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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 22.22%
Average: 11.11%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 3 user ratings

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Mulberry Street
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by Jay Seaver

5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2007 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: There are certain elements of a good horror movie (of a certain type) that don't necessarily come as easily as expected: The slow build, the characters we genuinely care about, the sense that there may be nothing that can be done. "Mulberry Street" has all that and more; it's got something to say on other subjects without getting away from the rat-borne plague.

The day starts off with a certain amount of potential - former boxer Clutch (Nick Damici) is expecting his daughter Casey (Kim Blair) home after her tour in Iraq. Of course, while he prepares for her return, he's awkwardly dealing with the attentions of a still-attractive single mother (Bo Corre) and engaging in idle chit-chat with his neighbors about how they'll all probably be out soon because the city has used eminent domain to seize the building for a developer, which is also one of the lead stories on the local news, at least for a while. Then there's a nasty rat attack on the subway, and another, and the victims are acting strange. Soon Manhattan is being cut off from the rest of the city, the building's super has been bitten by an unusually large rat, and while the Mulberry Street residents are trying to lock things down, Casey is trying to get home through an unusually quiet and dangerous city.

The screenplay by star Nick Damici and director Jim Mickle is a thing of well-measured beauty and attention to detail. Native New Yorkers, for instance, will appreciate that Casey's journey home has fairly accurate geography. This may not matter to 99% of the film's prospective audience, but it lets the people who do know such things play along a bit, and rather than taking them out of the movie even a little bit, it enhances the suspense, as they know how far she has to go and what obstacles may be in her path. There's also a certain subtext to her journey home, in that every veteran finds what was once familiar somewhat alien after having been through combat. It's also not hard to connect the dots between the rats destroying the heart of the city and its most vulnerable residents from within and the developers about to displace these characters - not to mention the nasty double meaning of the development's (and movie's) tagline of "The Neighborhood Is Changing". It's tough to miss parallels to New Orleans at how characters assume the government will do something, but they remain invisible.

These aren't perfect metaphors, of course, and they shouldn't be, necessarily. Mickle and Damici aren't looking to preach, so you certainly won't hear any of the characters making these parallels. It's just there for the audience to reflect on later. What they are trying to do is get us to a position where we know and like these characters and then put them through the wringer. That, they're good at: We're given a group of people who are down on their luck to begin with but with ample experience in getting through and making the best of it, and the film has them much more likely to come together and help each other than fight amongst themselves.

Mickle and company are working on a shoestring budget, so there's not there wasn't a lot of money for big action scenes or extensive make-up work. They do a remarkably good job ratcheting the tension with radio and television reports, and apparently using available light to build claustrophobia and potentially hide any shortcomings in the make-up work. The make-up itself isn't bad; Adam Morrow's design suggests people obtaining some rat-like characteristics but never crosses the line to the point of seeming silly; the gore effects when people and rats start gnawing on each other are suitably nasty. And, most importantly, Mickle & Damaci are willing to kill just about anyone at any time.

Those folks are played by fairly unknown New York actors. Damaci wrote the lead role for himself, and he makes Clutch tough and resilient in a low-key manner. It's never said outright, but it's made fairly clear that he and the character Ron Brice plays are a couple, and it adds an interesting layer of awkwardness when he and Bo Corre are in a scene together. Kim Blair is pretty fantastic as Casey; she's scarred in more ways than the physical, but she never comes across as timid or gung-ho. These are folks who are good to have at your back.

By the time "Mulberry Street" ends, we've had a pretty good run of thrills from the creepy to darn-near apocalyptic, and they aren't hollow ones, either. That's a pretty spiffy accomplishment.

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originally posted: 07/19/07 13:57:59
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Fantasia Film Festiva For more in the 2007 Fantasia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 After Dark Horrorfest For more in the 2007 After Dark Horrorfest series, click here.

User Comments

3/23/08 AJ Muller Best low budget horror flick I've seen in awhile; solid on all levels. 4 stars
11/18/07 Ole Man Bourbon Well-done for the most part, but it is just another zombie movie at the end of the day. 3 stars
11/11/07 Brian Mckay Effective low-budget zombie thriller. Better than 28 Weeks Later. 4 stars
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  DVD: 18-Mar-2008



Directed by
  Jim Mickle

Written by
  Nick Damici
  Jim Mickle

  Debbie Rochon
  Lou Torres
  Larry Fessenden
  Tim House

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