A South Bronx gang rape and kill the residents of an isolated tenement. The tables turn and the surviving residents viciously despatch the gang. There is a gruesome scene depicting the repeated stabbing of the leader with a TV aerial followed by a lightning strike for good measure. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
If one were to crown Roberta Findlay's best film, I think TENEMENT would be it. A variation of "people trapped in the house" genre, TENEMENT takes place in a run down building, all in one day with Findlay keeping the tension going with on screen titles giving the time (and sometimes even the apartment levels). This helps as the gang ruthlessly tries to make its way up to the tenants.
The gang is, as most gangs in films were during this time period, cinematic-ally goofy. It is a multi-ethnic gang dressed to the hilt in chains and leather. Findlay admits on the DVD audio commentary that during filming she encountered many real gangs in the Bronx and subsequently found out that her vision of gangs "wasn't very realistic." Regardless, the cast, comprised of mostly unknown but professional actors, is very convincing. Both Sam (Joe Lynn) and Chaco (Enrique Sandino), the leaders of the good guys and bad guys respectively, are given very strong portrayals by the actors. An interesting bit of trivia, TENEMENT marks the film debut of Paul Calderon, a recognizable character actor who went on to be in a wide range of stuff from PULP FICTION to LAW & ORDER.
One of the multiple films in the mid-80s urban warfare genre, TENEMENT is perhaps the sleaziest of the bunch. Director Findlay goes for the throat in terms of the violence, featuring brutal rapes, stabbings, throat slicing, animal mayhem and castration. It created a cumulative effect so strong that the film was award an X rating by the MPAA (interestingly, so was the gang war epic DEATH WISH 3 at the time, but it was reversed on appeal).
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