Hi, I'm Judge Jim Thomas...or am I?!
You can't keep a good bug down.
Guillermo del Toro's first Hollywood feature, 1997's Mimic, was something of a box-office disappointment, making only $30 million. It was also a disappointment for del Toro himself, who found himself at odds with Miramax executives throughout the production (The Weinsteins interfering? Say it isn't so!). When the movie hit cable and home video, it developed, well, not exactly a cult following, but an audience appreciative of del Toro's moody, atmospheric vision. A couple of direct-to-video sequels followed, and perhaps the story should have ended there. However, del Toro wanted to restore as much of his original movie as he could. In 2011, a director's cut of the original was released. Lionsgate now brings us the Mimic 3-Film Set (Blu-ray).
You see where this is going, right?
Three years later, a couple of kids bring Susan an insect they've caught in the subway. Susan notes three things with alarm: 1. The young insect is incredibly aggressive. 2. It has the same supposedly unique enzyme signature as the Judas Breed, and 3. It's bigger. A lot bigger. The trail leads into the subway catacombs, where they learn a horrifying truth—the Judas Breed has not only survived, but it has evolved into a predator poised to replace humanity at the top of the food chain.
The director's cut runs about 8 minutes longer than the theatrical cut, but del Toro didn't just add eight minutes of footage; he went through and replaced a lot of second unit footage that he felt was stylistically at odds with his own vision of the film. He also added some additional material here and there; the result is a much more tonally consistent movie. The most noticeable feature of this new cut is the almost palpable sense of dread, of impending doom. At every turn, in every building, in every shadow, there's some clue suggesting that man's time on Earth is growing short indeed.
The performances are very good, far better than the typical horror movie. Sorvino and Northam had solid chemistry. A ridiculously young Josh Brolin (W.) has a small role as Peter's assistant, and Charles S. Dutton turns in yet another memorable performance as a transit cop helping Susan out. Cameos turns by F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus), in a role that one suspects changed drastically during editing, and Giancarlo Giannini (Quantum of Solace) provide further depth.
The AVC-encoded video is fair. As to be expected with a movie this dark, grain is a serious issue, as is black crush. On the plus side, though, the movie's saturated color scheme is effective. The early CGI doesn't fare well. Fortunately, the bulk of the movie was made using animatronics, and, holy Jiminy Cricket, are they effective, particularly when bolstered by a wonderfully immersive DTS-HD track; the ghastly clicking sounds made by the giant insects reverberate throughout the cavernous sets.
You get a good slate of extras, including a look at the design of the creatures, some deleted scenes, and a quick intro from del Toro. The highlight is the combination of the featurette "Reclaiming Mimic" and del Toro's commentary track. The two present the story of a young director seemingly blocked at every turn by the studio system, finally forced to lower the bar so that his goal was to make "the best damn giant cockroach movie ever made." One of the reasons that the commentary track works is that there isn't a lot of bitterness; while the constant fighting with the studio is a regular topic, the focus is on how the experience shaped him and made him a better director. He's also effusive with praise for the cast, particularly Sorvino, who went to bat for him with the studio. I suppose that the only thing missing is the original cut, included for comparison's sake, or perhaps a featurette with del Toro comparing a sequence from the original with its restored self.
Interesting trivia: Both John Sayles and Stephen Soderbergh did early script rewrites, but little of their contributions survived.
It's not really a classic, and there are a few howling plot contrivances, but at the same time, the style and the genuinely creepy mood elevate the movie about the typical fare.
Whereas del Toro tried desperately to lift Mimic above the level of giant killer bug movies, Mimic 2 has no such aspirations, as the last three words of the plot description attest. It is a conventional low-budget horror sequel in every respect, perhaps a little more idiotic at times. That said, the direction, while conventional, is brisk and effective.
Technically, the two sequels are of a piece. Whereas Mimic sports a DTS-HD 7.1 track, the two sequels are "limited" to DTS-HD 5.1. The audio tracks are good for both movies, and there's even a featurette on the sound design for the first sequel. The video is AVC encoded, but basically, it looks like the made-for TV movies that it is. There are occasional moments of clarity, but for the most part the images are somewhat soft. The second sequel fares a little better in the video department, largely because Marvin's apartment is fairly well lit.
Extras for Mimic 2 are minimal, with a making-of featurette, the aforementioned piece on sound design, and some deleted scenes.
Mimic 3: Sentinel
And then Alfred Hitchcock rolled over in his grave and threw up in his mouth—a lot.
Using Rear Window as a conceit for the film is an intriguing notion. Unfortunately, the filmmakers had no idea how to develop it, beginning with the inconsistent representation of Marvin's status as a "bubble boy." No matter how heroic you want to see him, it's impossible to reconcile what we're shown in the first part of the film with his ability to soldier on in the finale. The rest of the film shows similar inconsistencies. For instance, despite the blatant attempt to ape Rear Window, the camera isn't restricted to Marvin's room, but instead moves in and out as needed, so the viewer never really developed the sense of voyeurism that marked the Hitchcock classic. The lead actors are good, and there's a certain sweetness to the growing relationship between Marvin and Carmen. The bottom line, though, is that there isn't a real point to the movie. It leads to a climax of sorts, but it's really an anti-climax. Given statements made by the Garbageman during the movie—that the Judas Breed is on the verge of taking over, you expect a final act in which Ripley—I mean Marvin—wipes out the invading hordes. As a result, the movie doesn't really end, but abruptly stops.
The commentary track by director/co-writer J. W. Pettway is marginally interesting, but only out of a sense of morbid curiosity.
Bottom line: When a 76-minute movie feels like there's a lot of padding, you've got serious story issues.
Aside: The refrigerator in Marvin's apartment is apparently made by the same company that made Indy's fridge in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Watch del Toro's director's cut, but skip the sequels. You'll thank me later. Not guilty.
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