Film Review: The Condemned

If you like psychological/supernatural thrillers that are relentlessly grim and creepy, this is recommended. Others who like their horror to be at least a little on the fun side may find this just numbing.

The oncologist father of Ana Puttnam (Cristina Rodio) is dying and she is determined to honor him before he goes. She travels to his hometown of Rosales with the intention of transforming their ancestral mansion into a museum of his achievements to counteract certain evil rumors circulated about his early career. But Ana is met by nothing but resistance and hostility from the destitute, depressed and largely aged populace. Everything seems to be pitted against her, and that includes the very house itself.

With The Condemned, director Roberto Busó-García crafts a methodically paced, ultra-grim paranormal tale that, while definitely creepy, isn’t much fun, as on the order of, say, Robert Wise’s The Haunting. It’s all so serious and devoid of even the perverse joy that a well-placed joke or two might add. The movie is filled with forbidding senior citizens (including a portentous blind woman), menacing estate employees, and ever-mysterious, ever-resonating past evils. It’s been filmed with a drab, limited color palette that only adds to the general dreariness, and when the big reveal comes, it is so very unpleasant, involving brutal medical experiments upon innocent children, that you just may want to push this cinematic plate of fare away from you, get up and leave.

Rodio is comely enough, but a tad on the glacial side, so you never really identify with or fear for her when that house starts acting up in a way that would make anyone with a smidgen of sense get the hell out. As the loyal yet also inscrutable family retainer, René Monclova is a famous Puerto Rican comedian but doesn’t get any chance to lighten things up. A definite cast standout is that aforementioned blind woman, played by veteran actress Luz Odilea Font with the kind of scarily intense, gargoyle commitment of Maria Ouspenskaya, who was always such a guilty pleasure as prescient old gypsies and malevolent hags.