There’s a giant rat problem throughout all of New York City, and when I say giant, I’m not just exaggerating the multitude of rats. The bite of an infected rat results in human infection, slowly but surely turning the host into a human-rat hybrid that feeds on flesh and blood to survive. The infected also has an increased sensibility to light, a pronounced snout, and an apparent weakness to a mustachioed ex-boxer running around the streets at night, giving roundhouse kicks and one-two punches to the cannibals.
This is, of course, our main character, Clutch (Nick Damici, who also wrote the script), a tenant in a slummy apartment building that’s always falling down. He’s got a few things in life that keep him going: shadowboxing and workouts, a nice blonde woman from downstairs (Bo Corre) and her kid, an older man who he takes care of, and a daughter that has just recently decided to come home and see him. This is a pretty unfortunate coincidence for his daughter, Casey (Kim Blair), though, because on the same night that SHE CAME HOME (little Halloween pun for you there), the outbreak of rat infestations begin, and the whole city is thrown into utter chaos… or at least more than it was before.
The film’s fun for what it is, a creature feature that acts as a zombie flick, but it’s not nearly as experimental as it wants to be. Most of the movie is brought to us in cuts of different people; Clutch and his boxing, the blonde woman and her bartending, Casey’s ride home and her brooding, and so on. It’s a nice glimpse of each character, almost mimicking the apartment lifestyle that Clutch lives in, but it cuts away too much and too fast for me to make any sort of connection with the character. Along with that is the fact that the cuts only give us minimal detail as to why we’re supposed to care about what we’re watching. I think a more effective move would have been to use less cuts, and maybe only center on Clutch and Casey’s ride home to create more tension in that respect.
There’s a loss of direction, too, that had me asking questions. Casey is coming home when the rat infection breaks out, but Clutch focuses on his lover at her job at the bar. He runs out the door with his gloves on, flying fists whirling at the rat zombies (we’ll talk about this soon), but instead of thinking once about his poor daughter riding her bike through the streets that are overrun with the creatures, he instead runs over to the bar to save a woman he barely knows. Clutch seems like an alright father; he bakes a cake for her and throws a welcoming party, so it seems as though his slip-up of forgetting Casey is a little out of character.
The transformations are actually fairly well-done, although we don’t see much. I have to say that the rat snouts looked more like pigs to me, but I was alright with it. The premise was already pretty hokey, and made even more so when Clutch started fighting the rat humans off with his fists. That’s right, folks – Clutch is a boxer through and through, so no need to take a weapon. He’s got his fists to knock out anything that comes in his way. The only problem with this premise, other than it being more hilarious than terrifying, is that the virus is spread from blood and saliva. So if Clutch makes contact with more than just skin, he’s got that blood and saliva on his skin, and if he touches his eyes… well, you know the drill. If it were me, I’d be wearing a contamination suit just like the government, but Clutch opts for a piece of cloth and his knuckles. What disturbed me most was that Clutch could fend off these rats with his hands, but a big bouncer dude could not kill anything with a wooden bat. Go figure!
All this adds up to an entertaining, but entirely un-scary, gorefest. The rats go for the intestines like zombies, tearing through anything in their way. It also seems like they’re obsessed with killing things for the hell of it. There are a few tense moments (two men stuck in a room where all the rats are prowling), but what’s missing here is a sense of helplessness. In that scenario, the guys are pretty damn screwed; they’re both old, frail, and feeble. But when you’re with a guy like Clutch, who can beat off the creatures with his bare hands, or Casey, who can ride through an infested road and not get eaten, you’ve got yourself some hope. I think use of the original rats, who could infect humans, along with the zombies, would have been interesting. If you have both threats looming over you, the odds are more against your survival.
A well-done, if ambling, film, Mulberry St isn’t as horrifying as the name 8 Films to Die For would have you believe. Instead, it’s actually more of a horror comedy, grotesque in design but kind-hearted in nature. It’s a melding of the giant creature/zombie genres, done with an obvious pleasure of both but with its share of rat traps.