Friday, October 29, 2010

Mulberry Street

Infected rats cause an outbreak of a zombie plague in Manhattan, as survivors hole up in their apartments or desperately search for a safe haven. And these aren't just any zombies, but rat-faced man-rodent zombies.

Let me start by saying a few nice things. For a low budget horror picture, Mulberry Street has a bit more of a professional sheen to it (or, should I say, the professional artificial rawness you associate with larger budget pictures) than some of the other modern cheapies I watched this month, like Head Trauma or Salvage. I can't fault it for ambition; much like the excellent The Signal, it tries to do the apocalypse on a budget a shows a certain knack for hiding its limitations. I think it's cool, even though they are essentially not much different from the fast zombies we typically get in modern horror, that the zombies are weird ratmen. The make up effects are a little silly but still neat. Although the rat thing ends up an underused gimmick, its leads to a funny scene where a guy locks a zombie in a closet, and the zombie uses his rat powers to tunnel out through the ceiling.

So, points for trying, but the movie itself didn't much work for me. The most obvious flaw is that the director tries to ape the shaky-cam, rapidly edited, intensified continuity style of the 28 Days Later (Mulberry Street's obvious, unavoidable inspiration), but doesn't have much of an idea of how to do it coherently. The result is an often ugly and muddled mess, such an eyesore that I wanted to turn away. The ironic thing is, its not nearly as shaky or manically edited as 28 Weeks Later, which came out the following year, but is far more difficult to understand visually. I've defended the style in the past, but it has to be done right to work. You still need to respect things like framing & geography, you need to give each shot a clear subject, you need to piece the shots together in a logical sequence, etc. All things Mulberry Street consistently fails at.

If you want to watch a movie like 28 Days Later, just watch 28 Days Later. If you want to watch 28 Days Later with more shaky-cam, watch 28 Weeks Later. And if you want to watch 28 Days Later set in an apartment building, go for REC (or Quarantine if you're too lazy to read subtitles). Mulberry Street is completely skippable.

Grade: C-


Joseph said...

I caught this on the sci-fi channel awhile back. I loved the gnarly rat-men so much that I really wanted to love the movie-- or at least like it-- but its pretty bland in virtually every other way.
Reminds me of the After-Dark Horrorfest flicks like BORDERLANDS or THE DEATHS OF IAN STONE which have some good ideas in them and make you really root for them to win you over, but then flub the execution so bad you just can't.

It's weird, though, that these modern horror films alienate me with their general shittiness in writing, acting, etc, becuase of course plenty of older horror films that I love have worse issues in those areas (PRINCE OF DARKNESS, INFERNO, etc). I guess the difference is that those films are more artfully made and atmospheric, where these new films have a forced "gritty" feel which doesn't mesh as well with akward dialogue and delivery?

Dan said...

"I guess the difference is that those films are more artfully made and atmospheric"

Heartily seconded. Horror has long been a genre plagued by weak scripts/dialog, bad acting, etc. What redeems a lot of the great ones that suffer these problems (which a lot of people, not unreasonably, can't see past) are those purely cinematic elements of craft, atmosphere, tone, etc., that are unique to this particular genre in this particular medium.

Carpenter and Argento are both great examples (although Carpenter is more likely to work with good actors and good screenplays) are of filmmakers who can redeem weak elements with strong style and craft. As much as I loved, say, THE SOCIAL NETWORK, I'd trade 10 screenplays of that quality for just one scene as aesthetically/conceptually powerful as, say, the final scene with the mirror in PRINCE OF DARKNESS, or the first 10, hallucinatory minutes of INFERNO.

MULBERRY STREET has cool moments, and its heart is in the right place, but stylistically speaking it's just 28 DAYS LATER reheated. Only not done as well.

Joseph said...

Still love those rat-men, though.

You know, it's kinda weird to think of the classic monsters that went on to be icons and essentially reshape the way we imagine some of these tropes. IE, Bela Legosi's DRACULA has come to define how a Vampire looks, acts, thinks. But it could just have easily been Murnau's ratty NOSFERATU -- in which case we'd have more rat-men in movies and I personally think life would be significantly better for all concerned parties.

I think human-animal hybrids have not yet been sufficiently explored; or at least, explored by anyone with much talent for getting the most out of them. Time to get one that one, I think.