|Nick Damici should be the new Charles Bronson.|
He's more handsome and he can act.
He writes screenplays too!
UNTIL IT BITES YOU!
Dir. Jim Mickle
Starring: Nick Damici, Kim Blair, Bo Corre, Javier Picayo, Ron Brice
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Gentrification in Manhattan is about to force low-income dwellers from their tattered walk-up on the legendary Mulberry Street, but they face a far more formidable foe than greedy developers and upwardly-mobile scum. Rats, you see, are not only plaguing the area, but are biting people, their diseased fangs and saliva spreading a monstrous virus. The city responds swiftly by trying to isolate the plague, but as the scourge bursts out beyond the confines of the neighbourhood, the entire subway system is closed and all vehicular traffic, save for emergency vehicles, is banned. If the virus merely killed people, that'd be one thing, but horror movies aren't made to offer-up mere heart-stoppage to their victims. They need to suffer and in turn, cause others to suffer even more.
Welcome to Jim Mickle's first feature film, Mulberry Street, a nerve-shredding debut of the highest order and one which magnificently laid the groundwork for his stunning sophomore effort Stake Land and his third feature, We Are What We Are, the brave, creepy atmospheric re-imagining of Jorge Michel Grau's gothic Mexican cannibalism-fest of the same name. All of them feature screenplays by star Nick Damici and the pair's latest is Cold in July, a star-studded crime thriller based on Joe R. Lansdale's weird Dostoyevsky-Jim-Thompson-like novel which just debuted in the Director Fortnight at Cannes.
Mickle and Damici are hotter than hot and Mulberry Street is the one that demands to be discovered beyond its solid following of hard-core horror fans. The movie delivers the goods and then some. Produced on a budget of $50K after Mickle delivered his thesis film at NYU, it's a marvel of intelligent writing and stunning direction. The screenplay offers what could have been another hackneyed band-of-misfits against a virus gone literally mad and infuses it with terse dialogue, fully-fleshed characters, dollops of social commentary (albeit subtle) and within its world, a narrative that moves succinctly from one plausible plot point to the next. Thematically, the picture examines the meaning of family and does so with a greater resonance than one would expect from a low-budget horror film as its community of indelible characters - related by love, friendship, respect and, in some cases blood - face a 24-hour period of utter terror as they protect themselves from an ever-mounting army of hideously transformed bite-victims.
|If you let that cute, little rat bite you, this is your fate.|
|Cannibal down the chimney.|
|A Polish MILF w/a baseball bat!|
|These fuckers mean business!|
This recipe is a perfect stew for terror, but it takes a great director to make the princely sum of $50k cook up real nice and Jim Mickle never disappoints. Compositions, camera movement and lighting are taste-tempting treats of virtuosity and Mickle's coverage during set-pieces and even quiet moments are full of variety.
Some of the suspense sequences are sheer pants-and-undie fillers: a few harrowing rescues, alleyway fisticuffs, a mad drive down Mulberry Street, a mutant slithering down a chimney like a cannibal Santa Claus, more fisticuffs in narrow tenement hallways, numerous door battering moments courtesy of hungry mutants, a tear-ass chase through basement corridors, and yes, rooftop fisticuffs.
Mickle never resorts to the usual fall-backs of endless closeups, whack-a-mole cutting, herky-jerky moves galore and all the other egregious directorial tropes of less-talented filmmakers (including some of those big-budget idiots like Sam Mendes, J.J. Abrams, Christopher Nolan, et all).
On two-cents, Mickle manages to capture Manhattan streets teeming with activity and even more, the same streets bereft of life or movement. Film after film since this debut, he's never disappointed us with his versatility and artistry.
|The basement is no place to die.|
Making use of real locations with a tight guerrilla team, this is a movie that pulsates with the naturalistic miss-en-scene of an authentic time and place, but splashed with the crimson of fantastical horror-hijinx and amidst the carnage, there's a sense of humanity, love and yes, the aforementioned family. Even more heart-wrenching is the notion of how families are often driven by selfless acts of sacrifice to benefit those they love. This is a theme and emotional core that began with this film and has been an integral part of every Mickle-Damici collaboration to date.
These guys make real movies. They put most studio pictures to shame and frankly. a lot of low-budget indies too.
Mulberry Street and other Jim Mickle pictures are available at Amazon. Feel free to order directly from the links below and in so doing support the ongoing maintenance of The Film Corner.