“Three years ago, entomologist Dr. Susan Tyler genetically created an insect to kill cockroaches carrying a virulent disease. Now, the insects are out to destroy their only predator, mankind.” — IMDb
Based on a short story of the same name by Donald A. Wollheim, Mimic is Guillermo del Toro’s second full-length film (after Cronos, which was released in 1993). I had first seen this movie years ago but didn’t remember much when I re-watched it… and now I remember why.
The movie opens with New York City reeling from a widespread epidemic of “Strickler’s disease”, which is spread by cockroaches and killing off the city’s children. Dr. Peter Mann (Jeremy Northam), the Deputy Director of the CDC, brings in entomologist Dr. Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino) to help eradicate the disease by engineering a brand new breed of insect that they name “the Judas breed” to wipe out the cockroach population. They are successful in their endeavor and later marry, but 3 years later there’s an unexpected development…
** SPOILERS! **
Honestly, I had high hopes going into this movie, but they weren’t fully realized. The opening scene alone — the seemingly endless corridor of kids gasping and soaked with sweat in their beds, with almost elegant white curtains in a sort of canopy over them. I thought if the storyline couldn’t pull me in then at least the imagery could, and while that was true for some of the film, it wasn’t quite enough.
The same goes for the first kill of one of the giant, roaming Judas breed insects. When it pulls the reverend into the sewer, violently sweeping him from side to side to get his oversized body to fit in the tight space, I thought the rest of the movie would follow in the same disturbing manner… but that was one of the only memorable kills, as far as I am concerned.
It was a bit cheesy at times and, per usual, I didn’t really need for them to be romantically linked at all.
The effects were actually pretty decent, though I would have preferred for the giant insect to be cloaked in a bit more shadow, as it lost some of its effectiveness during that first fully lit shot when it flies off with Dr. Tyler.
The scariest scene — heck, one of the only truly scary scenes — was when Dr. Tyler wakes up after being kidnapped by the insect. She looks up and sees a vent up above and despite her screams for help, the people passing by — people who she can see walking mere feet above her — can’t hear a thing. The concept of being stuck underground with an undefined number of MASSIVE insects — ones that YOU YOURSELF created — was scary, for sure.
The other was when we see more up close how the insects are mimicking their predator: humans. The fact that they could come fairly close to duplicating what a human face looks like, but the resemblance only being convincing in shadow or in brief passing, was terrifying. Heck, the fact that they had evolved so quickly, and in such an advanced manner, was enough to give me the creeps.
I thought that Dr. Peter Mann was completely forgettable. Dr. Tyler, the cop they are stuck in the sewer with (played by Charles S. Dutton), and even Josh (played by Josh Brolin, who I really don’t like) ALL had better performances.
And the ending… just SO cheesy. I actually wished they had finished out on a darker note, honestly.
All in all, it follows the typical recipe for a moderately successful science fiction/horror movie, obviously inspired greatly by the likes of Alien: a new breed of something semi-familiar wreaks havoc on people who ultimately dug their own grave while trapped in a small, dank, glistening space that looks great on camera. It’s not bad, but it’s no masterpiece, and nowhere near del Toro’s best work.
Rating: 5/10 | Director: Guillermo del Toro | Writer: Donald A. Wollheim (short story), Matthew Robbins (screenplay), Guillermo del Toro (screenplay) | Music: Marco Beltrami | Cinematography: Dan Laustsen | Starring: Mira Sorvino, Jeremy Northam, Charles S. Dutton, Giancarlo Giannini, Alexander Goodwin, F. Murray Abraham, Alix Koromzay, Josh Brolin