A scene from "The Condemned." (Handout )
A good idea for a ghost story is dead on arrival in "The Condemned," a would-be thriller whose intended horror-tinged chills register as ho-hum hokum. Set in a clunkily haunted house in Puerto Rico, where it's a sure bet that a doctor's long-buried secrets will out, the feature doesn't build foreboding — it telegraphs it, as if in very slow motion.
The camera creeps, along with the story of the Puttnams: Ana (Cristina Rodlo) and her dying father (the late Axel Anderson, in a mostly silent role). Their return to Puerto Rico, after years in Mexico, does not sit well with the locals, especially when they learn of Ana's plans to turn the family manse into a museum unto Dad, an American who apparently was both celebrated and reviled for his breakthroughs in cancer treatment. The surrounding town of Rosales, where the residents subsist in squalor, is already a kind of (barely) living monument to dark doings.
"There are houses that never forget," caretaker Cipriano (René Monclova) intones. But there's little to remember in director Roberto Busó-García's lackluster approach to potentially provocative ideas. Only Dolores Pedro, in the role of Dr. Puttnam's nurse, rises above the wan performance level to create a credible character, while matters of medical hubris, bigotry and colonialism just feel like a few more ingredients tossed into a bland stew of guilt, romance and spirits that won't rest.
"The Condemned." No MPAA rating; in Spanish with English subtitles. 1 hour, 31 minutes. At Laemmle's NoHo 7, North Hollywood.