Review: Mimic

Guillermo del Toro’s Mimic arrives on Blu-ray on the 31st of October with an all-new director’s cut. But does it improve on his first Hollywood film?

Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Written by: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Mira Sorvino, Jeremy Northam, Alexander Goodwin, Giancarlo Giannini, Josh Brolin, Charles S. Dutton, F. Murray Abraham
Released: 1997 / Genre: Horror/Science-fiction / Country: USA / IMDB
Buy on DVD: Blu-ray
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Guillermo del Toro is well known as the writer-director of Blade II and the Hellboy films as well as his renowned Spanish language works including Pan’s Labyrinth, The Devil’s Backbone and Cronos. But back in 1997 a young Del Toro came to the States following his critically-acclaimed update on the vampire genre Cronos. Despite it being his debut feature film Hollywood saw the imaginative filmmaker’s potential and hired him to write and direct Mimic.

The film stars Mira Sorvino as scientist Susan Tyler, a specialist in the study of insects. When a disease begins spreading throughout New York, killing hundreds of the city’s children, Susan uses genetic engineering to create the Judas breed. These large insects are released into the city’s sewer system to kill off the disease carrying cockroaches. The experiment works and the disease dies out.

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Some years later, people begin to disappear from the city’s subways and tunnels but it is at first unrelated to the Judas breed. However, when some children bring Susan a bug they found while playing she realises the Judas breed, which was engineered to die after a short while, has mutated and found a way to reproduce. Quickly Susan and her colleague Peter (Jeremy Northam) discover that the Judas insects have grown much bigger and are now hunting their new food source: humans.

Clearly the Weinstein’s, who bankrolled Mimic, knew they had a filmmaker with talent. But their admiration for Del Toro came with an iron fist. This, believes the director, is the reason behind the film not living up to his own high expectation. The film he actually wanted to make isn’t necessarily the film he was able to make. The new director’s cut that appears on the latest DVD and Blu-ray release has allowed him to return to the film and develop, as best as possible with existing material, some of the themes he wanted to explore in the first place. However, the new material surfaces as small extensions to existing scenes which, while showing a glimpse of Del Toro’s grander ideas, fail to elaborate on them. Therefore the director’s cut isn’t far removed from the original theatrical version and most viewers won’t notice the changes.

The biggest change would have been the director’s intended ending – which he discusses in a short featurette on the DVD/Blu-ray and which is included as an additional extra on the disc. Certainly an influence of the studio, Del Toro was unable to use his favoured conclusion because it didn’t offer that big, commercial happy ending. That would be the Weinstein’s again! Nevertheless, despite production troubles, the talent of Del Toro prevails. Mimic might have its flaws but it is a stylish monster movie with a wonderful sense of atmosphere throughout.

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Del Toro is a director who has substance and style and Mimic highlights this through its absorbing mystery set amongst the grimy, dark subway corridors and sewers of New York city. Much of the film takes place in an old disused subway station which makes for a great setting and some terrific set-pieces including Susan and Peter trying to survive a full scale insect attack inside a retired rail car. The limited light also aids Del Toro’s ability to produce some real moments of terror thanks to his perfectly timed scares emerging from the darkness. If the director isn’t aided by his characters searching the underground passages of the subway system, he shrouds them in murky side streets or dishevelled buildings beneath a stormy New York night.

But Mimic is very much a post-Aliens film and it doesn’t shy away from showing it. The musical score hints at the work of James Horner (Horner scored the brilliant music used for James Cameron’s Aliens), while the insects eggs and the character’s discovering a sticky secretion are straight out of the Ridley Scott-James Cameron school of science-fiction monster movies. As a huge fan of the Alien films it is nice to see such an obvious reminder of what made those films so great, but it also highlights the fact Mimic, unfortunately, isn’t in the same league.

Nevertheless, Del Toro’s first English-language film is an entertaining and fun monster film that has some terrific scares and a genuine sense of style.

Mimic: The Director’s Cut is released on Blu-ray in the UK on the 31st of October. It features an array of additional features including Del Toro’s original ending as well as the usual cast interviews. Most interesting is a small featurette with Del Toro candidly speaking about the production and how he was creatively handcuffed by the production company. There is also a video introduction to the new cut with Del Toro.
Full list of extra features: Video prologue with Guillermo Del Toro, Audio commentary with Guillermo Del Toro, “Reclaiming Mimic” featurette, “A Leap In Evolution – The Creatures of Mimic” featurette, “Back Into The Tunnels – Shooting Mimic” featurette, Deleted scenes, Storyboard animatics, Gag reel, Theatrical Trailer

Review by Daniel StephensSee all reviews

This review is part of 31 Days of Horror:

About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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  1. Avatar
    Rodney Reply

    I know it got some bad reviews here and there, but damn this film is awesome. I fell in love with Mira Sorvino in this film – she did The Replacement Killers not long after, if memory serves…. It was the first film I saw of del Toro’s, too, so Mimic holds a special place in my heart….

  2. Avatar
    kobie Reply

    i’m the same as Rodney above, i remember seeing this a long time ago, and even though it was all over the place i still foud it entertaining. but you can see the weinstiens finger prints all over this. looking forward to seeing the directors cut. great article

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