Combustible Celluloid
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With: Mira Sorvino, Jeremy Northam, Alexander Goodwin, Giancarlo Giannini, Charles S. Dutton, Josh Brolin, Alix Koromzay, F. Murray Abraham, James Costa, Javon Barnwell, Norman Reedus
Written by: Matthew Robbins, Guillermo del Toro, based on a short story by Donald A. Wollheim
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
MPAA Rating: R for terror/violence and language
Running Time: 112
Date: 06/01/1997

Mimic (1997)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Beasties Below

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

When I saw Mimic in theaters in 1997, I didn't think much of it. I went based on an enthusiastic endorsement from Siskel & Ebert, but the movie did not grab me the same way it grabbed them. For me, it was too uninspired, too derivative. However, at the end of my unpublished review I wrote that "I have a feeling it'll be a fun late-night TV movie in a few years."

Back then I did not know who the director Guillermo Del Toro was. He had only made one other feature, Cronos, which was released four years earlier, in 1993, and which I had not seen. (I have now seen it twice.) But in the years since, Del Toro has impressed me as one of the most promising and stylistically interesting of directors. I made a point of revisiting Mimic a couple of years back and found that I liked it a great deal more. It was, indeed, a fun late-night TV movie.

Now, 14 years later, Del Toro has released his own director's cut on a new Blu-Ray (released by Lionsgate), and it finally feels like a real movie. It's not drastically different, and those that found the plot and characters irritating will not find much improvement here. But the movie has a more confident feel; it's less of a jerky shocker now. It moves at a moodier pace and with a darker vision. It's clear now that Del Toro's favorite themes and symbols were already in place, with the vast underground setting, machinery, and man's interference in the supernatural order of things -- not to mention a talent for pure terror.

Mira Sorvino stars, just following her Oscar win for Mighty Aphrodite (1995), as Dr. Susan Tyler, an entomologist. She invents a new breed of insect designed to wipe out the carriers of a terrible disease, and she saves the city. Three years later, mysterious bug-related attacks begin occurring, and it becomes clear that they are related to her original creation.

Now, Susan, her husband, Dr. Peter Mann (Jeremy Northam), a forensic investigator (Josh Brolin) a transit cop (Charles S. Dutton), and a shoeshine man (Giancarlo Giannini), all wind up trapped in the bizarre, sub-New York labyrinth, trying to figure out ways to get out and to stay one jump ahead of the beasties. F. Murray Abraham co-stars in a couple of scenes as Susan's old mentor (though he gets to stay above ground), and Alexander Goodwin plays the autistic kid who can communicate with the bugs by clacking spoons. (Dutton must have been a good sport about all this; he already battled some creepy beasties just a few years earlier in David Fincher's Alien 3.)

Mimic provides a good example of the auteur theory in modern times. By any standards, this is pretty standard horror stuff, but if you're willing to look a little deeper, and to make connections with Del Toro's other films, there are some fascinating images and themes here. Its overall themes, such as "science gone bad," are much older. As such, the movie may seem rather old-fashioned, even to people that like Del Toro's more recent films. But it still provides some giddy entertainment.

Lionsgate released the new Blu-Ray, which sports the Miramax label, and as with most Del Toro releases, it has lots of good extras. Del Toro provides a new introduction and a commentary track. There are featurettes, deleted scenes, animatics, a gag reel, and trailers.

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