At the time of writing this article the world is still reeling from a pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus. Many people have spent the last several months trapped inside, fearing that going out could potentially put their lives at risk. Some have turned to drinking, others have used the time to get in better shape, and then there are horror fans who decide to watch Mulberry St. so that afterwards they can feel better when they say to themselves “Well at least COVID isn’t turning people into murderous rat monsters”.
Mulberry St. was originally released in 2006 and did well enough on the film festival circuit that it was picked up by Lions Gate and eventually distributed by After Dark Films as part of their 8 Films to Die For franchise. Mulberry St. is a movie that despite its premise has a lot of heart and lets the audience get to know the characters instead of them just being nameless victims. The movies story focuses around Clutch, an ex-boxer that lives in a run down Manhattan apartment where the tenants have formed a close knit community over the years and now face impending eviction as part of a real estate plan to gentrify their neighborhood. Over the years Clutch has formed an almost family like connection with his neighbors and has developed an especially close relationship with his trans neighbor Coco who helped Clutch raise his daughter Casey after his wife died. Despite the impending eviction Clutch and Coco are excited that Casey is returning home from the Army after serving a tour in Iraq.
Like in most real life pandemics the characters ignore the early warning signs despite locals starting to act strange and news reports of a virus that has appeared after an increased number of rat attacks. The movie takes it’s time letting you get to know the characters and the neighborhood, but eventually it’s finally revealed that the citizens infected by the rat bites are turning feral as they mutate into rat like creatures themselves. Clutch’s daughter Casey gets into Manhattan just as the government shuts down transportation in an attempt to lockdown the city, leaving Casey stranded in the middle of the outbreak. Casey is forced to fight her way home as Clutch does his best to defend his neighborhood.
Despite only having a micro budget of $60,000 Mulberry St. was still able to pull together a talented cast that the audience could root for and through clever use of locations they managed to make it really feel like the streets of Manhattan were being overrun with monsters. The camera work seems raw and gritty in a way that was reminiscent of 28 Days Later. One of the best and worst elements of the movie was the use of practical effects. There were a few times CGI was used in background elements, but the creatures were all created through practical effects that genuinely made them frightening at the beginning when they appeared as fanged mutants mostly hidden in shadows, but unfortunately near the end of the movie they had transformed into long snouted rat people that had become more goofy than scary.
Personally the thing I enjoyed the most about this movie is how it shows how horror movies often times actually have all the elements of a romance, an action movie, and definitely a tragedy. In the story there is a powerful love triangle playing out with Coco obviously being in love with Clutch, but knowing that Clutch does not feel the same way, a heart broken Coco has to watch as romance starts to blossom between Clutch and the woman living in the apartment upstairs. When the infected eventually start pouring out of the shadows to feast on the surprised citizens the audience gets to enjoy elaborate action sequences as many of the tougher locals choose to fight back by using any weapon they can get their hands on. Finally there is the strong element of tragedy that you can’t help but feel after getting to like and even relate to the characters, just to see them be killed off one by one. Fear is the strongest emotion we have so once a movie taps into it it overrides everything else and we oftentimes simply categorize the movie as horror, but a movie like this shows us that there are many layers to a good story.