Mimic (1997) (out of 4)
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Stars: Mira Sorvino, Jeremy Northam, Charles S. Dutton, Giancarlo Giannini, Alexander Goodwin, Josh Brolin, Alix Koromzay, F. Murray Abraham, James Costa,
Javon Barnwell, Norman Reedus
Mimic 2 (2001) 1/2 (out of 4)
Director: Jean de Segonzac
Stars: Alix Koromzay, Bruno Campos, Will Estes, Gaven E. Lucas, Edward Albert, Jon Polito, Jody Wood, Jim O’Heir, Brian Leckner, Paul Schulze, Michael Tucci
Mimic 3: Sentinel (2003) 1/2 (out of 4)
Director: J.T. Petty
Stars: Karl Geary, Rebecca Mader, Alexis Dziena, Amanda Plummer, John Kapelos, Lance Henriksen, Keith Robinson, Tudorel Filimon, Maria Oprescu, Mircea Constantinescu, Mircea Anca Jr.
You’re some sort of big, fat, smart-bug, aren’t you?
Dimension Films and the Weinstein brothers are behind the Mimic trilogy, starting in 1997 with the first film directed by Guillermo del Toro, a talented guy known for his love of monsters, dark fantasy, and horror. Mimic was his second full length film, following Cronos (his interesting take on the vampire legend), and it’s a creature feature all the way. If you suffer from katsaridaphobia (fear of roaches), you are advised to stay away from these films, since their plots deal with giant cockroaches that prey on unsuspecting humans. Well, technically, they aren’t “roaches” but a new breed of insect made from termite, mantis, and ant DNA. But why split hairs? These things are big, hungry, and they can even look like you. The result is an uneven trilogy of B-movie monster mayhem – nothing earth-shattering, but then again, not the disaster some have made them out to be, either.
Mimic, the first film, is the weakest of them, and given that it was directed by del Toro (whose Blade and Hellboy films kick ass), I take no pleasure in saying so. And I have watched the movie over 3 times now, trying to convince myself that it is a good monster flick, but I just can’t get there. The first half is good – brilliant, even – but the second half grinds to a halt before delivering a cop-out happy ending. The premise is solid: a deadly disease called Strickler’s, spread by NYC roaches, is killing children. Dr. Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino) and her hubby Dr. Peter Mann (Jeremy Northam) solve the problem by creating the “Judas” breed – a newly created, genetically modified insect – which kills off all cockroaches in the city. But three years later, a serial killer starts taking victims near an old dilapidated church and the only clue seems to be giant pieces of excrement hanging from the ceilings. The serial killer, as you can guess, turns out to be the Judas breed, now grown up to human size and breeding in the underground subway system. To make things worse, they have adapted themselves to imitate humans in a very clever way.
Man, I’m tired of this Soundgarden video already.
Where Mimic does things right is in its religious symbolism – the Catholic church setting, for example, being compared with our CDC friends playing God by creating a new species. (As it happens, God, or Mother Nature, is not amused). But throwing Catholicism into the mix is something that del Toro does very well (see Mira Sorvino’s stigmata moment where she cuts her hand to attract a bug). Also he films New York as a dark, damp petri dish, swarming with critters in every nook and cranny. The way he shoots the NYC subway is quite gloomy and ominous (well it’s actually a station in Toronto, but still). There are some good scenes in the first half – one where a person is reaching underneath a cabinet looking for a lost flashlight, just inches away from an insect about to claw her (or something – I know crap about entomology). The best scene takes place on a subway platform where the true nature of the “Long John” figure is revealed – I’ll say no more. But things go south in the film during the second half, where our heroes (including a shoemaker played by Giancarlo Giannini and a MTA cop played by Charles Dutton) become trapped by the beasts inside an old abandoned subway car. At this point, the movie becomes Alien/Aliens, which is ok, but instead of picking up the pace, Mimic slows down, separates everyone, and gives every character a cat-and-mouse scenario. But things take so long to play out here, and everything is so dark during this part of the picture, that it had the effect on me of inducing drowsiness. Good thing I didn’t have to operate heavy machinery.
The explosive ending picks things up a bit, but by then I couldn’t get back into it. The final scene shows us that one of the characters has – impossibly – survived the ordeal, which just removes any goodwill I had left. My personal opinion is that the first half of Mimic is pretty much del Toro’s baby, and the second half is the result of Bob Weinstein’s constant, well-documented interference in the shoot. But even with all the Weinstein nonsense, Mimic is just too slow and lengthy for a 50s monster throwback. Love that creature design, though, and Dutton’s performance comes across the best.
I hope there’s no anchovies on that… because that’s just gross!
