Mulberry St

Mulberry Street zombie

 

A movie for every day of the year – a good one

 

 

27 March

 

Typhoid Mary quarantined, 1915

On this day in 1915, Mary Mallon was quarantined for the second and final time. A carrier of typhoid who remained healthy herself, Mallon’s career as an itinerant cook meant she was perfectly placed to spread the disease. As she moved from position to position after arriving in the US from Ireland, she spread typhoid at every kitchen she worked in. 49 people came down with typhoid; three died. She resolutely refused to give any samples to health researchers, claiming that since she was healthy herself, she couldn’t be spreading illness. She had been quarantined once before, after typhoid researcher George Soper had published a five-year study into Mary’s movements in the Journal of the American Medical Association. They eerily matched a map of typhoid outbreaks – of the eight families that had hired Mary, seven had contracted typhoid. After her first quarantine Mary had promised to give up cooking for a living. She became a laundress. But it didn’t pay well so she returned to cooking, changed her name to Mary Brown and kept moving to evade Soper’s sleuthing. After an outbreak at Sloane Hospital for women – 25 cases, two deaths – Mary was finally tracked down (she’d done a bunk) to Long Island, was arrested and was then put in quarantine, where she remained until her death 23 years later.

 

 

 

Mulberry Street (2006, dir: Jim Mickle)

Jim who? No, the director isn’t very well known. Nor is the cast (Nick Damici, Ron Brice, Kim Blair?). But don’t dismiss this unusually grungy zombie movie about a gang of life’s less fragrant people ganging together after a virus starts turning fellow Manhattan residents into ratlike shuffling monsters. Things to like in this film which also goes by the more explanatory name of Zombie Virus on Mulberry Street are precisely the fact that these people are not your usual gang of chesty girls, buff guys + obligatory stoner. Instead they’re the people you don’t usually see being monstered in films – the old, the strugglers, the feckless, the fringe-dwellers. And Mickle and co-writer Damici spend a deal of time establishing character, disaster movie-style – we meet the residents of the house in Mulberry Street on the eve of their eviction to make way for gentrification, while news reports of an odd virus bubble in the background – before sending in the zombie apocalypse, which our gang of doughty battlers do at least respond to in a way that seems credible: they’re shocked to their core. The basic plot is [Rec] (guys stuck in a house), the basic style is handheld mumblecore, though with a Christopher Doyle-style injection of neon into the garish, junky production design, thanks to cinematographer Ryan Samul’s excellent shoestring work. Though you could watch and make a list of obvious references – the chaotic 1970s street vibe of Mean Streets, a bit of Nosferatu, John Cassavetes realism, the Living Dead films of George Romero, [REC], as mentioned – the film has a flavour all its own, a more CCTV style, which is down to the fact that it’s shot on the tiniest of budgets ($60K has been mentioned), hence also the no-name cast, most of whom aren’t even actors. Which is entirely as it should be. There is no Ethan Hawke or other former prettyboy doing the saving. It’s a bunch of oldish, fattish, regular guys and gals barricaded inside their building and making it up as they go along. Cutting to the chase, this is a zombie thriller in hock to a visual style. But it’s a good visual style. And it’s a good, tight, claustrophobic shocker suggesting Mickle, Damici and Samul have a bright (or do I mean dark?) future ahead of them.

 

 

Why Watch?

 

  • Ryan Samul’s expressive camerawork and lighting
  • The feature debut by Jim Mickle
  • The soundtrack suits the characters – Love, Lee Hazlewood
  • Gritty 1970s-style horror

 

© Steve Morrissey 2014

 

 

Mulberry Street – watch it now at Amazon

 

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “Mulberry St”

