Mimic (1997)
By: Mr Intolerance on May 12, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Magna Pacific (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 4:3. English DD 2.0. 106 minutes
The Movie
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Mira Sorvino, Jeremy Northam, Alexander Goodwin, Giancarlo Giannini, Charles S. Dutton
Screenplay: Robbins, Guillermo del Toro
Country: USA
External Links
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As a director, I think Guillermo del Toro has been recently greatly feted for Pan's Labyrinth to the detriment of his earlier, equally fine movies. And I think films such as Mimic prove me right.

Starring notable hornbag Mira Sorvino, Mimic is the tale of a subterranean race of killer mutant cockroaches, and if no part of that sentence appeals to you, go to your local video store and rent out Howards End – this isn't the film for you. From the Se7en style opening credits down, this is a film that manages to balance style with substance.

The Commissioner of the Centre for Disease Control has told us that Strickler's Disease (a fatal disease of crap surnames?) is wiping out a generation of children, courtesy of the common cockroach, but Dr Susan Tyler (aforementioned hornbag) has come up with a possible solution. The basic idea is to introduce a genetically mutated strain of cockroach (the Judas breed – who have a suicide gene) into the mainstream roach population, thus rendering them harmless, the Judas roaches dying inside of six months.

Unfortunately, within three years, Susan's little nightmares have become a little bit more of a problem than envisaged, in that they've cross-bred with the regular roaches, become a hell of a lot bigger, evolved, and so some very bad stuff ensues…

As a matter of fact, once the new breed cross-breed with the old, the resultant mongrel race become vicious, positively homicidal, and that's where our intrepid heroes problems begin. Aided by the nearby cobbler's son, Joey, Susan starts to piece together the pieces of the mystery of the cycle of grisly murders that are taking place. "Mister Funny Shoes", Joey's nick-name for a local hobo, should have been paid attention to much earlier than he was…

I guess contemporary fears are being addressed here in terms of genetic modification, and that old chestnut about science overstepping itself that's as old as Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein, or Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde. We all know that science has the potential for evil; I find it weird in this day and age that it still needs to be said (then again, del Toro was doing similar things when telling us about the evils of fascism in Pan's Labyrinth – maybe the dummies out there haven't got it yet). Mind you, when del Toro says it, it's worth listening to, because you're being told by a master – this boy knows how to use a camera.

As with all of del Toro's films, the violence is raw and brutal, having a personal touch which makes it that bit more uncomfortable – this seems to be a uniquely European ability (in modern film-making, Alexandre Aja has it too), which appears to be denied US directors. And given the current nanny-state we live in, you have to salute any film that is brave enough to contain child-slaughter in its cavalcade of carnage, as this one does. Not for the horribleness of the act, but for the courage to depict such an activity, in a context that makes some kind of sense, and not just for shock value. And in this film, it makes perfect, horrible sense. It represents a level of evil and inhumanity the August Underground films can only hope for.

Flaws? Yeah, sure. Can we spell "expository dialogue"? Cos there's certainly enough of it. The bit with Susan explaining the life of insects to young bucktoothed street-urchins seemed to be so terribly overdone, it gave me cancer. And it did have that whiff of Hollywood at times in the set pieces – a few too many "look behind you" moments. But the pros outweigh the cons – once the action moves underground, the film gains a level of tension most Hollywood blockbusters would sell their own mothers for. Del Toro, by keeping his monsters off-screen until the last act, as Ridley Scott did with Alien, keeps them scary.

Oddly enough for a European director, even for one working in Hollywood, ethnicity is still a deathmark in Mimic, as in all big-budget US films – if you're a non-WASP, you're gonna die. The best you can hope for is to be a side-kick. Not much of an aspiration, really.

Del Toro manages in this, as in Pan's Labyrinth, or as Jeunet and Caro did with City of Lost Children, to make a child character, Joey (an idiot savant when it comes to shoe sizes) sympathetic, and not simply a useless piece of luggage that shrieks and cries at inopportune moments, a la Newt in Aliens, or that awful child with the Prince Valiant haircut in House By The Cemetery and Manhattan Baby.  

As a paean to the giant bug movies of the 50s, Mimic works. Replace radiation with genetic modification, and contextually, you're in the right place – just don't go in expecting Them-size roaches, six foot high ones are bad enough.
A 4:3 transfer looks beautiful , which is what you'd want from a del Toro film although the orginal aspect ratio is 1.85:1.
A stereo track is our only option here, and it's good. What you've paid for, really. Most international releases come with a 5.1 channel audio track.
Extra Features
Fuck all, y'all. Nada, zip, zilch, zero. Not even the trailer.
The Verdict
Mimic has all the hallmarks of a del Toro film – it's beautifully shot, the characters are believable and likeable, the horror seems real and disturbing, the violence is shocking and gruesome at the same time, but never gratuitous. It's a worthy addition to your collection, even if this version is a vanilla disc. A 5 star movie on a 2 star disc.
Movie Score
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