Judge Paul Pritchard is a big man on Mulberry St.
There's Something Below Us Worse Than Hell.
Released as part of the "After Dark Horrorfest," an annual horror film festival dedicated to independent horror movies, Mulberry Street now finds itself released on DVD as one of the "8 Films To Die For."
Facts of the Case
Once again the streets of New York prove to be unsafe for its citizens as a threat from below causes panic. You see, for a long time we all thought the only thing to fear in the sewers below the big apple were killer alligators and C.H.U.D., but that's all changed now. A virus, spread via rats, is causing its victims to mutate into bloodthirsty creatures, who will attack the inhabitants of Manhattan with no remorse.
Mulberry Street focuses on the tenants of an old apartment block during the outbreak. Centring its attention on Clutch (Nick Damici), an ex-boxer and general good guy, he, along with friend Coco (Ron Brice) and other occupants, must do all they can to keep their building safe. While all this is going on, Clutch's daughter, Casey (Kim Blair), is heading home following her tour of Iraq. With the subway soon shutdown, following attacks from these rat-people, Casey must take to the streets and head towards the apparent safety of her father's apartment.
Mulberry Street is a zombie movie. Yes, it's true the evil masses in this film are actually rat-people, but truthfully, they're really only zombies following a style overhaul. As such, the film follows very similar paths to other zombie movies, but from the legendary works of George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead) to the lesser known works of Lucio Fulci (City of the Living Dead), director Jim Mickle, working on a solid screenplay co-written with Nick Damici, only takes from the best the zombie genre has to offer, meaning that the trash that litters the horror section of so many DVD stores is left well alone (I'm looking at you Zombie Nosh).
Cleverly using TV and radio bulletins to fill both the characters that populate Mulberry Street and the viewer in on the rapidly escalating crisis, the film sidesteps the need for expensive action sequences the filmmakers clearly didn't have the budget for. Reminiscent of a similar use of the media employed in the far more expensive Cloverfield, this technique helps create a sense of realism despite the bizarre happenings onscreen. The film takes a similarly minimalist approach when the time comes to actually reveal the rat-people. A smart mix of skilfully lit shots, fast cuts, handheld shots and some pretty decent makeup effects mean that Mulberry Street punches well above its weight.
But to think I rate Mulberry Street so highly due to what was achieved considering its small budget would be a misconception. At the end of the day, no matter what price is put on it, a piece of junk is still a piece of junk, and Mulberry Street is no piece of junk. The film shows far more creativity and skill than 90% of horror being produced today, and while it could never be called terrifying, Mulberry Street is at least able to generate a suitably dark atmosphere, contains a few shock moments and doesn't telegraph every plot development. Like all zombie movies, Mulberry Street uses its rat-zombie-creatures as a façade for more real fears, and from the property developers whose billboards reveal the threat to the old neighbourhood, to the obvious post 9-11 fears, the film clearly has its own targets.
The 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer is not going to impress many from a technical standpoint. Yet for all its shortcomings; grain, low detail and muted colours, the overall visual style adds to the atmosphere of dread the film strives for.
Lionsgate offer up a decent set of extras on the disc, nothing overly special but with some rat-people designs and visual effects work we at least get some sort of insight into what it took from the filmmakers to get their vision onscreen.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The film is not without its flaws. The characters are really only sketches of real people. We're never given enough to really invest in them, indeed a couple of characters who initially appear to be important to the story completely disappear once the action gets going. Even the characters that remain in the films focus throughout are never really given much depth. In reality this is the price that perhaps had to be paid in exchange for the films short running time. You get a great, fast paced, dark horror movie, but little to no character development. There's the rub.
Produced on a tight budget and filmed on the streets of New York without a permit, director Jim Mickle's take on the zombie genre stands apart from the vast majority of modern-day horror. Able to maintain a claustrophobic feeling when the film moves inside and a fear of the unknown when outside, Mulberry Street is a surprisingly effective little shocker that, though far from perfect, is never dull and well worth 84 minutes of anybody's time.
Mulberry Street is free to go and infest DVD collections worldwide.
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