MULBERRY STREET (2006)
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Mulberry Street is the first feature film collaboration from the Stake Land writing team of director Jim Mickle and Nick Damici, who also plays the lead role of ex-boxer ‘Clutch’ (and Stake Land’s ‘Mister’). Mulberry Street is a horror flick that takes place in a NYC tenement on the eve of it’s tenants losing their homes to eminent domain. As Clutch receives a visit from his soldier daughter (Kim Blair), returning from service in Iraq, a bizarre outbreak hits the neighborhood and Clutch, his daughter and their neighbors, become trapped in their apartments as people around them are being transformed into vicious killers with rat-like features. Can they survive the night as this bizarre outbreak spreads through the apartment building and the rest of the city as well?
The story might sound silly to some, but Mickle takes his tale of a zombie outbreak with a vermin twist completely serious and makes one creepy and effective horror flick out of it. Mickle maintains an atmosphere of dread throughout and offers some tense and suspenseful scenes, as our apartment dwellers become the target of their vicious and hungry former neighbors. The almost documentary like style draws us in and Mickle gives us some very ‘real people’ characters to care about and root for. He gets good performances out of his cast and presents some simple but very effective FX to portray his protagonists and their carnage. Mulberry Street may not appeal to the casual or mainstream horror fan, but to those who enjoy something offbeat, inventive and a little different, then a trip down Mulberry St. is a creepy trip worth taking and a very effective little horror on a micro budget.
Obviously, I like this movie a lot and it shows the potential Jim Mickle has lived up to with his following films Stake Land, We Are What We Are and Cold In July. It’s a fun and very creepy twist on the standard zombie format and uses what could have been a silly premise very effectively. It’s spooky, atmospheric and accomplishes a lot on a very small budget. Definitely recommended to those who love some variety and originality in their horror.
A solid 3 vermin.
WE ARE WHAT WE ARE (2013)
We Are What We Are is Jim Mickle’s (Stake Land, Mulberry Street) remake of the 2010 Mexican horror of the same name by Jorge Michel Grau. And while I am not a fan of the original film… I found the premise intriguing but, the film boring and the characters very uninteresting… I am a fan of Jim Mickle so, I was curious to see what he did with Grau’s story. And having finally caught up with this film, I can honestly say I really like Mickle’s version much better. He has taken the basic story and made his own movie. And since this is the type of story that is best enjoyed knowing as little as possible going in, my plot description will be brief. The film takes place in a small rural town where not only a massive storm and flood hits but, the Parker family tragically loses their matriarch. The family is in an obvious emotional tailspin over her death but, things are about to get worse. For the Parkers are a family with a dark secret that has been hidden for generations but, this dark secret may soon be brought into the light as receding flood waters may bring things to the surface that the Parkers would like to have remained hidden.
Mickle once again scripts with writer/actor Nick Damici who also appears as Sheriff Meeks. Where I felt that Grau’s film concentrated more on the drama between thinly written family members, Mickle center’s his film on the more interesting part, which is the the dark secret that the Parkers are harboring and the slow burn as it appears it’s about to unravel. The family elements are addressed here and Mickle does give us more interesting characters but, the film concentrates more on the act of fate that begins to bring unwanted attention to the family and the gruesome possibility that their home is a house of horrors and one about to be discovered. Something this recently wounded family is not ready to deal with. This gives Mickle’s version a slow building tension the other film lacked and Mickle is very good at building that subtle tension and giving the film a pervading atmosphere that something is not quite right. He accents this with his distinct visual style which is refreshingly subtle when compared to a lot of today’s editing FX happy filmmakers. The film is not about big scares and gory horror… though there are moments when the film gets gruesome but, most of all it’s about keeping the viewer very unsettled until it’s time to outright disturb or shock us. So, overall the film is a slow burn but, one that keeps you interested and edgy until it’s time to crank things up. The only real flaw here is more from the fact that it is a remake so, some of the impact of what occurs is lost when it adheres to the original story. If you haven’t seen the original then this should not be an issue. For me it did lessen the effect of some of the scenes I was familiar with. But, Mickle does make up for a lot of it with a good cast and he gets good work out of his actors. We have Bill Sage who’s solid as the family father Frank who seems a little off even before we know what is going on. Ambyr Childers and Julia Garner are very effective as teen daughters Iris and Rose as they now must handle the ‘duties’ the death of their mother left in their charge. Michael Parks is very good, as always, as Doc Barrows, the man who starts to feel there is something very wrong going on in the Parker house and that something might be connected to the disappearance of his daughter. Rounding out the cast is veteran actress Kelly McGillis as neighbor Marge, Wyatt Russell as Deputy Anders and young Jack Gore as the youngest Parker, Rory.
While I may still prefer Mickle’s previous two films, this is still strong work from a director who I have felt since first watching Mulberry Street, was one worth keeping an eye on. He and collaborator Nick Damici continue to make interesting movies in their own style and it’s a very back to basics style in an era of CGI and computer editing software FX. And to me I find the old school approach very refreshing. A tense, disturbing chiller from a man who continues to impress on the independent horror scene and for once a remake that improves upon it’s source material.
3 solid bones!