13 February 2012

Clarky's Review: Mulberry Street

As Ally noted, for some reason the UK distributor's of Mulberry Street tried to minimise it's sales by giving it the overlong, and slightly misleading, moniker "Zombie Virus on Mulberry Street" as well as one of the worst DVD covers I have ever seen (especially when you compare it to the rather cool and subdued US DVD cover). Thing's didn't improve on reviewing the quotes on the box with Billy Chainsaw (what a name) claiming that it was "The best Zombie Flick since Romeo's Diary of the Dead". Yes, that's right, Romeo (I'm not sure if it is Juliet's star crossed lover or the one from So Solid Crew) has made a move into directing zombie movies!

As if the lack of attention to detail to spell Romero's name wasn't bad enough, the film that they use for comparison is Diary of the Dead! Woof. Things were not looking good. So why bring this film to the table I hear you ask. Two reasons - Nick Damici and Jim Mickle. The actor and director combo's (who also co-wrote the film together) sophomore effort was the rather enjoyable Stake Land, and I was keen to see more of their stuff.

With this in mind, it was hard for me not to draw comparison's between the two and it is clear to see that Zombie Virus is the film where they cut their teeth. And unfortunately, this means that Zombie Virus is more flawed than Stake Land. Whilst, both film's boast short running times, you can't help but feel that some of what is in Zombie Virus should have been on the cutting room floor. Primarily, as noted by Ally and Mandy, the sub-plot featuring Clutch's daughter (Nick Damici knows how to give himself a kick ass name - see Mister in Stake Land) feels particularly obtuse and I could have done without it.

The main reason for this is that her back story is not fleshed out enough and as such it is hard to feel any empathy for her. Her story feels like a distraction from the main event, and you want the story to get back on track with Clutch. I can't help but feel that this was added to give the film more scope and appear to have a bigger budget than it had. However, for me this had the adverse effect as the scenes weren't as effective and looked lower budget. I also thought that the idea of setting it in a block of flats, like REC, would have been very claustrophobic and far more effective.

In addition to this I would find it hard to tell you the name of any of the other characters without a visit to IMDB and again, this makes it hard to feel for any of the characters. There were a lot of characters that seemed to make fleeting appearances and it made it hard to keep track of them all. Some of them were off screen for quite some time and then seemed to turn up in the last 5 minutes as an after thought! I did like the inclusion of the old man upstairs and I would love to know the back story between Clutch and his flat mate, but the story is never really fleshed out.

Having said all this, there are a lot of positives to take from this film, the main one being the fresh take on the zombie story. By making the cause of the disease something that we all love to hate, the rats bring about a primal fear by themselves and the "zombies" are pretty horrible. The sound design incredible and really makes you squirm in your seat as they eat the flesh. The shot's and editing of the "zombies" is also excellent. Mickle shows us enough to give a sense of what the transformation is like, but at the same time does not hamstring himself by showing too much of them. They don't have much screen time and are always shown in the shadows, much like rats themselves, but this simply helps to increase the sense of disgust as he allows your imagination to run wild. A particularly nice touch is when the rats get into the walls!

Whilst I didn't really connect with the characters and found some of the plot holes too much (Clutch travels all the way to the bar and manages to find the woman downstairs somehow with no inkling of where she is or what is really happening!) there were enough interesting wrinkles to keep it interesting.  The end of the film included a particularly nice touch with Clutch and his friend, which also provides an over the top hero moment - but I still enjoyed it.

Like Stake Land, Mulberry Street takes lots of well worn horror trope's and provides a fresh take on them. Whilst there are some issues, it's charm cannot help to win you over and if you can look past the horrible UK DVD design you will discover a B-movie that is punching above it's weight. Not one for repeat viewing, but for the horror fanatic it has a couple of jumps, some tense moments and is an interesting addition to the zombie genre.

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