Mimic (1997)
Mimic (1997)

Genre: Sci-Fi Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 45 min.

Release Date: August 22nd, 1997 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Guillermo del Toro Actors: Mira Sorvino, Jeremy Northam, Alexander Goodwin, Giancarlo Giannini, Charles S. Dutton, Josh Brolin, Alix Koromzay, F. Murray Abraham

 


 

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sensationally creepy opening title sequence introduces “Mimic,” based on the short story by Donald A. Wollheim and directed by Guillermo del Toro in his American debut – and only his second feature after the acclaimed Mexican production “Cronos.” With rapidly cut shots of roaches, butterflies, eyeballs, pins, tattered papers, and children’s faces, the mood is set for a dark, gory horror flick full of jump scares, gooey makeup effects (including a gruesome autopsy), and oodles of creepy-crawlies. It may not be the most original of monster movies, but it’s well paced and takes itself seriously.

A new epidemic attacks Manhattan Island, demanding quarantine and a desperate solution. Entomologist and “bug lady” Dr. Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino), along with deputy director of the CDC Dr. Peter Mann (Jeremy Northam), are called in to join forces with genetics labs across the country to create the Judas Breed, a new species of insect that can kill the common cockroaches that carry the deadly “Strickler’s” disease. The new bug is only supposed to have a lifespan of six months and has an incredible effectiveness rate.

Three years later, the two doctors are married. Susan still works as a scientist, studying insects and occasionally buying specimens brought to her by two kids that frequent the subway tunnels under the city. When they bring her a live critter with the same genetic makeup as the supposedly extinct Judas Breed, she discovers that instead of dying off, they’ve mutated and bred. Now, a large colony of monstrous insects is killing unsuspecting people – starting with an Asian reverend. And the only witness to the attacks is an autistic boy named Chuy (Alexander Goodwin), who is always accompanied by his shoe-shiner father, Manny (Giancarlo Giannini). Susan also thinks she’s being stalked by a tall, dark-robed man, which complicates matters as the police begin skeptically investigating the many mysterious disappearances.

“Mimic,” above all else, is a monster movie, mixing slasher violence with sci-fi/alien suspense. When the creature is finally revealed, it’s a touch underwhelming, mainly because of the dated computer graphics used for the full-body shots; sequences in the lighted subway station can’t conceal the less convincing animation. Numerous later scenes creatively use practical effects for close-ups, including partially constructed, rubbery appendages that lash out in the dark. But the atmospheric settings are the most spectacular elements of “Mimic,” perfectly utilizing flickering tunnels, moist walkways, noisy air vents, oversized biohazard suits with raspy breathing apparatuses, and murky flashlight beams. The attention to environmental details is exceptional.

“They won’t attack you if they think you’re one of them!” In one of the most unique moments, a group of survivors trapped in a subway car must hilariously douse themselves in insect fluids to mask their scent. One of the members, Charles S. Dutton as Leonard, is a subway cop caught up in aiding the two scientists as they investigate the insect breeding grounds – and he does an excellent job of looking and acting shocked and frightened. A young Josh Brolin also makes an appearance, as a detective memorably complaining about the copious amounts of feces he must scrape from tunnel ceilings, along with F. Murray Abraham as a doctor, marking an unlikely reunion with Mira Sorvino in “Mighty Aphrodite.” Norman Reedus of “The Walking Dead” fame similarly has a minor role.

“Mimic” isn’t afraid to feature the violent deaths of children, the classic separating of party members (for extra isolation and panic), and grisly imagery like egg sacs, nasty wounds, and dead bodies. But many of the characters and situations appear as cheap equivalents to ideas seen in “Aliens,” while a few of the survival tactics are more contrived than suspenseful. Fortunately, the cinematography is sharp and many of the thrills are fresh – save for the general setup, which follows the 1988 Roger Corman B-movie “The Nest” a little too closely. Nevertheless, this project is a decent little creature feature from a promising filmmaker, who would go on to helm “Hellboy,” “Pan’s Labyrinth,” and “Pacific Rim”; he would also arrange for a slightly longer director’s cut of “Mimic,” released in 2011.

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10