Monday, March 17, 2008

After Dark Horrorfest 2007: Mulberry Street (Review)

Mulberry Street
Mulberry Street (2006)

Directed by Jim Mickle

28 Days of the Diary of the Clover-Rats.

If George A. Romero made a zombie-verse and Matt Reeves made an alien monster world, director Jim Mickle has made a rat monster utopia in Mulberry Street. It’s by far the better of the 3 movies either director made this year.

With a guerilla, docu-style and the nitty gritty look of NYC’s Mulberry Street as his backdrop, Mickle takes us into an apocalyptic city nightmare come true. Because as every New Yorker knows, the 2 things we hate the most are tourists and rats.

Our main “Ben” (aka lead character from NOTLD) is Clutch, a former boxer who lives in an apartment on Mulberry Street (it’s the main street in NYC’s Little Italy). With his friend Coco, they eagerly await for Clutch’s daughter Casey to return home from Iraq. We also meet the other tenants in this dilapidated complex, Charlie and Frank who are a couple of old timers and Kay, a bartender and her son.

It’s never explained what caused the “sickness” that is making every New Yorker slowly turn into rat creatures but that’s not important. What is important is that we see a depiction of real New Yorkers dealing with a supernatural threat and basically doing what we always do, survive. There is no nauseating shaky camera, no annoying hipster looking for their girlfriend and no film students trying to film something so they can post it on YouTube.

What we do have is seeing the pseudo-realistic media coverage of a threat and the response to it with some very chilling scenes of attacks from a mass of rat infected zombies.

I know what you’re saying. Really? Rat creatures?

It’s not as cheesy as it sounds. The infected don’t develop RAGE like super strength or quickness but become, well more psychopathic and ratty. And boy are these creatures hungry and bloodthirsty. The tenants have to pummel and kick and fight thru the city streets in order to survive. These are all fast paced and suspenseful scenes and are quite well done.

Mulberry Street uses the same genre conventions of a Living Dead or a 28 Days Later. And even though they may be assembly line tricks of the trade, they work.

And that’s the fun of Mulberry Street.

Jim Mickle also takes a page from Romero’s satire handbook by not so subtly commentating on the world, post 9/11. More specifically, the slow government response to a Severe Red Theat Level event (the President was in Bermuda!) is an obvious crack at the government’s reaction and response to Hurricane Katrina.

The only negatives are that the movie does look a little like a 99 cents store. The acting was very plausible though the dialogue was a little dry. The special effects seemed to be Sci-Fi channel-ish and the darkness blurred many scenes into utter static. But on a meager budget, Mickle used quick shots, music video style editing and a couple of good gory bloodbaths to get his point across.

Mulberry Street is the biggest gem in the After Dark Horrorfest catalog. So if you didn’t like the zombie or giant lobster monster movies you watched this year, maybe enter the cannibal-rat monster-verse, it’s a cheesy movie you probably might like.

As this was a DVD, I was able to watch the extras as well. Here's a recap.

The Extras:

The extras are pretty bland in comparison to the movie. There are storyboards, 2 deleted scenes which pretty much sums up that most of the cut is the finished product. Also included are director’s Jim Mickle’s early sketches of scenes and of the rat monsters (which would make great background wallpaper). There are makeup tests which are hilarious as you can see the evolution of what the rat creatures were to become. Also, there are behind the scenes of ratty munching and outtakes which are always funny as this is a horror film about rat infected humans.

Finally there are behind the scenes of the rats that are featured predominately in the movie. From the looks of it rats never follow their cues and are so demanding with their list of outrageous demands.

Included in all of the After Dark Horrorfest DVDs are the Miss Horrorfest Contest webisodes. Think Surreal Life meets the Misfits. It’s a VH1 version of the Suicide Girls.



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