  1. "Mulberry Street" is basically just another forgettable and mediocre creature-feature flick, but I'm rewarding it with at least two extra points because director Jim Mickle and his enthusiast cast & crew clearly went through several harsh ordeals before they could finish their ambitious project. Mickle came to introduce his film at the Belgian Horror & Fantasy Festival and explained how they had to shoot essential footage in the middle of the crowded streets of Manhattan without any official permission to film there, and how all the actors in this film are friends or in some way related to the director, so none of them received any payments. Bearing all this in mind, plus the fact that "Mulberry Street" actually shows the courage and ambition to be a different and largely atmosphere-driven new horror film, I'd say it at least deserves the respect and appreciation of avid horror fanatics and amateur filmmakers all over the world. And the film itself really isn't that bad, neither. A handful of likable characters, all recently evicted tenants of a ramshackle apartment building in Mulberry Str; Manhattan, join together in order to survive a deadly virus that broke out in the city overnight. As a result of constant urban decay, pollution and unbearable heat, the sewer rats of Manhattan are quickly spreading a horrible disease that causes its victims to mutate into a ravenous and bloodthirsty rat-creatures. Once bitten, people rapidly turn into a zombies with the appearance and eating habits of rats, and they only look at their former friends and neighbors as rich sources of food. Clutch, a retired boxer, nervously awaits the homecoming of his soldier daughter, but first he has to protect the other tenants as the rat-zombies are quickly infesting the entire neighborhood. The engaging depiction of the inhabitants of 51, Mulberry Street unquestionably is the biggest advantage of this film. The characters admirably aren't empty-headed junkies or filthy scum, but a close community of hard working and respectable people that are prepared to sacrifice themselves in order to save the others. This is honestly the only film I remember portraying the typical New Yorkers as unsung heroes. Even though the script reveals very few details regarding the lethal rat-virus, the chaotic situation in downtown Manhattan is eerily plausible and the overall atmosphere of "Mulberry Street" is tremendously menacing. Jim Mickle and writer/lead star Nick Damici simultaneously grab the opportunity to process a whole cargo-load of social and political criticism into the screenplay, particularly emphasizing the the war in Iraq and the problematic housing accommodation in big cities. Despite of budgetary restrictions, "Mulberry Street" also features a satisfying amount of blood and gruesome images. The make-up effects on the victims of the rat-virus are quite nasty and the zombie-attacks are uncompromising. Unfortunately the pacing slows down a bit during the second half of the film and the dialogs begin to sound repetitive. But by then, personally, I was already too impressed to allow the minor & understandable flaws to spoil my viewing experience. I really liked this film, as it has real characters and displays a righteously unhappy world-perspective. I doubt "Mulberry Street" will become a film that is easily available, so if you have the opportunity to watch it some time, do not hesitate.

  2. Some of the other reviews adequately cover the actual synopsis – I just wanted to comment on the way that Jim Mickle and his team (especially the actors and camera crew) seem to have pulled a rather good rabbit out of a low budget hat.

    Using the camera well with a lot of close ups,speeding things up when appropriate to cover for lower budget make-up effects – which I thought were pretty good anyway, creating characters that you actually care about (loved the 2 old guys), and some really nice and clever ideas, like the photo of the 3 main characters held by the army girl, fading over to a different picture from the same film, owned by her father, was very nice. The characters are not idiots, and what a pleasure it was to see people react to danger in a way that you would like to think you would too – instead of the usual imbeciles.

    I'd heard that they had to film the outdoor New York scenes on the hoof without permission, but the way it was done, I never really noticed, as I was too drawn up in the story. (I'm in Scotland, so I wouldn't be aware of any technical errors in the locations).

    Well done people, a really enjoyable experience. What a contrast to the last film I saw (My Wife and My Dead Wife (1/10)), thanks guys for restoring my faith that there are some film-makers (and indeed talented actors) with intelligence and creativity who can use low budget challenges in a positive manner.

  3. This is a low budget movie. Now there are low-budget and low-budget. This is very well made out of "only" 60K (apparently) USD. If you can stand the idea of people turning into murderous rat-beings, then you would probably like this flick. It has a quite realistic feel to it, and the fact that everything is shot using a hand camera makes it quite documentary in style. The fact that a large part of the film follows the tenants of a NY building surrounded by these "rat-beings" makes it also quite claustrophobic. Good acting as well, all around – where the actors really build a relationship to each other and the audience.

    A very well used 60K and if you like horror movies, the chance is that you'll not want to miss this one.

  4. I'm not one for loving cheesy films a whole lot. Sure I can dig Troll 2 for it's insane cheese, or even Blood Freak and it's Turkey Murderer. I guess I'm a fan of the genre, but I can tell you I won't be paying more than 5 bucks for any of them. So whenever I hear of a movie like Mulberry Street, I tend to just shrug and see what good can come out of it. Mulberry Street is a rare breed, it takes a corny premise…Rats infecting people to become killer Rat People, but the movie works, surprisingly well. I'm not gonna get into specifics, because this movie especially, is one you where you shouldn't pay attention to details. If you let it fly, Mulberry Street brings you on a consistently entertaining ride. And with this being a low-budget film, movies of this caliber should only be applauded. If you're looking for a apocalyptic/zombie/vampire/mutant flick, look no further, Mulberry Street is easily good enough to satisfy your Rat Bastard needs.

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