Tenement!

Slaughter In The South Bronx!

TENEMENT (1985)

TENEMENT is the tender tale of a rat infested slum in the South Bronx taken hostage by a crazed gang of junkie street punks. The tenement’s greasy and loathsome superintendent Hector finally gets fed up with the gang using the basement as their personal shooting gallery (in more ways than one) and calls the cops on them. The police show up and remove the gang from the tenement, and Hector and the rest of the tenants throw themselves a little party to celebrate.

Sadly, the good times don’t last long, as the gang is released only a few hours after being arrested. The leader of the gang, Chaco, swears bloody revenge on the apartment dwellers and vows to take “his building”  back. His plan of attack is simple: cut the phone lines, take over the building one floor at a time, and rape, torture, and terrorize every single tenant before violently killing them. The hapless and helpless tenants have no choice but to band together against the maniacs and fight for their lives. The building becomes a battlefield of madness and the game of survival begins. The game is played with knives, guns, drugs & sex… there can only be one winner!

TENEMENT (aka Game Of Survival) has the unique claim to fame of being the very first genre flick in the 80′s to repeatedly receive an X rating from the MPAA for excessive violence. The film was also denied a UK video release. The clas-sick tag line “Too violent to be rated!” was more than just hype, it was a fact! The film had to be released unrated, and I honestly can’t imagine watching it any other way and enjoying it. This has to be considered one of the most spectacularly gruesome exploitation flicks of all time. Chaco’s army arm themselves with machetes, knives, and guns, and the death scenes are always excessive and gory. The most notorious moment of the film has to be the incredibly vicious scene where a woman is raped to death with a broomstick. This nasty scene is especially disturbing because of how much the gang beats the woman before, during, and after the rape, and because the victim’s young daughter witnesses the bloody aftermath. For sheer brutality, this scene rivals anything else I can think of.

But there’s more! A seeing eye dog is gutted, a fat chick has her throat slit, a old Jewish lady runs around gingerly hitting punks with a baseball bat, a horny and insistent John gets impaled with a crowbar, a tubby Puerto Rican woman in purple pants falls out of a window, a gutter skank has blood lovingly smeared on her tits and later has a refrigerator dropped on her head, and the bug eyed guy who played “Cigar Face” in “The Toxic Avenger” overdoses on rat poison! WOW! This insanity all leads up to a spectacular thundershower showdown on the roof of the building between a pregnant woman and the leader of the gang that should make fans of sleazy and violent revenge flicks finally stand up and cheer.

This flick is a real crowd pleaser…if you can stomach the graphic violence and then endure the long stretches of the film where nothing really happens. I’m a big fan of this flick, and have enjoyed numerous viewings over the years, but I have to admit that it’s far from perfect. The biggest problem with the film is the fact that the pacing sucks. The scenes where the building is being taken over by the punks should always be riveting, but they often wind up feeling tedious. You’ll have a great death scene or two, and then a long meandering stretch of the gang trashing up empty apartments or worthless scenes with the tenants bickering with each other.

The tenants are the other big problem with the film. It’s almost impossible to feel sorry for them or cheer them on. It doesn’t help matters that the super is a vile, racist alcoholic, and that his tenants are an odd assortment of feeble old ladies, drunks, cheap prostitutes and their strung out boyfriends, and a gaggle of welfare moms and their bastard offspring. They spend the majority of the film incessantly arguing with each other or pathetically begging “Mr. Washington” to help them. Mr. Washington (actor Joe Lynn) is our angry, loner hero who also happens to live in the tenement and plays a mean saxophone. He’s a big Black bad ass in the proud Fred Williamson tradition. Mr. Washington eventually rallies the troops and saves the day, despite the fact he really doesn’t want to…and I really can’t blame him. I actually find myself rooting for Chaco, but only because he slightly resembles Steve Perry from Journey. Speaking of music, the theme song for this one is a rap number by the Kool Krew that is pretty much the dopest thing ever recorded! Any complaints about this flick are instantly made irrelevant by that kick ass theme song. It’s also worth mentioning that the film’s one-sheet poster was drawn by none other than John Fasano of “Rock ‘n’Roll Nightmare” legend! That little factoid alone makes this flick Brain Hammer approved.

The fine fiends at Shriek Show were sick enough to release TENEMENT uncut on dvd. The special features include a very entertaining interview and director’s commentary with Roberta Findlay. Roberta is a fucking blast to listen to here as she claims the script reminded her of her childhood! She tells incredible stories about discovering a dead bear and assorted human remains while shooting the film in the South Bronx! Good gritty, gory fun! I can’t recommend this one highly enough. You can also find TENEMENT included in Shriek Show’s “Grindhouse Psychos!” triple feature set along with “Cop Killers” and another personal favorite of mine – “Don’t Go In The House.” Essential exploitation and a must have in any respectable scumbag’s collection.

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

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