MULBERRY 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.
Casey 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.
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 a new action-horror novel out called WORM ON A HOOK! He has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the film criticism books Seagalogy: A Study of the Ass-Kicking Films of Steven Seagal and Yippee Ki-Yay Moviegoer!: Writings on Bruce Willis, Badass Cinema and Other Important Topics as well as the crime novel Niketown.