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Superior indie horror
on 15 June 2011
The words "Zombie Virus on" have been added to the title of the indie horror movie "Mulberry Street" and the DVD box has been given one of those by-now standardly dishonest zombie movie covers depicting the massed bands of the undead surging forth from the backdrop of a burning city as helicopters fly overhead (for other examples of this, see the covers of "The Zombie Diaries" and "Apocalypse of the Dead"). But above and beyond trying to sell the film as a large scale apoca-romp, it must be pointed out that it isn't even a zombie movie.
Yes, there are no zombies here. There ARE swarms of infected rat mutants, achieved with varying degrees of success by the makeup department, but kept mostly to the shadows where they're most effective. however, what really rises this one up a notch or two is its attention to its characters, and the understated atmosphere of melancholy that clings to the lives of the residents of a decaying New York apartment block even BEFORE the ratpocalypse kicks off. As Manhattan is quarantined and the rat people run amok, only the thinly stretched social fabric of neighbourliness and mutual-dependency offers any chance of surviving even the first circle of this particular hell. There's a slightly clumsy attempt to rhyme the outbreak with the imminent redevelopment of the area into a big shiny gated community of the future, but the point is better made in the smaller details of the film. The neighbours are well-evoked characters and the film doesn't play favourites when it comes to who gets consumed by the horror. Also strong is the journey across the city of Casey, a soldier coming home to the apartment block, with a vivid scar on her face to attest to her previous brush with death. Starting her journey by train, she continues on foot as the world begins to end around her, then happens upon a kids' bicycle in an eerily deserted Central Park. This gets her a little closer to what she imagines will be the safety of Home, a trip she completes in an abandoned car, arriving just in time to see whatever dreams of Journey's End sustained her through wartime cruelly evaporate.
A fine movie that bravely sidesteps many of the generic conventions and doesn't chicken out at the end.