Mimic (1997)
Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* * *

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When it is discovered that a plague killing off New York City's children is being spread by cockroaches, a new species of insect, named the Judas Breed, is genetically engineered by an entomologist, Dr. Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino), to wipe them out. Three years later, the plague has been eradicated, and Dr. Tyler, believing her creations have long since died off, having been engineered to be sterile, is living happily with her husband, until two boys bring her an insect they found in the subway, which she is able to identify as an evolved descendent of the Judas Breed. Shortly thereafter, more chilling evidence that the species she created has survived and radically changed is presented to Dr. Tyler, and she, her husband, and several other persons descend into abandoned sections of the city's subway system to search for the creatures.

Guillermo del Toro's Mimic is an ordinary, undistinguished horror film, being neither particularly good nor particularly bad. The special effects, while never stunning, are well realized. The acting, although never brilliant, is often good, and the story, while predictable, is entertaining. The movie is rarely inept, but it is rarely impressive either.


The evolved form of the Judas Breed is, however, surprisingly well conceived. While they are endowed with the usual sliminess of Hollywood monsters and a few other hackneyed characteristics, they actually emerge as genuinely original and frightening. Unfortunately, their quick evolution does strain the viewer's credulity. The insects have, in the course of three years, changed from creatures the size of cockroaches to monsters as big as a man. A couple of scenes late in the film even show that they have developed fairly complex problem solving skills. Despite such inconsistencies in their conception, they are, nevertheless, both fascinating and frightening to watch.


What is more, the quality of the acting is surprisingly good for a horror film. Mira Sorvino, in particular, proves herself a skilled enough actress that she is able to enliven a largely uninteresting character and to allow the viewer to engage with her. A number of the supporting cast members do give overwrought performances, but given that their characters are little more than caricatures little more could have been expected of them.


The narrative is, perhaps, the movie's least satisfying element. Although the backstory is interesting, and the Judas Breed itself is intriguing, most of Mimic consists of the main characters wandering through the poorly lit abandoned subway tunnels in which the insects have made their home. There, the heroes are faced with the usual scares, false alarms, sneak attacks, and the like found in countless other horror films.


Whatever its faults, Mimic is entertaining, but it is little more than a forgettable diversion.

Review by Keith Allen

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