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Friday, September 28, 2012

Day 272: Mulberry Street

Mulberry Street
Where the streets have no names...well, except for all the ones that do

New York City is a great location for horror movies. Plenty of scary things happen there in the real world so it's only natural that horror films would fit in. Whether it's Cloverfield or Midnight Meat Train, or C.H.U.D., the city allows for all sorts of scary genres and subgenres. In a city where anybody can feel like a nobody, anything can happen. You can have large cataclysmic events or self-contained person terrors. In the case of Mulberry Street, you get both.

Mulberry Street is a 2007 “zombie” movie released by After Dark Films (Zombies Of Mass Destruction, The Deaths Of Ian Stone). The movie stars Nick Damici (World Trade Center, Stake Land) as Clutch, a retired boxer living in a shabby apartment on Mulberry Street in New York City. Clutch's daughter Casey (Kim Blair, The Look, The Mighty Macs) is a soldier returning home to New York from war, sporting fresh scars on her face from battle. Clutch is preparing for her return with his friend Coco, when strange news reports about rat attacks across the city start to come out. The building's super Ross is busy fixing all sorts of problems with the buildings when he is bitter by a diseased rat. Ross begins to slowly transform, first with coarse hair growing on his body and then facial mutations. Similar mutations occur across Manhattan as the city shuts down public transportation in hopes of containing the outbreak, which is transmitted through infected bites, from spreading. Waves of violent cannibal attacks stretch across the city as Casey tries to reach her father. Ross has now become a full-fledged zombie with Clutch and Coco fighting him off and locking him in a closet. At the same time, Clutch ventures out into the mayhem to find his neighbor, Kay (Bo Corre, Eldorado, Harrow Island) whom he has feelings for. He finds Kay at the bar she works at and the two fight off the infected people, who now resemble giant humanoid rats. Casey, who stole a car, manages to find her father, but Kay is grabbed by a zombie before they could save her. Quarantine is declared for the city with scientists and soldiers planning to come in and exterminate the infected. They make it back to the apartment and barricade themselves inside. Ross has escaped the closet and is crawling around the walls of the apartment. With the infected inside the walls and pounding at the door how will the tenants of Mulberry street survive?

"Oh, Lordy! Save me, Cheeseus!"

There's some debate online if this movie is officially a zombie movie or not since the infected are technically mutated rat people and not the undead. For all intensive purposes, Mulberry Street is most definitely a zombie movie. All the tropes are there: infection caused by a bite, mutation, cannibalism, loss of humanity, and swarms of mindless monsters chasing the uninfected. I mean, there's a scene straight out of Night Of The Living Dead where the mutants hands are coming through the door trying to grab Clutch and Casey. Just because one detail has been changed from typical zombie canon does not change what the movie is about. The story itself is fairly standard zombie fair, complete with chase scenes and bloody violence. The movie smartly uses New York City as the setting for the movie. The infection spreads incredibly fast (the events of the movie take place in just one day) and the quarantine makes sense, as Manhattan is an island. In all likelihood, it wouldn't have worked, but for the story, it's acceptable. If you've in a New York City subway station, you've seen the rats, so the basic concept is sound as well. Unfortunately, we never get a reason as to why the rat bites are changing people. It would have been nice to get some sort of clue just to add to the overall horror. Was it a chemical leak or nuclear waste? How about a comet hit the city? Just give me something to work with.

The lack of a reason, while not important to the story itself, does present another overall problem in the movie and that's a lack of social commentary. Like all good zombie movies, there needs to be a bigger overall meaning to the movie. While other zombie movies question human nature or our impact on the environment, Mulberry Street pretty much ignores all of this. I thought they might be building something with Casey, showing her post-traumatic stress from the war or hiding her scars, but nothing came from it. Even the ending was another lost opportunity, with soldiers coming to the apartment to kill the infected. It was a good chance to talk about government conspiracies or human nature, but again, we get nothing. I don't need to be preached at, believe me, but I need something more than just “mutant rat people overrun New York City”.

Mulberry Street is obviously a low budget horror movie as most of the movie is shot within the apartment and on public streets. The movie gets the most of it's actors thanks to good performances from everyone. On paper, the idea of Mulberry Street sounds silly, but it's actually a decent horror film. You can probably compare it to 28 Days Later in terms of fast chase scenes and frantic action. The violence is good with a fair amount of blood and gore. The mutated rat people look decent, though the camera never really focuses on them, so I can't really determine if the makeup and effects were great. My biggest issue with the movie is the grainy, low quality footage. Some scenes are perfectly clear, but it's when they venture outside of the apartment where the quality of the footage goes down the drain. The poor quality of the film makes multiple scenes extremely difficult to see what is happening. It's not an artist decision by the director, it's just a cheap camera and the rest of the movie suffers for it.

Seriously, did they smudge sand all over the camera when they shot this?

Mulberry Street is a decent zombie movie that tries to make the most out of a low budget. While the idea of mutant rat people running loose in New York City sounds worth of the SyFy channel, the movie is actually not as silly as it sounds. There is a good amount of action and violence with some nice suspense. The acting is what helps keep the movie from becoming ridiculous. The biggest problems in the movie come from the low quality of the film during certain scenes and the lack of social commentary. Mulberry Street has it's moments and with a bigger budget and a little more thought in the script, it could have been great.


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