Mulberry Street brings rat zombies to Toronto After Dark
The Toronto After Dark film festival opened tonight with its gala presentation of Jim Mickle's zombie apocalypse film, Mulberry Street. Like a slew of recent "zombie" pictures, Mulberry Street isn't about actual zombies at all - hello, they're supposed to be undead.
Instead, Mulberry Street essays yet another tale of a body-and-mind-warping plague sweeping across civilization and creating havoc. In this case, the plague turns people into rats.
The screening at the Bloor Cinema kicked off this year's seven-night programme, and was introduced by festival director Adam Lopez, doing his very best Colin Geddes impression. Director Jim Mickle was also in attendance, and ran a Q&A after the screening.
Glancing a couple of potshots off the American government's mishandling of the New Orleans crisis, along with the effect that global warming has had on the urban rodent population, Mulberry Street is otherwise a straight-ahead "plague make people go crazy" movie, complete with a band of honest souls who get holed up in a tenement building when all of Manhattan goes nuts and starts trying to eat them. What I really enjoyed was the film's deft visual style - it's assembled with the same "run and gun" visual orchestration of the Bourne movies, only in much closer quarters. The approach wasn't always a complete success, but on the whole was achieved with enough dramatic flair to elevate the material and the seeming budget - Mulberry Street looks like a million bucks, even if it only cost $100K.
Besides, it's a movie about rat zombies, and delivers what it promises: a slow first half that gives way to a third act chock-full of half-human, half-rat monsters chewing their way through 90% of the principal cast.
The major drawback of the night was, unfortunately, the still-ailing sound system at the Bloor Cinema, which simply wasn't up to the task of what a film like Mulberry Street is asking to do with its soundtrack. Given their genre and their intentions, the After Dark organizers would do well to consider a venue jump for next year - for all the Bloor's hoary charm, it's not the Midnight Madness venue it used to be. A movie like this begs to be loud and large, and the Bloor is neither.