Rated: R for gore, graphic violence, and adult language
Genre: Horror Thriller Drama
Directed By: Jim Mickle
Running Time: 1:24
Review by: Felix Vasquez Jr.
Review Date: 1/05/08
Special Features:


Living in New York City, you begin to learn eventually that rats are a way of life. Whether you’re a stock trader on Wall Street with a 401K plan or living in the ghettos of the Bronx, rats are just a way of life. They’re there, they’re everywhere, and they’re basically the residents of the city who live to eat the waste of the denizens. Rats are estimated to outnumber us by great numbers, and have even evolved to the point where they seem to be getting bigger. “Mulberry Street” is a play on this common fact among New Yorkers, and that’s why it’s so horribly scary. Mickle‘s urban apocalyptic horror film is very down to the core low budget but really manages to hearken back to the chaos and sheer terror from Lamberto Bava’s “Demons,” and it says a lot when a film can succeed in keeping audiences hooked and not show much in the way of gore effects until a half hour in. Mickle films his horror story with such a sense of panic, doom, and enthusiasm that he often makes great use of the obviously low budget and uses the grit of the city landscape to add to the sense of chaos.

Mickle’s film feels almost like another director’s creation at first, it’s a drama about the lives of separate characters living in an apartment building who get by and endure the hot weather and soon face forceful eviction from their complex. I cared about these individuals and surely enough, I wanted to see what would unfold with them. With a little bit of the themes of “CHUD” thrown in, the menace suddenly emerges from underground when a new land developing company begins to develop.  

Mickle then takes the elements of the city that lurk in the darkness and turns them into a whole new dominant species that seeks adaptation forcefully. Setting down on the summer in New York City, deformed oversized rats begin to appear and begin attacking local residents. But soon the bits begin to transform the victims in to vicious rat-like monsters hungry for flesh and numerous in packs. “Mulberry Street” relies heavily on coincidence and close calls placing our characters into immediate danger and always encouraging us to guess and wonder how their fates will unfold. Thus Mickle creates an almost horrifying sense of terror that unfolds gradually and suddenly releases sequences of pure carnage and blood soaked mayhem under the wrath of the new race of humanoid rat monsters. In theory, “Mulberry Street” should have been a ridiculous concept, because it’s easy to destroy this original idea. But surely enough Mickle keeps his monsters wisely in the shadows for a portion of the film, and then relies on the fantastic make-up effects that convince us of these valid threats.

Much like rats, the humans that are bitten evolve in a sense in both immunity and body features, and Mickle keeps the origins of the virus ambiguous, only displaying the attacks and aftermath on the city, all the while introducing more characters to the fold including a scarred Iraq veteran returning to civilization (the memorable Kim Blair), and a boxer (the entertaining Nick Damici) who takes it upon himself to care for his friends after his apartment complex is barricaded with the monsters. The subsequent aftermath on the town is filmed with a rich undertone of 9/11, all the while hooking the audience as the rat monsters litter the streets feeding on human flesh, and scurrying in the shadows. Though a noticeably bare boned production, the film rarely ever exposes its flaws, and delivers on gruesome gore and horrifying sequences that work thanks to his masterful direction. Mickle mixes in the right elements of films like “Night of the Living Dead,” and “CHUD,” and fully realizes the potential to such an unusual concept. “Mulberry Street” is everything independent horror should be: Original, engrossing, and terrifying.

Damici and Mickle don’t seem to know how to end “Mulberry Street” and surely enough it shows. From the weak climax on the building roof, up to the sudden emergence of cheesy plot elements, the duo seem confused as to where to take this, thus the entire story loses steam in the last ten minutes, and can’t realize that it’s time to quit. Worst of all, the whole resolution of the plot is also left with much confusion and a feeling of incompletion.

This is indie horror done right, its apocalyptic cinema in all its bleak originality, and utterly fantastic creativity. Mickle’s film had every chance to be a campy and irritating attempt at innovation but Mickle’s sleek direction, paired with the fantastic make up amounts to a rather memorable horror entry.



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