence. Mostly and rather than blows to the heads killing them, any way you would normally kill a person works just fine for them. Though they do seem a little more resilient to damage, but mostly due to being so crazy. As their fight or flight responses have ratcheted up to extreme levels while being subject to severe hallucinations to the point where they can not longer differentiate between what’s real and what isn’t.
I also like the entire cast of characters, which why often play into stereotypes. Condemned does so, in what came off to me as more tongue in cheek, than as commentary. Tess and Vince being my favorite characters and Jon Abrahams does a wonderful job at being entertaining throughout. In fact, all of the residents are colorful and almost equally memorable. So much so that they often overshadow the film’s protagonists.
The gore in this film is also top-notch, for a B-Movie. Often bloody, but always gross from bursting boils to vomit Condemned does not pull any punches. So if you’re squeamish then this film might not be for you. That said, the vomiting and gross moments are often tinged with a dark humor that really lightens up the film’s overall tone and provides the need breaks in tension need to keep Condemned going at full speed.
Final thoughts, I loved this movie. It has a very cheap B-Movie vibe of horror done on a budget and is at times reminiscent of Troma. Though Condemned remains fixed on horror throughout, something lacking in Troma films. Overall this film is incredibly well done and I’m baffled at is constantly low rating. 8/10