The sort of Z-grade oddity Troma used to churn out for a faithful audience, the all-too-aptly-titled “Condemned” won’t find the cult following it desperately craves in today’s crowded marketplace. This proudly repulsive pic often feels like a student filmmaker’s audition reel for a “Saw” sequel, though the ample blood and guts on display stems from a viral outbreak rather than torture. Lacking any discernible selling points, the Nov. 13 day-and-date theatrical and digital release will go largely unnoticed.
The paper-thin plot involves a spoiled young New Yorker (Dylan Penn, daughter of Sean and Robin Wright) running away from home to shack up with her lowlife b.f. (Ronen Rubinstein) in a condemned apartment building on the Lower East Side. The various residents include drug addicts, fetishists and shut-ins, and soon enough everyone is infected with a virus that leads to bodies covered by boils and mind-altering hallucinations. Cue the carnage.
Writer-director Eli Morgan Gesner (a clothing designer and skateboarder who previously helmed the skateboarding and hip-hop doc “Concrete Jungle”) could have milked the premise for gleeful counterculture exploitation (like a 21st-century “Basket Case”) or campy John Waters-style gross-out comedy, but settles for mean-spirited banality. There’s a vague sense that “Condemned” aims to be a lament for a grimier, bygone era of urban living — which surfaces explicitly in an acid-dripped monologue that co-star Lydia Hearst (daughter of Patty) levels at Penn’s bland heroine as a knife sticks out of her eye — but it’s hard to be charitable about Gesner’s intentions while his contemptible characters are successively obliterated for cheap laughs.
From the hyperactive camerawork to muddled sound design, tech credits are (perhaps appropriately) low-rent, though Brian Spears’ revolting special makeup effects would fit in nicely in a superior production.
In a coincidence that surely means nothing to anyone, the pic arrives a mere week after the opening of cheapie action sequel “The Condemned 2.”