February 27, 2012

Reader's Choice: Mulberry Street (2006)

Directed by Jim Mickle. Starring Nick Damici ("Clutch"), Kim Blair ("Casey"), Ron Brice ("Coco"), and Bo Corre ("Kay"). Rated R.

Source: Region 1 DVD (Lionsgate)
Running time: 01:24:22
Country: USA

Picked by Matt-suzaka

Set primarily in a run-down New York City apartment building, MULBERRY STREET revolves around a group of characters as they fight for survival in the midst of a massive viral outbreak that turns people into snarling rat-human hybrids.

Since it came out, MULBERRY STREET has maintained its status as being one of the better films to have been released by After Dark Films, and I can certainly attest to that after seeing a majority of them (although it doesn't even come close to LAKE MUNGO for me). The thing is, it wasn't until a year or so ago that I decided to give this one a shot, and I honestly didn't care for it too much at the time because, seeing as it had been built up as being this second-coming of independent horror cinema, it failed to live up to my expectations. As a matter of fact, I didn't even finish it at the time; the low-budget look of the film and the all too familiar (and tired) virus outbreak scenario didn't appeal to me. Since then, the team of Jim Mickle (director and co-writer) and Nick Damici (actor and co-writer) have released STAKE LAND, which managed to get high praise from the horror community. I, however, found it to be very mediocre, so to say that I had dismissed them as horror filmmakers to look out for would be accurate. That being said, I was a bit hesitant to take a trip down MULBERRY STREET once again, but luckily I found it to be much more enjoyable this time around.

Where MULBERRY STREET succeeds in comparison to its brethren is that there's a level of humanity to the characters that you don't see in a lot of horror these days. For one, you don't get a lot of the glamorous pretty faces in this movie that you would in a lot of other horror films. Not that I'm against seeing models-turned-actresses slumming it in horror movies or anything; they're nice to look at, but seeing a bunch of regular-looking people adds to the believability of it all, and such is the case with MULBERRY STREET. Nick Damici plays the lead character in the film and he's established rather quickly and with subtlety; you get the gist of what he's like, and you're made aware of two important things: 1) he's awaiting the arrival of his daughter, who's returning home from the Iraq War, and 2) he has a thing for the single mom who lives upstairs. This is more than enough rope for the audience to grab on to and get behind him as a character. The same goes for pretty much everyone else in the film - you don't know a lot about them, but you know enough. There's a very strong and natural sense of community with the characters, which is inherent since they all live together and look out for each other. It's obvious that Mickles and Damici took a similar approach with the characters in STAKE LAND, but it all felt a bit too forced for me.

Had Mickles and Damici (sounds like a really bad 1940's comedy duo, doesn't it?) been provided with more of a budget to play with, MULBERRY STREET would obviously be much more of a force to reckon with when it comes to horror cinema as a whole. It seems the only significant problems with this film are the result of budgetary constraints. As I mentioned earlier, there's a very low-budget, amateurish quality to the film that's almost distracting at times, especially when the occasional stock scream kicks in and we have to bear witness to some horrendous CGI. Another annoying aspect of the film's effects is the use of pig squeals. I don't know about you guys, but I'm really sick of every monster in a horror movie sounding like a pig. Yeah, I know it works, but aren't there other sound effects out there? Like, maybe, a walrus or something? Besides, the creatures in this film are derived from rats, not swine! Get your animals right, sound effects guy.

If I have another gripe with the film, it would be that it plays out exactly like you'd expect. The storytelling here doesn't seem like it comes from an original or sincere place. You're put in a situation where you're basically sold on a group of characters. You get to know them, and then you're forced to watch most of them die. Anyone who watches enough horror movies will be able to see the direction the film is going from a mile away, which, in a way, kinda lessens what's been built up so far, but I guess there are only so many scenarios you can go with when it comes inherently tragic virus outbreak movies such as this. Aside from those minor complaints, MULBERRY STREET is a damn fine film that moves along at a brisk pace and makes a relevant social commentary on the lower class. Great soundtrack too.

Score: 7


  1. I am apparently in the minority on this one, then, lol. I HATED this movie...at least what I watched of it. My then girlfriend, who wasn't too difficult to please on newer horror, hated it, too and I think she threw it away. Had I recognized the directors name prior to blind buying STAKELAND, I wouldn't have bothered. To me, STAKELAND fuckin' rocked. Both that and MULBERRY ST. are night and day to me.

  2. So we're the complete opposite then. I thought STAKE LAND kinda sucked, but I'm curious to see how it holds up on a re-watch. A lot of my dislike for STAKE LAND had to do with hype, but I still remember finding it to be pretty mediocre regardless. As for this one, aside from what I mentioned in the review, I liked the grainy look of it and dug the scummy NYC setting. Had they been zombies, though, or at least what the Hollywood "zombie" has evolved into, as opposed to rat-people, I would have disliked this movie just on principle. I've been done with zombie movies for a while now.

  3. I watched this last year, having only heard that it was pretty good, and I really enjoyed it. Perhaps because my expectations weren't too high? I liked the grimy, claustrophobic aesthetics, and the characters were certainly more interesting and well developed than I expected.
    And I'm with Venom on Stake Land - I really liked that film. Bleak, upsetting and utterly engrossing stuff! I see what you mean about being disappointed when you check out a film that has been hyped up so much though, Aaron - that can have a tendency to turn me off too. Sometimes it’s just better to put the hype aside or even take a chance on something you’re not familiar with in order to be truly surprised these days. And I STILL need to check out Lake Mungo. Christine over at Fascination with Fear is forever championing it, as she did the original Woman in Black – which I finally got around to checking out, and loved.
    Great review!

  4. Sounds like we enjoyed MULBERRY STREET for the same reason, James! I'm surprised you haven't seen LAKE MUNGO yet, but I keep forgetting that you guys get different release dates than us here, so we may have gotten it earlier for all I know. I won't hype up LAKE MUNGO too much; it's not a mind-blowingly amazing film by any means, but it does at least have some utterly creepy moments, and it deals with the topic of death in a way that not a lot of films before it have done.

  5. Awesome review, sir. I'm glad that you decided to go back to Mulberry Street, Aaron, especially since you found it to be much more satisfying a second time around. I only watched it for the second time about a month ago, and as much as I enjoyed it the first time, I enjoyed it even more the second time around.

    It's certainly flawed with its unoriginal story and low-budget, but at the same time, I kind of love that the low-budget really feeds into the grittiness of it all. Like you mentioned in your comment to Venom, I enjoy the way they shot that area of NY. It's something that isn't seen all that often in modern, NY set cinema, so that mixed with how harsh looking the movie is, works very well for me.

  6. Yeah, I'm a sucker for movies filmed in the shadier areas of New York City, which definitely helped with how much I was willing to let myself go with this movie. I don't know why but I just love the look of that city in films and I love the sense of community you get with New Yorkers in film. Thanks a bunch for picking this one, Matt. I probably would have just written off because of my dislike for STAKE LAND, so I'm glad I gave MULBERRY a second chance.