I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Mulberry Street

tn_mulberrystreetMULBERRY STREET is a low budget horror indie with a completely unique feel. It’s basically another zombie outbreak movie, but none of it takes place on farms, in fields, on country roads, in abandoned factories or military bases. No, it takes place right in the middle of Manhattan, focusing on the diverse residents of one small apartment building. This particular zombie problem disproportionately affects the poor because the infection comes from rats. People get bit and then they act weird and sometimes they start to grow hair on the top of their ears, and their teeth, uh…

Well, they turn into rat people. Okay, I don’t like that part. But I was able to forgive it.

Before I scare you off, let me tell you what inspired me to rent it: it’s the feature debut of Jim Mickle, who directed COLD IN JULY. And I actually didn’t realize this, but the lead is Nick Damici, who is his co-writer and also appears in his movies STAKE LAND, WE ARE WHAT WE ARE and COLD IN JULY.

Damici plays Clutch, who’s introduced jogging and is later seen shadowboxing, so I think he’s an ex-boxer trying to stay in shape.  He seems to be quiet and well-liked, especially by Kay (Bo Corre), the single mother who lives upstairs. She invites him in for coffee, but he awkwardly declines. I think he’s bashful about it because he’s a widower, but I’m kind of confused as to his relationship with another neighbor, Coco (Ron Brice, FRESH, CLOCKERS), who is gay and possessive of him and seems to have helped raise his daughter Casey (Kim Blair). That’s okay, it’s none of my business.

mp_mulberrystreetCasey is a soldier who has been in Afghanistan, and is coming home today. This could just be an explanation of later fighting skills, but Mickle’s interest is in the trouble she has coming back, having been away from her country and her dad for so long, not knowing how to handle strangers thanking her for her service, let alone people who have the luxury of being happy and superficial in her presence. And then she gets self conscious when she sees them looking at her facial scars.

The subways close down because of rat attacks, so she’s on foot (and then bicycle) trying to get home during the disaster.

Most horror movies take place in rural or suburban areas. If they’re in a city, often times they need to portray it as a hellhole terrorized by roving gangs and muggers. It’s rare to see one with this urban sense of community. On his jog, Clutch runs into all kinds of characters who he knows. Most of the people in the building have lived there for years, they look out for each other. There’s a guy who takes care of a bed-ridden friend. Clutch helps Kay carry her groceries, spars with her son, and questions him about not being in school. Kay is a bartender at Milano’s Bar nearby, where all the daytime regulars know each other. There’s an equally funny and creepy stretch where nobody notices that this guy Ray (John Gamborini) looks like shit because he’s turning into a zombie, even as they worry about him having been bit by a crackhead. They think either he has an infection or he’s drunker than usual.

During this emergency they check on each other, they work together, they yell to each other through the pipes. The neighborhood may be doomed, but not because of the rats. A celebrity real estate developer asshole has purchased this building and others. Hundreds of people are waiting to be priced out or evicted. Until then, they can bond over their uncertain futures and their battle against rat zombies.

still_mulberrystreet

When the shit goes down there’s a bunch of handheld action that I had a hard time following, but there are also some pretty good moments. Kay’s co-worker Big Vic (John Hoyt, Federal Reserve Guard #1, DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE) slows down a crowd of zombies by whacking them on the head with a frying pan, and he makes it seem pretty plausible. Clutch gets to punch some of them, a nice followup to the earlier boxing stuff. Kay uses a baseball bat that she keeps behind the bar.

But the real satisfying climax is when Casey and Clutch are finally at home together, and they have an emotional hug. Yes, she got past all the zombies to get home. But for her that’s just the last part of a long trip.

It definitely seems like alot, maybe most of the exteriors are shot without permits. Any time they’re running through the streets it seems like they had to shoot it really quick and take off. It has that feel of a movie that you know was done on the cheap and you’re proud of them for the stuff they pull off. Like, I think they shot Casey walking up to a big crowd and a bunch of ambulances from something really going on, and then pretended it was rat zombies. There’s definitely alot of shots where they caught emergency vehicles racing by for some real purpose. Nice production value there!

Larry Fessenden must be the Stan Lee of indie horror, because he has a pretty funny cameo as a guy behind a security gate who refuses to let Big Vic in. Coward.

