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Tag Archives: Horror Movies

If one were to take a look at the current spate of zombie films and books, three things pop up: the zombies themselves are the results of either mutation, viral infection, or other-worldly possession. It’s the mutation and infection one routinely sees in either Romero’s films, or in the Resident Evil movies. As for other worldly possession, that seems to come almost exclusively, these days, in Brian Keene’s three best selling zombie books, The Rising, City of the Dead, and Dead Sea. There is, however, a much older tradition, one that predates Night of Living Dead. Zombies used to be province of voodoo films, where outsiders and/or tourists come accidentally traipse into a mess of indigeneous culture.

That’s certainly the case with All Souls Day. Basically, the director, writer, and producers of the movie sought to buck the current zombie trend and harken back to the sort of film Lugosi made with White Zombie. The resulting story places an American couple driving through Mexico. They end up in a desolate little town, and unbeknowst to them, they interrupted a human sacrifice. All Souls Day, a post-halloween holiday in Mexico, is a day where the dead routinely rise. But do they only savagely want to eat people? Or is the issue more complicated?

I’m not going to go there, at this moment. Basically, the acting is so-so. The characterization strikes one as a little trite, and the story, with it’s shocking twists and turns, is workable. In short, All Souls Day is a mediocre film, but it’s one that’s not a bore to watch, at least.

–Rich Ristow

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If you live in West Virginia long enough, you end up hearing lore and bits of history.  For example, one widely circulated tidbit suggests that the term “red neck” has Appallachian roots.   Striking miners during the many coal strikes wore red handerchiefs around their necks.  There’s one more thing West Virginia, though.  You live there long enough, and the you’ll eventually hear the bloody history of coal, too.  Strikes, at the end of the 19th Century consisted of more than just picket lines. Quite often, they were violent confrontations between the miners themselves and the thugs mine owners hired.  Simply put, the right to unionize and collectively bargain was a struggle that has gone on for more than a hundred years, and labor rights were paid for the lives of agitators.   And the coal miners went on strike for good reasons.  Mine conditions were hardly favorable.

It’s important to keep this in mind when watching a film like Wicked Little Things.   Sure, it’s a lower budget horror dvd, but the premise of the story builds off of the types of legends you’d hear in Appallachia.  Basically, Wicked Little Things is a movie about ghoulish, monster children.  The come out at night, and they eat people.   Their origin, however, comes straight from the earlier days of Apallachan coal mining.  Basically, before there were laws against child labor, kids worked in more than just sweatshops in cities like New York.  In the mountains, they were often working in the mines, going places in the rock where full grown adults couldn’t possibly squeeze into.  Due to the callous nature of the mine operators, many of those children died, becoming malevolent entities.

In the mean time, a widow and her daughters moves into the haunted hills, partly because they have no where else to go, and they think they’ved inherited property.  Slowly, but surely, the family comes face to face with these ghostly children — who now have a taste for human flesh.

All in all, not a bad film.  There are plenty of horror movies out there that trade in the same tropes, and for a change, it’s interesting to see that character and mystery play more of a fole in the film than mere gore and people eating.

–Rich Ristow

Or, perhaps, for better truth in advertising, perhaps the subject line should read, “Attack of the Rat People.” Regardless, After Dark’s Mulberry Street is a startlingly good addition to the zombie genre. Perhaps it would be best, first, to describe what the movie isn’t. It isn’t a George Romero knock off, and it certainly isn’t an attempt to clone 28 Days Later. It’s a movie that holds its own in its own right, and in a film sub-genre that’s rapidly becoming cliche, there’s enough here to keep the film fresh and interesting.

In that regard, perhaps one comparison to 28 Days Later is apt. Mulberry Street, like 28 Days Later, is firmly grounded in a sense of place. 28 Days Later gave the viewer iconic and apocalyptic images of London — so did the sequel, 28 Weeks Later. Mulberry Street is New York City through and through — there’s no possible way this film could be set anywhere else. Before the outbreak occurs, the viewer is experiences the cacophony that’s NYC. Car horns, people, construction, subways — New York is a loud, busy place. And not only does a movie viewer ample New York imagery, but the film also captures the place unique sound scape.

And there’s more. The characters are all believable New Yorkers, whether it’s Clutch (Nick Damici) as a gruff retired boxer or even some of the elderly men that live Clutch’s building. Every one of Clutch’s neighbors comes off as well drawn and not anything remotely close to a cliche. And that’s an important factor.

Mulberry Street is also about a group of renters facing eviction. Their building is deteriorating around them, and instead of making repairs, the new owner wants all of them out, so that he can tear the building down a build something a little more upscale. Given that New York has a fierce housing market, the renters don’t have a whole lot of options. Recently, New York City, as well as parts of Northern and Coastal New Jersey have undergone a sense of gentrification that favors the rich over the lower socioeconomic classes. For Mulberry Street, this is the problem the tenants face before the outbreak — and it’s necessary if the filmmaker wants to be true to his setting.

The whole outbreak phenomenon, also, is uniquely New York. It starts in the subway, as infected rats attack commuters. The Municipal Transit Authority tries to control the situation, but ultimately, fails. Both infected rats and people stream out of the subway and eventually sparks chaotic violence. For Clutch and his neighbors in their Mulberry Street walk-up, survival mean staying inside their tenement, and that can only go so far, as the walls are crumbling. As for the infected, once the contagion sets in, they begin to look more like rat-people then what one would traditionally call a “zombie.”

One more thing has to be said. For a film that wears New York City on it’s sleeve, there’s a bit of class displayed here. New York City, as most know, was the sight of real-life horror and terror on September 11th. There’s hardly a mention of it, and rightly so. Going heavy on 9/11 imagery would not only be off-topic, but it would come off as grossly exploitative. There’s a mention of Bin Laden towards the beginning, but that’s in how one of the characters reacts to the news. That’s believable because in recent history, whether it was the blackouts or crane collapses, terrorism has always been the first through in most people’s head. So, the one lone, quick reference to 9/11 adds to the sense of place without becoming a distraction.

Over all, for a straight to DVD release, Mulberry Street is worth it’s price tag. As a horror film, it works very well. Also, there’s enough here to keep the movie from venturing into cliched territory. So, while the themes and tropes may be wholly familiar, it uses them very effectively.

–Rich Ristow