Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
The Condemned: The House of the Spirits
worst crimes are always committed by altruists, but Ana Puttnam knows her oncologist
father is different. She has returned to
his home town in hopes of restoring his reputation while he is still alive. However, something or someone in their
ancestral home begs to differ in Roberto Busó-García’s supernatural drama The Condemned (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
incapacitated, Dr. Puttnam (with two t’s) is not long for this earth. His daughter has brought him back to their
stately manor house in Rosales, Puerto Rico, where it all began, to establish a
museum dedicated to his philanthropic work.
It was here that he established his first free cancer clinic for the
poor. However, he has also been dogged
by scandalous rumors regarding his early career. She was hoping the villagers would rally to
his defense, but nobody seems to want to get involved. As she presses on, strange things start
happening in the house. The planned exhibitions
are a particular focus of the mysterious venting.
two people in Rosales are happy to see the Puttnams return. One is the loyal family retainer
Cipriano. The other is the new chauffeur,
the one villager willing to present himself for prospective employment. Each has their reasons for their interest in
the Puttnam family. Likewise, they are
both uneasy with Ana’s plans to revive the family’s big Christmas soiree for
the townsfolk. At least she will get
some use out of her mother’s old crystal chandelier tree.
is hard to decide whether The Condemned is
really intended as horror film or more of an uncanny morality tale. There is one gruesome death, but it is rather
out of place, leading one to wonder if it was a cast-member request Busó-García
obliged. Aside from a handful of shocking
moments, it is more about creeping dread and the corrupting influence of the
past on the present—almost more Tennessee Williams than H.P. Lovecraft.
Busó-García and production designer Suzanne Krim’s team crafted quite a gothic
setting. That chandelier tree becomes the
indelible image of the film, but the rest of the house is quite atmospheric
too. Frankly, Busó-García’s deliberate
genre coyness deftly keeps viewers off-balance and unlikely to anticipate the
third act revelation.
and photogenic, Cristina Rodlo is surprisingly engaging as Ana Puttnam,
completely avoiding any scream queen theatrics or manipulations. Her work holds up, even as the audience’s
perspective shifts. Popular Puerto Rican
comic actor René Monclova is also suitably earnest yet appropriately mysterious
Visually, one can see the influence of the
Spanish horror movie renaissance on The
Condemned, but Busó-García tells his tale with restraint. While it is certainly slow by the genre
standards that may or may not apply, it all more or less comes together at the
end. Recommended for those who enjoy
their paranormal fare on the cerebral side, The
Condemned opens this Friday (3/1) in New York at the Quad Cinema.
Labels: Ghost movies, Puerto Rican Cinema