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One sweltering summer day in New York, the city's rats suddenly, terrifyingly, begin to behave erratically and attack residents across the city. With each bite, New Yorkers devolve into bloodthirsty, rodent-like creatures, killing at will. In this sharp debut film, the horror centers on the diverse residents of Manhattan's 51 Mulberry Street, a building where each tenant has just received an eviction notice. Contemplating their uncertain future, the motley group of denizens goes One sweltering summer day in New York, the city's rats suddenly, terrifyingly, begin to behave erratically and attack residents across the city. With each bite, New Yorkers devolve into bloodthirsty, rodent-like creatures, killing at will. In this sharp debut film, the horror centers on the diverse residents of Manhattan's 51 Mulberry Street, a building where each tenant has just received an eviction notice. Contemplating their uncertain future, the motley group of denizens goes about their daily business, completely unaware of the impending terror. An ex-boxer waits for his daughter's return from a tour of duty in Iraq. A single mother of a teenage boy goes to work in a seedy bar. Two older, long-time residents putter about, lamenting the disrepair of the building. As the day goes on, news stations begin to broadcast advisories about a viral outbreak, but not until the creatures run rampant does it become painfully clear that the city is totally out of control. Stranded with no working subway, the Iraq vet uses her combat skills to make it home, taking us through the city from far uptown all the way to downtown Mulberry Street. Meanwhile, Manhattan is quarantined and the tenants band together, trying to survive through the night while keeping their now-bloodthirsty superintendent at bay. This thought-provoking story is cleverly set in post-September 11 New York - a time of war, rising gas prices and widespread residential displacement as a result of gentrification. With a shoestring budget and strong debut actors, Mickle delivers a brilliant addition to the zombie genre with a steady dose of horror, gore and a stunning finale.
Director's Statement Collapse
Since Night of the Living Dead, the zombie subgenre has gone in just about every direction possible. It's gotten bloodier and bloodier but also more high-tech and cannibalized. The goal on Mulberry Street was, in a way, to return to what Romero was doing with the genre the whole time. Half the motive is to scare and entertain while the other half is to talk about the problems of today. We didn't have the budget or resources (or desire) to top the outrageousness of the recent slew of big budget zombie fare. It was pointless -- Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson did it right the first time and no amount of glossy remakes are going to improve on the genre. The spin-offs are fun, but that's about it.
The point of Mulberry Street was to concentrate on the elements that Hollywood never has time for. A script. Believable characters. Subtlety. Integrity. A point. Things that are all but forgotten in the land of useless remakes and reality television. The great films of the 1970s (including the genre films of that time) seemed more urgent and frustrated. They wanted to say something as well as entertain us.
As the script was coming together, a restaurant bought my apartment building and doubled my rent in one month. With absolutely no alternative I had to move just a few days before we started shooting. Nick's girlfriend's bar across the street (our other location) almost had to shut down due to rent hikes. The same thing has been happening all over New York for years, but this was the first time I felt the effects of it -- the frustration and desperation of feeling like you aren't in control of the essential parts of your life. Our already ridiculous rent levels are out of control. Our tax dollars go to pay for things we're already adamantly protesting against. The most interesting parts of the city (and the rest of the world) are taken over regularly and regurgitated as carbon copy crap.
What is left of the middle class in this country (especially New York) is hanging on by a thread. As natural as the setting of Mulberry Street might be, it's actually based on a neighborhood and an era that doesn't exist anymore. The old-fashioned, everyone knows your name, collection of blue-collar, single mom, small family tenement areas have been dead for a while. Scorsese and Spike Lee might have had the last real glimpses of it.
The main character of Clutch is our version of the awesome everyman characters Charles Bronson made famous in his prime. A guy who doesn't want to fight back, but is always pushed too far by whatever oppressive entity exists at that time (politicians, corporations, terrorism--both real and imagined, real estate sharks, etc.). He's a modern-day Paul Kersey out of Death Wish, underplayed perfectly by Nick Damici.
The rats were perfect antagonists for Mulberry Street. A New York staple. Scary. Symbolic. Believable. Easy to find. They work on their own as a sign of everything that's gone wrong in the city. It's a great pitch and we started with that in mind, but I think as the film came together and the acting got so good, we realized we had something more. Instead of our original references of Evil Dead, Dead Alive, Bad Taste, Dawn of the Dead, and so on we started thinking differently and believing in the idea. Eventually our references were Jane Campion's In the Cut (for its beautifully impressionistic take on modern day Manhattan), French Connection (for its authenticity), Taking of Pelham One-Two-Three (for its ability to bring a believable ensemble cast to an entertaining genre flick) and John Carpenter, Ridley Scott, and Walter Hill for trying to bring an A-movie honesty and sensibility to a B-movie premise.
I think what sets Mulberry Street apart is its ability to have confidence in itself as a film that is operating at different speeds and in separate layers. Like Taking of Pelham One-Two-Three, we strove to tell a fun genre story, but also to concentrate just as much on how the story is dealt with. The beauty of th
Film Information Collapse
[MULBE] | 2006 | 85 | Narrative Feature
Foreign Title: (Mulberry Street)
Premiere: New York
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About the Director(s)Collapse
JIM MICKLE is a Film Production graduate of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. His senior thesis film, The Underdogs, won Best Independent Film at the 2002 I-Con Film Festival, screened at the Woodstock Film Festival and was the opening night short film at the San Francisco Horror Film Festival. He spent the last six years in the film business as a lighting technician on over fifteen feature films, including the Oscar® nominated Transamerica. He is an accomplished 3D animator and editor, and has worked as a storyboard artist and concept illustrator, providing artwork for feature films such as Monsters Ball, Damon Dash's Death of a Dynasty, and the upcoming Journey to the End of the Night, starring Brendan Fraser and Mos Def. He has also provided storyboard artwork for over two dozen commercials and music videos. Mulberry Street is Mickle's first full-length feature film.