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Mulberry St. (2006)
Summary: If George Romero goes on nicotine strike and is handed some rat masks, you might get this...
Warnings: "R" is for "argh" - said when people toss themselves off of tall buildings for no good reason.
Hell Points: 5/10 as per the Demonshrine "adjusted for budget" rules.
This should have been simply dreadful. It's a zombie movie, except the zombies are rat-people. There's none of the zombie "symbolic parallels" to fall back on, which is what - once upon a time - made the zombie genre almost intellectual. Mulberry St. departs from intellectual debates and gives the demons people who eat other people because, infected with an undetermined rat genetic resequencing (saliva, blood), uh... so yes, this should have sucked. It did not, or not entirely.
Nick Damici is Clutch, so named because he... is a former boxer? The movie gives no explanation. It also does not explain why he lives with a very gay roomie named Coco in what is perhaps the worst tenement left standing in Manhatten. He is devoted in his middle age to staying in shape, though he no longer boxes, and he's somewhat interested in "Miss Poland 1985" (a joke) Kay. The names blend faster than no-icon IMDB can deal with, but the characters are generally well-drawn considering there are a fair number of them.
Kay's son is worthy of mention because his pet rats/mice squeal when he takes a flash photograph pointing the other direction, thus giving him a weapon for later scenes. That and he lives, possibly, to the end of the movie, which is more than can be said for just about everyone else. Oh yes, the demons like movies with the balls to kill all the stars. Even when "stars" is very, very broadly used, as it is here.
Kim Blair is Casey, the ambigiously named, scar-faced middle eastern war veteran, playing a strong but not quite charicature butch female. One who is trying to get back home under evacuations, curfews, military rule, and rat-people roaming about. She breaks a few heads, then breaks down in daddy's arms upon arriving home to a crappy flat with a "man made" cake and a "oh" look from her father at seeing her scarred cheeks. If that doesn't sound politically correct, mind you, demons don't obey such laws; the scene was brief and worked, humanizing in a second what would have been (ignoring the D cup) a very flat character. Her father, Clutch, ends flat, but only because he and Coco (by then a half-rat) take a plunge off the roof.
Oh goodness, the demons forgot to say it earlier - Spoiler Alert above!
The action is... active... and the makeup and special effects are well done. The movie builds well, and doesn't feel absent of life, as so many middling-budget productions fall victim to in their budgetary distress. As with the ratty zombie movies of yore, no explanations are given, just the results. The military and media response is predictable, and again hearkens to Romero's first, eh, stab at the genre, with the two survivors darted or dragged off in dog-catcher loops.
The weakest moments are those of "not wanting to kill former pals" Clutch manages to snap his love-interests' neck without much ado, right in front of her son and before she expresses violent intentions to the boy, but a few moments later the script requires that he have a man-to-man closeup with his roomie, who notices a rat-scratch, then attacks him, which causes Clutch to sling them both to the pavement a few miles down. One suspects his daughter might have preferred Coco take a dive, then Daddy says goodbye, they hug, then in recognition of the military's presence, hoped he could hold on for a few days in hope of a cure.
But no, off he goes, splat and splash. How did he punch the hell out of dozens of zombie-rat-people for extended periods of time and not get injured until his gal-pal came along? Weakness. Of the script.
Still, while it may be the demons let their defenses down, the film established an elderly secondary character with the credentials to both need and know how to use an oxygen tank as a suicide rat-bomb; premonition scripting had fallen into the realistic banter naturally "days" before.
All in all, a movie that had no way out of the genre rat-person zombies can only get you so far and included a couple (but not numerous) screen-screaming "idiot!" moments from the demon audience... yet manages in places to hold its own against some large-budget filth of recent times. Including that of George Romero.
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