Monday, January 31, 2011

#178. Tenement (1985)

DVD Synopsis: This is the story of a South Bronx apartment building taken hostage by a gang of crazed, junkie punks.  After witnessing the miscreants shooting up heroin and lunching on rats they killed with loaded .357s, apartment dweller Hector gets fed up and turns in the band of basement squatting junkies. The police arrest them, but justice does not prevail. A few hours after their release, the gang returns with only one thing in mind: revenge! Their plan is simple: take over the building, terrorize, maim, torture and kill every tenant, one floor at a time.

As a way of setting the stage for what's to come, the opening credits of Tenement play out over a montage of rat-infested street corners, trash-filled alleys, and a gang of young hoodlums doing drugs in the basement of a tenement building. 

Based on these initial images, it's safe to assume that we're about to enter a bad area, and once the credits end, we learn just how bad it truly is (which, it turns out, is worse than we could have ever imagined). 

Tenement is a rough, raging exploitation film, filled with violent characters doing unspeakable things to one another. As the movie begins, the basement thugs from the opening credits are being hauled off to jail. The residents of the tenement celebrate the fact that these delinquents will no longer be around to terrorize them. 

But their celebration is short-lived. 

The police release the gang after holding them for only a few hours, and when their leader (Angel David) vows revenge on the building's tenants, it brings about a night of violence and murder that no one will soon forget. 

Tenement contains a number of shocking scenes, such as the rape of a young mother (Rhetta Hughes), who, after stabbing one of her attackers in the eye with a pair of scissors, is subsequently murdered in a very savage manner. She won't be the last tenant to meet a violent end, but with their backs pushed squarely against the wall, the remaining tenants eventually turn the tables on their attackers, and dispatch some bloody vengeance of their own. 

As I was watching Tenement, words like “intense”, “ferocious”, and “savage” kept popping into my head; this is as raw an exploitation film as I've ever seen. It's not a well-acted movie, nor is the dialogue particularly memorable, but what Tenement lacks in the finer points of filmmaking, it more than makes up for with some truly ballsy scenes.

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