Blu-ray Review: Eli Morgan Gesner’s Cheerfully Filthy CONDEMNED

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Condemned

Eli Morgan Gesner’s filthy body horror flick comes to Blu-ray.

Eli Morgan Gesner seems to be channeling another Eli, Roth that is, in his debut feature CONDEMNED. The film feels kind of like an urban riff on Roth’s breakthrough feature CABIN FEVER in that the villain of the piece is a kind of hyper-contagious disease that melts the flesh of its victims and drives them more than a bit mad. And yet there’s more to the movie than just that. Not much more…but more.

And although critics have been shredding the movie even more than the zombie-like lunatics shred human bodies, CONDEMNED is actually rather good; a skeezy black comedy that owes as much to the scatological squalor-porn of John Waters as it does to Roth as it does REC as it does to David Cronenberg, in particular DC’s 1975 apartment-from-hell horror flick SHIVERS. And while it haphazardly zips between Troma-esque gross-outs and serious drama with seemingly no science behind the formula, it’s that disorienting, schizophrenic nature that makes it so memorable.

Sean Penn’s daughter Dylan (wonder what dour Dad things about his baby’s choice in STREET TRASH-tinted star-vehicles?) stars as Maya, a wealthy girl who agrees to slum by moving in with her boyfriend (Ronen Rubenstein) in his revolting, bug-filled shithole in New York’s lower east side. Once she enters the squalid tenement, Gesner begins taking us on a tour of the various lowlifes who are packed into the other putrid units. We get a former model turned heroin addict, a beefy male fetish dom who makes his obese slave slop around in fecal matter and drink urine (it’s grosser than it sounds), a gigantic oaf and his tranny lover and other drug-addled, impoverished, addicted and uneducated white-trashers.

But when a particularly malevolent resident dumps a drug into the water system, those filthy fools who opt to wash or hydrate become infected with the aforementioned degenerative virus. First they act like meth addicts deep in psychosis, their vision turning whoever they see into (rather laughably) pixelized blobs. Then they start to physically melt and fall apart. Then they get homicidal.

I don’t think CONDEMNED is a very good horror movie but it is a rather amusing and cheerfully revolting downmarket exploitation film, armed with innovative production values that defy its obviously threadbare budget and a game cast that sells the sloppy shocks and scumbag vulgarity rather well. And the soundtrack is, well…amazing. Composed by Daniel Davies, who is the son of THE KINKS’ Ray Davies and the Godson of John Carpenter (and who also contributed to the Carpenter LOST THEMES album) and Sebastien Robertson, son of THE BAND’s Robbie Robertson, its dark bit of doom-laden electro that works.

Penn isn’t a revelation in her thankless role, but she is a solid screen presence and her beauty (her mom is Robin Wright ferchrissakes!) is magnetic, especially when she’s forced to navigate the shambling, bloody, fluid drenched locations of the film.
Now on Blu-ray, CONDEMNED won’t change your life but it is a lively bit a filth for sure…