Mimic 2 is a direct-to-video effort, written by Joel Soisson (he also wrote Trick or Treat, Dracula 2000, and, uh, Hellraiser 8). Actually, it’s not that bad, which is slightly surprising. After all, Mira Sorvino and Jeremy Northam (and especially del Toro) weren’t gonna go anywhere near this sequel, but somehow they convinced Alix Koromzay to reprise her role as Remi (Remy?) from the last film. Instead of being the sidekick, though, she is front and center, and suddenly made into a full fledged entomologist (well, the first film never really made clear what her role was) as well as elementary school teacher in some shitty school district in the city. Mimic 2 continues the trend started by the first film by having annoying kids around, but unlike the first Mimic, doesn’t have the will to kill them off occasionally. There are some things it does correctly though – director de Segonzac knows that he’s making a B monster flick so he delivers the goods without overstaying his welcome. Remi is portrayed as a mentally unbalanced “bug-lady” who is a “wacko-magnet.” All her dates are creeps, but the “good” news is that her dates are winding up mutilated with their faces torn off. Detective Klaski (Bruno Campos) thinks Remi did it, and why wouldn’t he? The girl takes photos of herself in every emotional state and writes the names of her male tormentors on each one, then hangs them up on a wall – serial killer style.
Soon enough, Remi is trapped inside the school with troubled kid Sal (Gaven E. Lucas) and horny teen Nicky (Will Estes) who just can’t seem to keep his hands off his teacher’s breasts. What a family! The secret of Mimic 2 is that it’s really about Remi’s man troubles and her uncanny ability to attract stalkers – even ones that take the form of 6 foot tall cockroaches. Mimic 2 has bad acting and it’s nowhere in the same league as del Toro, style-wise, but it does dare to violate our main character in a rather icky way, and the final scene is a keeper, let me tell you. I should also note that while Alix Koromzay doesn’t have the screen presence of Mira Sorvino, she shows no fear when it comes to crawling around in the bug slime, so to speak, something I find admirable. I wouldn’t say that Mimic 2 is “good” per se, but for a film about giant killer bugs, it goes down better than the first while making a not so subtle suggestion that when it comes to mating, the males of our species aren’t too different from insects. Oh, and once again, it steals from the Alien movies, but that’s to be expected, right? Bonus: watch for the bug-as-a-man offering our heroine a pizza. Good stuff!
Watch out for pervy bugs wearing raincoats.
Mimic 3: Sentinel is it’s own unique animal, with director J.T. Petty showing lots of promise. Sure, he shamelessly rips off (uh, I mean, offers homage to) Hitchcock’s Rear Window, but I must say it’s a pretty good rip off. In fact, if Hitch made Rear Window more like this, I might have liked it better. (By that, I mean making it more kinetic, not necessarily throwing in monsters, although giant bugs in Raymond Burr’s apartment would have gotten my attention. Yeah, to me, Rear Window isn’t all that, and I am not a fan of Jimmy Stewart, but we’ll have to discuss that another time). Karl Geary plays Marvin, one of the last kids to contract Strickler’s Disease (from the first film), which has led to his extreme hypersensitivity to his surroundings. Basically, he lives his life in the plastic bubble of his room, only occasionally leaving the house, like when his troubled sister Rosy (Alexis Dziena) wants him to photograph a dead body in the sewer, for example. Marvin has amassed quite a collection of photos taken from his bedroom window; on some of them, he seems to have captured the nighttime murder of a kid and the local neighborhood drug dealer. The local cop (John Kapelos) seems more interested in bedding Marvin’s mom (Amanda Plummer) than solving the case. Plus, there’s this mysterious garbageman (Lance Henriksen) snooping around. Helping out is his pretty neighbor Carmen (Rebecca Mader), taking on the Grace Kelly role. Except that Carmen’s smoking and perfume doesn’t exactly leave a good impression on a dude suffering from something like autism and asthma mixed together.
Mimic 3 is definitely a slow burner, but strangely enough I wasn’t bothered too much. Perhaps I was caught up in its “art film” sensibilities, but more than that – director Petty has figured out that if you are going to make the audience wait, you should reward them with a payoff. He certainly does that here – Mimic 3 is definitely the bloodiest entry in the trilogy, and no character is safe from harm in it. There’s a sequence where Marvin hides from the insect killers inside a kitchen fridge that is quite intense and claustrophobic (as is a similar scene with Rosy trapped in the trunk of a car). Of course, Henriksen kinda seals the deal here; his scenes, while short, are not wasted. In the end, I liked this stripped-down version of Mimic – minimalist, and then explosive. Interesting also, that it would tie the origins of its main character and its bugs together.
Rear Window 2: Thorwald’s Revenge
In conclusion, the Mimic trilogy should offer enough ickiness to satiate lovers of insect carnage. No, the exposition concerning “evolution” and “mutations” isn’t believable (insects developing lungs? why?) but that doesn’t really matter. These are throwbacks to the horror features of old that warned us about taking science too far (remember Them!?) What’s interesting is that each film has its defenders and detractors – try each one and see which of them you like best.
– Bill Gordon
Mimic 3 Film Set (Mimic / Mimic 2 / Mimic 3) [Blu-ray]
Mimic (The Director’s Cut) [Blu-ray + Digital Copy]
Mimic 3: Sentinel
“Honey… can you bring me the large can of Raid?”