12 February 2012

Ally's Review: Mulberry Street

If you are reading this review in Britain and you happen to stumble across the DVD box to 'Zombie Virus on Mulberry Street' then please don't let appearances put you off, this film is not nearly as atrocious as it looks - in fact it's a surprisingly good film. I wasn't too familiar with the movie and once I saw the box I was pretty sure that this was going to a film that would rank very low in our list of choices. I guess the UK distributors wanted to ensure that they made the film as unappealing as possible (not sure why they felt a need to change the name either). However, once Clarky told me that it was from the guys behind Stake Land, I felt a little bit more optimistic.

Mulberry Street tells a pretty familiar story of zombie apocalypse, this time told through the grubby streets of New York. I've not been to New York for almost 10 years, so my memory is a little hazy, but if it's anything like how it's portrayed in this movie then I'll never be back. This film is the worst thing to happen to New York tourism since Jason Takes Manhattan. Fortunately, for the purposes of making an unsettling and visceral horror experience, the depiction of New York adds a wonderful layer to the storytelling.

The familiar zombie story has the added twist this time of the virus being passed on by the bites of the (plentiful) rats in New York, with the infected eventually turning into a sort of half rat/ half zombie creature. The creatures are pretty hideous and the director does a good job of showing flashes of them to make it far more arresting (as well as to squeeze out the impact of the limited special effects budget). I mentioned Stake Land and it's hard not to draw comparisons between the two films. Nick Damici (who also co-wrote both movies) plays a character that is eerily reminiscent of Mister in Stake Land… which isn't a bad thing, as that was one of the most memorable horror leads in years. Damici does the strong, silent type very, very well.

The other characters provide some comic relief, as well as the inevitable zombie fodder. Unfortunately the pace of the film gets a bit bogged down by the increasing onscreen presence of Damici's daughter, who is returning home after a military tour overseas. We are given hints of the relationship between the two (as well as their neighbour) and it's pretty clear that she has post-traumatic stress, but the story doesn't really add anything for me. She's not particularly interesting and the scenes involving her take away from the more compelling action in the main apartment block. I can understand the intentions of the director to create a different dimension to the story, I just think it fell a bit flat.

From the two films that I've seen from Mickle and Damici it appears that creating secondary characters (ones that the audience cares about) is not a strong point. In both films there are death scenes of significant characters where I can remember feeling very little when they happen. A difficult skill to quantify, but the lack of emotive response was characteristic of my experience of both films.

The scares are pretty good in this film: I definitely jumped a couple of times and the creatures are hideous enough to help ramp up the tension. The film did feel like it limped towards the finish line though, which was a shame. I think the increased role of the daughter became a problem, and it honestly felt as though they just weren't sure about what would make a good ending.

Because I went in with very low expectations I was pleasantly surprised by the film. It's far from perfect (probably not a film you will spend much time discussing after the credits roll) but if you are looking for a solid horror film that will entertain, while giving you a few frights, you could do far worse than this.

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