A lot of the same stories get recycled over and over in horror / thriller films, and it's not always a recipe for failure. A film with an old story can work if there's something new to explore, or an interesting take is tried, or even if the same old thing is done exceptionally well. The Condemned a/k/a Los Condenados is not exactly a new take, and it's not an exceptional film, but it does well enough to deliver a few chills and compelling characters.
Ana Puttnam (Cristina Rodlo) returns back to her family home with her ailing father, world renowned cancer researcher Dr. Puttnam (Axel Anderson). Rumors have been swirling about ethical violations, and Ana wants to rebuild the good name of Dr. Puttnam and the Puttnam Foundation where it began, in the tiny village of Rosales, where her father's first research into childhood cancer was performed. This will also give her father the chance to convalesce from a severe stroke.
While the caretaker Santos (Rene Monclavo), her driver Victor (Rocky Venegas) and her assistant Valeria (Marise Alvarez) are all supportive and helpful, the people of the town are skeptical and unhelpful. They seem resentful of the Puttnams, even though the entire town, including their homes, belongs to the foundation, and they live rent free. Secrets abound, and much is left unspoken. Tension builds as strange occurrences begin at the house. Ana has installed a museum exhibit about her father's work, and it is trashed in the night. Strange figures walk the grounds and the sound of children's laughter is heard where no child walks. Revelations are made, and Ana fires more and more of her staff as they try to tell her the truth which she doesn't want to hear. What is the true story about her father's research in Rosales?
The tale is an old one. A crime which calls out to heaven for retribution refuses to stay buried, and the living feel the consequences. The Condemned does complicate this narrative with some new ideas and semi-interesting twists, but it's can't quite make the story compelling enough. The performances are all very good, with Ana and Santos' relationship the most subtle and impressive. All the minor players contribute their bit. There really isn't a line misread or a cue missed. The mood is set well, and the creepiness is maintained throughout, but none of this seems to be leading anywhere. The final twist, which is clever and unexpected, fails to quite accomplish the necessary emotional resolution. Everything seems to be just a few beats off, almost perfect but with an indefinable ingredient missing to be truly successful.
All in all, The Condemned is a good film, with plenty of atmosphere, a few effective jump scares, and a sense of disquiet that pervades. But it isn't a great film. All the well-executed pieces don't join up to make an exceptional whole. Recommended.
The video is 2.35:1 widescreen, and looks quite good. The image is bright and crisp, with warm colors. However, this review is based on a check disc, so no comment can be made on the quality of the final product.
Audio is Dolby digital 2 channel Spanish, and has no apparent problems. English subtitles which can't be turned off are included, but no alternate language track. However, this review is based on a check disc, so no comment can be made on the quality of the final product.
There are a few extras included. They are:
Original Theatrical Trailer
This comes in at 1:42, and is pretty decent and moody.
Playing With Fire â€" On the Set
This highlights a house fire stunt from the film, showing the stuntman preparing, and interviewing him afterward. It's fairly uneventful.
Making The Condemned
This is almost nineteen minutes long, and consists of behind the scenes footage, usually contrasted with the finished scene. It's mildly interesting, but there are no interviews with the cast or crew, which could have given insight and context for what was going on. Underwhelming.
Seven deleted scenes are included, with brief explanatory text and the reason that the scene was cut. This is actually quite interesting.
Other Strand Releasing Trailers
Trailers are included for Daniel and Ana, Carancho, White Elephant, Rage and Leap Year.
Please remember that this review is based on a check disc, so no comment can be made on the quantity or quality of extras on the final product.
The Condemned is professionally produced, very well acted, and generally impressive technically. However, the plotting can't quite seem to hold the audience's interest as it should, and the thrills are mostly muted. It's a pretty good entry into Spanish language horror, but not great. Check it out.