Director: Roberta Findlay   
Jorge Baqueiro, Mina Bern, Thomas Biscione

After living and working in this world for many years, I still haven't been able to reach my absolutely, 100% perfect living situation. I don't believe I have ever mentioned before what living situation I would consider perfect for myself, so I will mention it now. I would like to live the life of luxury. For starters, all I ask is that I live in a humungous, fabulous, multi-room mansion. It would have a high wall all around it so I could keep all the riff-raff (such as those annoying grade school children selling stuff to raise money for their school - what about all of the money your school already got out of my tax dollars?) out of my reach. It would also have a gigantic Olympic-sized swimming pool that would be indoor, since I don't particularly like the idea of people seeing me close to undress. Another gigantic room in the mansion would be a screening room where I could screen movies on 35mm film (and yes, I would have a spare 70mm projector for movies in that format.) I would also have another home theater room, this one with a gigantic widescreen LCD television set, a Blu-Ray player for Blu-Ray movies and to enhance regular DVDs, a soft comfortable chair set in front of the television, and as many speakers as possible hooked up all around me to give me the best audio experience possible. As for the kitchen, I don't particularly care what it's like, as long as the top chefs I would hire would be able to whip up various tasty meals for me (you actually think I would still cook for myself?), and that there would be a large freezer that I would be able to stuff full of frozen pizzas.

I daydream about a lot of things, though I will admit that this dream about living this kind of luxurious life is one of the daydreams I drift to frequently when I'm in a daydreaming mood. If I were to be asked why this is one of my dreams, I think I would probably say it comes from having a lot of experiences where I was living in places that were unsatisfying for various reasons. The first such experience was when I was a child, and I had to share a room with my older brother. Actually, I had no problems with that... until it was time to go to sleep. Occasionally, my brother would breathe heavily when asleep (or maybe I just had sensitive ears.) In any case, those occasions made it hard to sleep, so I was glad when my parents constructed a new bedroom for my brother. Years later, I moved out of my parents' house and went to university. I roomed on campus for the first year, and I was glad to get out of there, because (among other things) the people in my building were obsessed with Star Trek: The Next Generation, and whenever it was on TV, the TV lounge on every floor of the building would be stuffed with students watching the show, and with my tastes being different, I would have to go without TV or sneak in another building to watch TV. Years later, out of university and into the working world, I moved into a room in a house holding several other tenants. It seemed like a good place at first, but I had problems with the other tenants. They would hog the bathroom for unbelievable amounts of time, and they would steal my food from the refrigerator (I had to seal my pizza boxes with packing tape so they would not steal any of my leftover slices.)

Now I live in the best place I have ever lived in. The bachelor suite that I live in is pretty spacious, giving me enough room to hold my incredibly large collection of rare movies. There's a laundry room in the building, and there is a common room on the top floor that has computers with high-speed Internet when I need to find something quickly, and its own free video collection for tenants that got around to watching several movies I had not got around to watching before, including the sleeper Eye Of The Needle. I'm not saying that it is a perfect place to live, however. Several months ago, the administrators of the building put up a note on the community bulletin board that they spotted on the security tapes a couple of people that had gotten into the building and subsequently started to case the place - obviously drug addicts looking to steal something for their habit. I made sure to keep my door locked at all times from that point on, though I'm still a little worried. There is a definite large criminal element (mostly at night) that hangs around not far from my building. I sometimes wonder what they could do if any more got the mind to get in, and I was especially thinking about this possibility when I watched Tenement. The setting of the movie, as you may have guessed, is in an urban area, the Bronx to be exact. In the basement of one rundown apartment building, a gang has set up headquarters. An annoyed tenant calls the police, who subsequently come and arrest the gang. But finding no evidence to hold the gang, the police let them go after several hours. The gang is angry about the arrest, so angry that they decide not just to get the tenant that called the police. The gang decides to go floor by floor and kill every last tenant of the building over the course of the night.

