Starring: Dylan Penn, Ronen Rubenstein, Honor Titus, Lydia Hearst, and Genevieve Hudson-Price.
Synopsis: (via Netflix) Runaway rich girl Maya flees into the arms of her boyfriend Dante, who’s squatting in a decaying urban danger zone overcome by a zombie virus.
Zombie Reviews . . . Condemned
By A. Zombie
Well, this one is a bit different. I went in expecting an established zombie apocalypse scenario. Instead we get a rather unique approach to the zombie origin story. While, yes, this is foremost Maya’s story about getting away from her horrifically dysfunctional household in order to strike out on her own with someone she feels she can trust, the film is at its roots a graphic cautionary tale about drugs and chemical lab safety procedures.
Always, always dispose of illicit drug lab waste properly, lest you bring on Armageddon.
The script isn’t earth-shattering beyond the unique creation story—one which I’d certainly never considered before, and applaud the writer on thinking outside the box in a genre which has been bogged down by Romero and TWD fanfics for too long. That being said, the dialog is often clumsy, or leans heavily on stereotype jargon—like Gault’s dom-heavy dialog, especially in the scene where he randomly corners and belittles Maya about garbage etiquette in their dilapidated, condemned eyesore. Surprisingly, there are personal stories for each building tenant, except for one poor guy who spends the entire film too ill to leave his apartment, let alone participate in the aggressive, murderous side-effects of exposure to the chemical fumes. But like the dialog, there’s quite a bit borrowed from the Lazy Writer’s Guide to Messed Up Characters.
Special effects crews worked overtime on the late-stage infection looks and sight gags. It’s safe to say, most of the production’s focus landed on the last half an hour of pure blood-drenched action. They really dug in, going for the most disgusting things they could think of, within only a slim semblance of reason—again, my mind wanders to that poor guy who never left his apartment and I can’t help but shudder. There’s no formula for the zombie look, since the method of exposure is so unique. But for the most part, they just start rotting, their mind as well. The mixture of real violence and hallucinated violence pushed the final act right over the cliff.
Better yet, that final act actually kept me on the edge of my seat—something which hasn’t happened at all during the last few films I’m reviewed. The tension is beautifully stretched by characters like Roxy, who easily stole the scene anytime she showed up. Roxy’s story is one of few which get some serious on-screen time. Unfortunately, her role is constantly victimized to the point of ridiculous, and all to perpetuate an ugly stereotype. The script failed Roxy. The actor salvaged what they could to deliver a stellar performance. Combine the few standout actors with the locked building thriller vibe and the last act just works. But, boy, you have to sit through some weird dialog and character choices, first. No one in the building is sane before the chemical fumes, after they are a million times worse. Watching Gault and Murphy’s slow decline is probably the most uncomfortable because it feels like an S&M tourist tried, and failed, to write a comprehensive depiction of the live-in BDSM lifestyle.
This film wraps with open-ended possibilities for the universe, my favorite. It alludes to government officials stepping in to cope, which as genre fans know is a signal that things will only get worse from then on out—governments always try to weaponize something they shouldn’t. Maya’s final scene is intense, intentionally misleading, and perfectly caps the bloody final act.
Condemned could have a higher rating, but for heavy-handed use of several unfortunate stereotypes, I’m only giving it 3 bursting eyeballs out of 5.