Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Mulberry St

So at last we come to the end of the After Dark Horrorfest Part 2. Having now seen this film, I can indeed confirm everyone else’s opinion that it’s the best of the set, though Borderland does come close to matching it. It’s always a pleasant (though increasingly uncommon) experience when one of the movies I critique for this site is actually good, rather than just “so-bad-it’s-good”, or the far more common “bad”.

The film’s setting, for those unfamiliar with New York, is on Mulberry Street, in the heart of Little Italy (though sadly, there were no shots of Paisano’s. I was looking). It’s on the southern side of Manhattan, and it’s where a small group of people are trapped after a viral outbreak caused by a plague of rats causes anyone bitten by the rats (or by the subsequently infected people) to transform into rat men with an insatiable thirst for blood! Manhattan is quickly quarantined and placed under martial law to stem the tide of the outbreak, leaving the survivors to barricade themselves inside and wait for rescue.

There’s a few things I really enjoyed about this film. First and foremost was how it seemed fairly real in ways that counted. Obviously the scary zombie-like ratmen were as real as they come, but the characters themselves spoke and acted like real people. None of them seemed like movie stars, and none of them were like the characters we got in all seven of the other movies in the set, where we get twenty-something models trying to pass themselves off as regular people. The location only helps this feeling, as it’s actually a real place, and not just some set or backlot, and they didn’t just place the action in some isolated patch of wilderness or some military compound like the majority of zombie movies do. Indeed, they even work the setting into the characters’ ongoing dilemma, as this is possibly the only zombie movie I’ve ever seen where not a single character can get ahold of a gun. Everyone is just left with using their fists or whatever happens to be nearby that can pass as a club. It ratchets up the tension considerably when nobody can rely on headshotting the enemy from a distance, and pretty much leaves them to just running like hell whenever they can.

I have to say, this year’s set was a noticeable improvement over last year’s, though it still has a lot of problems to it. Both After Dark collections have been incredibly schizophrenic, and while this one’s high points (Mulberry Street and Borderland, and to a lesser extent Tooth & Nail and The Deaths of Ian Stone) were generally higher than those in the first set (The Gravedancers being the only one I’d consider an outright good film), it still managed to have as many weak films as good. Indeed, the two worst films in this mix were just terrible, like something out of the Tomb of Terrors collection. If they continue doing this each year, they need to knuckle down and start practicing some stronger quality control, or else they’re running a serious risk of burning out their core audience.

Ehh, who am I kidding? I’ll still watch ‘em.

Rating: *** ½

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