The initial outbreak of Strickler’s disease erupted suddenly. As a disease that preyed on young children it had a massive huge impact and fear spread quickly through the parents and grandparents of New York City. There were many casualties, with a greater number of children being adversely impacted for the rest of their lives.
That was until entomologist – bug doctor – Dr Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino) unleashed the Judas breed of genetically modified cockroaches into the grimy New York ecosystem. This supercharged bug exuded a goo that was like crack for the Strickler’s spreading normal cockroaches, wiping out the entire disease carrying generation and saving countless young lives in the process.
And that’s just the first 6 minutes of Guillermo Del Toro’s 90s thriller Mimic, 10% of one hour which I might add also managed to include the main title credits. However you look at it this was classic GDT, set the scene as quickly as possible before getting to the real scares, fluids, vivid images and various other oozings.
(He managed an even better job with Blade 2, recapping the previous film, key characters and setting the tone in a similar length of time. Brevity and conciseness are two very underrated qualities that GDT has in spades.)
The ensuing years were a little less hectic for Dr Tyler. Having found her hubbie Dr Peter Mann in the research process for the Judas breed the newly married couple settle down to married existence and more mundane bug analysis. That is until she recognizes some of the same traits of the Judas bug in some samples brought to her by some young local kids. This is exceptionally strange given that the genetically modded bugs were purpose built with 6 month expiry dates and were supposed to be incapable of breeding.
Unfortunately despite the fact that they shouldn’t even exist two years later there is even more troubling news. The bugs are now over 6 feet tall, vicious, apparently mad with power, and hungry. Initially it seems that the hunger was sated primarily with stray dogs, but there are only so many dogs in the NYC… a lot of people though.
In the early goings the only person to see the creatures was an 11 year old autistic boy who played the spoons and had a shoe fetish – I told you it was a Del Toro film – this despite the fact that they brazenly walked the alleys and subway tunnels by night, because being six foot tall and buggy sometimes isn’t enough. But once Susan, Peter and a couple of cops Josh and Leonard (Josh Brolin and Charles S. Dutton) all find themselves deep under the subway system with an army of nasty bugs in pursuit and without a 6 foot tall can of Mortein, any semblance of tension and care vanishes, and the remainder of the film becomes a grab bag of scenes ripped from other films more deserving of science fiction classic status, Aliens, Alien 3 and Predator among them.
Apparently GDT started the film on his terms but found that his vision and style was swiftly diluted by an ever increasing army of studio staff all hell bent on crafting a generic Hollywood B movie – with the B standing for Boring, Banal, Bugs. Sure the signs are still there, I’ve spoken of the intro already, but a couple of other early scenes unwind menacingly, and he manages the near obligatory autopsy sequence filled with goo and disgusting organs being extracted. So while Mimic might appear to be your standard
creepy-crawly on steroids flick, it manages to be a little more than that in the end.
Not much more mind you, the first half of the film was generally solid and genuinely unsettling at times, but the second half turned into a stock standard serial killer movie with multiple Buggy Kruegers. There was no more room for scuttling and looming menacingly, these techniques thrown out the window to be replaced by high pitched cockroach screams and full frontal assaults.
Final Rating – 6.5 / 10. I didn’t mind Mimic, but after seeing what Guillermo Del Toro was able to do with Blade 2 (and subsequently Hellboy) I feel that greenlighting a creepy bug flick – and then deliberately diluting the creepiness – seems like an opportunity missed.