Deciding to watch a film from 1997 for the first time in 2014 can go two ways. Either it turns out to be a god-awful idea; the effects are bad and the story is out-dated, having been replicated many times. Or, the film can be a charming reminder of times gone by, a classic.
With Guillermo del Toro’s Mimic I was surprised to see that the film is actually quite good considering its age. A classic, though? Maybe. It is definitely a great film that sits comfortably in the science-fiction horror category. It is difficult to think of another that does what Mimic does so well; how many great films have focused on the horror of insects, lately? Not too many. For that reason alone, Mimic is special and certainly worthy of an audience, even after 17 years.
Mimic follows entomologist, insect-studier, Dr. Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino) who genetically creates an insect to kill cockroaches infected with a deadly disease. Fast-forward three years and these insects have failed to die out, despite being sterile. Now, they are out to get the predators who created them: humans! The concept alone has the 1990s written all over it. Many horrors from this time decided to pit people against insects; Tremors, Starship Troopers, Ticks and Mosquito are just a few. Today, the only insect-centred film we’re going to get will go straight to DVD as a poor B-movie and mainstream audiences will never opt to see them. Have a look at the recent releases of mainstream horror films and you’ll notice they are supernatural and not natural; films that are about possession, hauntings, ghosts and ghoulies that go bump in the night. The insect horror movie has had its day; it’s not scary and audiences are just not interested in it.
Despite an out-dated storyline, Mimic is a strong horror film that plays on fears of infection, infestation and claustrophobia. Being trapped in an underground sewer with creatures evolving to look like people is terrifying. Guillermo del Toro’s direction cannot be missed and his signature colours of red and blue are all over Mimic like a rash. There is a fantastical feel surrounding the film, especially in the underground lair of the insects. The contrasting look between their world and ours is striking yet subtle as shadows, blue lights and smoke dominate their damp habitat. Underground, the insects are in charge and the humans are the invaders.
There is plenty of gory moments, including Dr. Tyler urging her fellow prisoners to cover themselves with the insides of dead bugs to cover their human scent. It’s rather grim and definitely not for the easily squeamish. There is a lot of genuine scares in Mimic; long silences followed by loud noises will always catch you out and the disturbing sounds made by the creatures will have your skin crawling. This is definitely no Alien, but Mimic’s atmosphere is covered in a similar amount of dread and uncertainty, thanks to its careful direction and credible performances.
Mimic is a fantastic creature feature. It’s creepy, gruesome and frightening fun, a definite must for those desiring a dash of killer bugs this Shocktober.