I feel I should mention that my expectations for Tenement were pretty high. I had heard several interesting things about it during the years, such as the fact that the level of violence in the movie had resulted in the movie being slapped with an X rating from the MPAA. The reviews I read of the movie seemed to support that this was some kind of ultraviolent classic (for example, one reviewer, quoted on the back of the DVD box, stated "My hand went flailing for the remote just to verify what I was witnessing by replaying the scene almost instantly.") After watching Tenement, I wondered if I had seen the same movie as those reviewers. Yes, there are a few scenes of somewhat intense violence, but while I guess I can see why the movie got an X rating (not just the fact that this was an independent movie), I honestly didn't find the movie overall to be as jam-packed with (intense) violence as those other reviewers did. Could it be because I have seen so much cinematic violence in other movies that I have become desensitized? Possibly. Anyway, I feel I should mention that even though some of my expectations were kind of let down, I still found Tenement to be pretty entertaining overall. That's not to say that I didn't have some problems with it, and I will go into some of these problems before I get to what works in the movie. The setup of the movie is pretty poor, for one thing. The arrest of the gang actually takes place in the movie's first few minutes, not giving us any real time to introduce them and illustrate why they are such bad guys that have supposedly been giving the tenants problems.

Around the eleven minute mark, the gang is let go from the police, but since the movie seems to realize it is still pretty early for the action to get started, the movie then takes a considerable amount of time showing the gang members hanging around the neighborhood while getting wasted, occasionally cutting to scenes in the apartment building with the tenants celebrating the arrest of the gang. None of this fleshes out any of these characters very much, and when the gang does finally get off their butts and starts terrorizing the building, they are all still pretty interchangeable with each other. It's not helped that they are given very little dialogue, the little that's there can be summed up with this sample line: "Get the f**k out of my f**king way, you f**king bitch! Get the f**k off!" Anyway, when the gang starts its violent rampage, the impact of their various acts is often lessened by the movie's painfully low budget. When they kill the dog of the building's blind tenant, they do it offscreen, and when the blind man finds his dog's corpse, we see it just as well as he does - not at all. When another tenant later spots the dead dog and screams, we still don't see it. To add insult to injury, when the dead dog returns later to the movie, it's shown completely covered with a bloody sheet. The low budget hurts the movie elsewhere as well. For example, during the rooftop climax of the movie, the issue of the leader of the gang is resolved with such a bad optical effect that my hand went to the remote, not to verify what I saw like that other reviewer, but to try and figure out just what exactly happened.

It didn't help that I didn't care that much for what was happening to the main bad guy; not much had been done to make him stand out from his fellow gang members with the script or direction, or even the actor (Enrique Sandino). However, when it came to the characters of the tenants, I did start to find some positive things. The tenants are a colorful bunch, not just with the blind tenant, but with a junkie, a prostitute, and a senior citizen among them. The actors playing them are generally good, with one standout played by Joe Lynn. Playing a reluctant-to-get-involved person, Lynn is very convincing as someone who finds himself leading the fight back despite himself. He doesn't play the part as all-knowing and wise, but as someone who depends on tricks he has learned through the years. His plans lead to some expected violence, but the real violence in Tenement comes from what the gang dishes out on the tenants several times. This violence is not presented in a way that most viewers will get a kick out of; there is a harshness to it. For example, in the rape scene, the director doesn't show nudity, but shows the victim's agony along with creepy leering shots of the gang. There are also several stabbings and slashings that I think are more real than those in other movies. While knife wounds in other movies show a little blood, in this movie there is blood everywhere in just a few seconds after the wound is made. While this particular X-rated violence may be nothing compared to a movie like Dead Alive, it does stick with you all the same, and it helps to make the movie, despite the poverty-row filming, never boring - though it does come close to this in the first 30 minutes. If the filmmakers spent more money (as well as time, developing the script), we might have had a great sleaze classic instead of the merely good movie we have now.

Check for availability on Amazon (DVD)

See also: Chopping Mall, Crawlspace, Prison