Tuesday, October 20, 2009

mulberry street [2006]

this little indie shocker strikes no new ground but makes up for with adrenaline and chutzpah. packaged as one of the 2008 after dark horrorfest 8 films to die for series brought to you each year by lionsgate, which is a marketing scheme targeting horror junkies to lap up the newest product dumped onto dvd. this is a well-made film that ties on to the zombie genre a host of early 21st century worries and paranoia, e.g. terrorism and our changing landscape of cities from affordable neighborhoods and into redeveloped luxury homes for the wealthy.

watching this pic again last night i almost forgot that i was watching a horror film and instead was watching a minuscule budgeted indie flick about the lives of the denizens who live in the eponymous street in manhattan on a sweltering summer day. the film centers around clutch, played by nick damici, who also co-wrote the movie with director jim mickle. clutch is a former boxer who lives alone in his small flat located in mulberry street. clutch's world, the world the nyc school, both generations, of poets knew and wrote about, is changing. clutch and his neighbors face almost certain eviction as the buildings are being bought by a single developer who is turning over the flats into townhouses only the wealthy can afford.

what mickle and damici did is create quick sketches of the characters of mulberry street so that we get to know their individual quirks and personalities. a nice touch by the filmmakers is the relationship hinted between clutch and a gay neighbor, coco. it is obvious that they have a history together, perhaps once lovers, as they are still very close and share intimacies of clutch's daughter, casey, a soldier returning home after seeing combat in iraq. again the relationship is hinted at but is very poignant and it is a delight to not have it spelled out. there is a complicated mystery here, one that is all too human, and so much the better for it.

well now. the shit hits the fan. and the terror mounts as the city comes under siege. rats are attacking people, which is broadcast on the local news. the people go about their day and we get to see clutch and coco prepare and get nervous over casey's homecoming. we find the other inhabitants of the building at their various tasks, or non-tasks. two old-timers shuffle from apartment to local watering hole and back again. a single mother, who has a romantic interest in clutch, keeps her teenage son home from school, as he faked being sick, and goes to work as a bartender. then the attacks gradually increase until the victims metamorphose into cannibalistic rat-men and women.

yet the derivative plot device is meted out thru an honest depiction of these individual lives coping with chaos. clutch is a bad-ass, as we would expect from a hero of a zombie flick, but so is his daughter. the fighting comes with no grandeur at all. it is ugly and awkward and clutch does everything to keep himself and his loved ones and neighbors alive. until the bitter end.

mickle and damici goes old-skool and maintains a rather grim tone for the length of the run-time. i expect old master romero nodding his approval at the bleak ending. the soundtrack is pretty damn good, and the photography is a bit pixellated like a movie shot on digital would be. but the colors are dark, browns and greens, that calls to mind a kind of earthy light found in cities at night. and when the movie ends you might find yourself breathing heavy along with the last breaths of the survivors after that harrowing night of the living dead.



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