This was released as part of the After Dark 8 Films To Die For series. I remember reading a positive review in Fangoria, and I wanted to see it, but never got to it until now. I coulda been in on the Jim Mickle ground floor, but I blew it. Anyway, this is a promising start to a career that I already know will fulfill that promise. I promise!

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Thursday, October 20th, 2016 at 12:07 pm and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

13 Responses to “Mulberry Street”

  1. I actually bought this on DVD when it came out and still haven’t seen it. Gotta resolve that soon.

  2. I’d heard of this before but had no idea it was a Mickle/Damici joint. Run-and-gun NYC horror is in short supply. I’ll check it out.

    Speaking of Damici, Vern, when you gonna review his best performance in LAST PHASES: NIGHT OF THE LONE WOLF? Unless watching a surly, blind, retired Vietnam sniper train for a month to kill a werewolf on the next full moon doesn’t appeal to you. It’s like GRAN TORINO meets SILVER BULLET meets BLIND FURY, but better.

  3. Whoah! Nobody told me that was what it was about. Obviously I’ll have to see it.

  4. LATE PHASES is pretty fuckin’ rad. Plus, to sweeten the deal, you got Tom Noonan in there.

    And yeah, it’s nice that Larry Fessenden turns up in so many horror movies. If you had to identify a single person who left the biggest stamp on modern indie horror, it would have to be him. Having nurtured the careers of so many young and talented artists (like Mickle) I bet he’ll end up being remembered as something of a modern-day Roger Corman, a true indie jack-of-all-trades who gave a start to a lot of folks who went on to be big deals.

  5. Late Phases had Lance Guest in it and boy did that dude not age well AT. ALL. I didn’t even recognize him.

  6. Yeah it’s called LATE PHASES down here, but I like the U.S. title which carries the implication of just who the Lone Wolf might be. Good film, not great, but quirky enough to stand out in the genre.

    As for MS, it was my first Mickle movie and the first time I noticed DaMici, who reminded me of a more thoughtful, self-aware Charles Bronson. Pretty good horror with a nice twist on the Z genre. Rat People scare me more than rats, normal or zombie, or zombeavers even.

  7. <sounds like I´ll have to check out LATE PHASES.

  8. Late Phases is pretty solid, and it’s always nice to see a new werewolf film, especially one set in a retirement community.

    It was Adrian Garcia Bogliano’s first American feature. His Spanish horror films are worth checking out too, especially Here Comes the Devil, but also Penumbra and Cold Sweat. I wasn’t a big fan of Scherzo Diabolico but know other people that love it. His films are often pretty ragged round the edges but always have weird themes and interesting ideas even if they don’t always come together as a whole that well.

    Back to Mickle I got around to watching the Hap and Leonard TV series on Amazon Prime and it’s a blast. Maybe a little bit dragged out from the Savage Season source, but the chemistry and bantering between the 2 leads works well, plus you get Mickle regular Bill Sage and Jimmi Simpson and Pollyanna McIntosh as hilarious psycho arms dealers. Looking forward to Season 2.

  9. Has anyone seen STAKE LAND? I was looking up LATE PHASES and came across that one. Is it good?

  10. Yeah Stakeland is very good. Like all the Mickle/Damici stuff it’s intelligently written, got good characters, and takes it’s time to build atmosphere and story. Well worth a look.

  11. Thanks, guys! I´ve ordered these films now due to your recmommendations. Great to hear about stuff I never heard of before.

  12. I didn’t care for STAKE LAND the first time. Too dour and gray without really earning it, like an ersatz THE ROAD. I think Mickle has gotten better at knowing when to let a little air out of his oppressive atmospheres since then. I gave it another chance after really liking COLD IN JULY and got more into it. It doesn’t have an original bone in its body but it’s all packaged pretty confidently, and the performances are all good.

  13. I thought it was pretty clear that Clutch is gay, and is having a secret romance with Coco. Their final scene together seemed to heavily imply that.

    Saw this in Amsterdam and met the director.

    I believe he told me the most expensive part of the movie (or one of the most expensive parts) was the live, trained rat – which was the same rat used at the end of THE DEPARTED.

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