Tenement (1985)
By: Mr Intolerance on September 18, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Media Blasters, USA. Region 1, NTSC. 4:3. English DD 2.0. 94 minutes
The Movie
Director: Roberta Findlay
Starring: Jorge Baqueiro, Mina Bern, Thomas Biscione, Walter Bryant, Paul Calderon, Corrine Chateau, Manuel Cotto, Angel David, Robert Masci
Screenplay: Joel Bender, Rick Marx
Music: William Fischer, Walter E. Sear
Country: USA
AKA: Game of Survival, Slaughter in the South Bronx
This is an enjoyably nasty piece of work. I do love 70s and early 80s exploitation films, and this film should make it patently obvious why. Part The Warriors, part Assault on Precinct 13, Tenement is all campy, violent fun.

Filmed on location in the South Bronx, and with a real gang member and the Police Commissioner's wife in the cast, Tenement is basically a revenge film where nobody is sympathetic, and where there are many sticky ends for many characters. Given an X rating by the MPAA, Tenement is not as violent as that kind of reputation would have you believe. I'm not saying it's not violent – it is quite nasty – but an X rating? That's a little overboard.

So, our gang get kicked out of their squat in the basement of a South Bronx tenement, having being ratted out by the building's superintendent. They're arrested, set free and go back for revenge on the lower middle class inhabitants responsible for their bust. As with Assault on Precinct 13, this is filmed documentary-style, with times superimposed on the screen every so often, trying to give an idea of verisimilitude.

Revenge aside, there's no real reason why the gang should want to take over the tenement (as the director herself admits in the commentary), so the fact of their doing so (again, like the gang in Assault on Precinct 13) is a bit unbelievable. Mind you, given the idea of a violent, positively psychotic gang mentality, I guess it kind of works. And so the carnage begins.

What's kind of interesting as the gang start to clear out the building methodically, floor by floor, is that nobody tries to stop them or help anybody else until they themselves are threatened. There's a whole "I don't want to get involved" clichéd New York mindset on display. In a literary sense, I was reminded of J.G. Ballard's novel High Rise, a novel you should read, if you haven't. There's a similar kind of brutality and self-interest on display.

Tension is built rather effectively – it's more than simply a bunch of bloody murders stuck together – although I can't say that you really care about the characters. It's partially due to bad acting, partially due to poor scripting; but the tension is still undeniably there.

The various set-pieces are low budget in terms of special effects (there's a crowbar through the chest that is rather embarrassing), but are generally well-executed and effective (the broom-handle rape is especially nasty), and work well. I guess that's where this film's reputation comes from. The various scenes of nastiness are gratuitous and fun (if that's the right word) – if you like ultra-violence, this is a film for you. Let's face it, Media Blasters don't skimp on the nasty.
About the best that could have been done with the original print. Good, but not great; a bit soft in places.
See above. The audio commentary with the director is sporadically interesting. Also, the title track is one of the worst hip-hop toons I've ever heard.
Extra Features
Well, there's the director commentary, which is passable, as these things go, as is the interview with director Roberta Findlay. There's also the original Trailer and TV spot, and a Slide Show, as well as Trailers for Blood Sisters, Duck!, Blood Feast 2: All You Can Eat, and New Barbarians.
The Verdict
Good, campy fun. Violent as all hell, and badly acted; a slice of exploitation fried gold. I think you're definitely gonna wanna move into the Tenement.
Movie Score
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