Retro Rewatch: Mimic - 1997PoppaScotch
Retro Rewatch is an ongoing editorial that takes a look into certain films, conventions, crazes, and characters of the horror genre years after their heyday. It is an effort to try and put the magnifying glass up to the horror world with the much needed luxuries of time and perspective applied in order to fully understand the impact and social significance of these projects/themes/ideas (if any). So for this installment of Retro Rewatch, I present to you one of Guillermo del Toro’s first films: Mimic.
In the near and disturbing future, there is a new breed of cockroaches in New York City that are killing children via a communicable disease. An entomologist names Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino) works to create a new type of mutant insect designed to eradicate the killer cockroaches and then after their plight is finished, the mutant cockroaches would then die off. Three years go by and Dr. Tyler is seen as a hero who was essential in eradicating the new plague until some remnants of the mutant cockroach start appearing in sewers and other underground locations. At the same time, people on the streets are reporting that large human-like creatures are the cause of a slew of missing persons and random dead bodies. As it turns out, the mutated bugs have evolved to the point where they can mimic humans while they hunt and kill them. I really don’t count this as a spoiler since it’s in the trailers and the movie is called Mimic by the way.
With that synopsis in mind, the movie itself isn’t so much a creature feature as it is a study of evolution. Of course there aren’t complicated equations and math problems, (that’s how you study bugs? Right?) but there also lies a more philosophical question of what it would be like to live in the shoes of another inferior species. Mimic is a very interesting take on the idea that we as humans lose our status on the top of the food chain but in many parts the idea of the film falls through on the very concept that it’s trying to portray. For instance, what would happen if these bugs made their permanent homes outside of the darkness of the subway and started living in society? Due to the human traits of tools, logic, and communication, there wouldn’t be a whole lot of time between discovering the species, then eliminating it. Evolution may find itself a way to survive after the genocide of the mimic bugs, but that evolution would be halted by the business end of a flame thrower.
However, Guillermo del Toro knows this, and instead of showing a quick and predictable war between insect and human, we get to see a small group of people who are surprised by the knowledge of the existence of these bugs and then forced to fight them. It would be very easy to dismiss this as another bad horror film that came out during the new boom of horror films in the mid to late nineties (post Scream) but Mimic isn’t one of those. Sure, the film isn’t perfect and for all intents and purposes it plays out a lot like a monster movie with a healthy splatter of character development that easily redeems the movie. Today, Guillermo del Toro still says that he has disowned the film due to the fact that the Weinstein’s interfered with the production and essentially took the creative reigns away from del Toro. I obviously can’t say for sure because I wasn’t there but with that information, it becomes fairly obvious to see that the movie has faults that should have been solved.
For example, the story in itself is original enough to provide a life threatening scenario to a certain group of people. This situation is of course even more horrific considering that the enemy can’t be reasoned with or negotiated with leaving them with the two possible scenarios of either outsmarting the bugs and escaping, or rolling over and dying. Of course it would be a pretty terrible movie if everyone gave up and died, so naturally the characters try to live on. Even though this is a rational method of survival that makes complete sense in the story, when I took a step back from the situation, I noticed something I hadn’t seen before. In a lot of way, the core group of humans trying to survive was a lot like what the bugs went through when they themselves were trying to survive and evolve. Each were put in a situation where the odds were completely stacked against them, but that didn’t stop either side from trying. It’s a complete reversal of power between the bugs and the humans and it perfectly makes the transition from scaring a few people in a horror flick to a think piece about role reversal and the human nature.
In conclusion like I said before, the movie isn’t perfect by any means. There are some very predictable and generic horror movie moments, but when it comes to monster movie (or atom age movies) you are going to have some kind of schlock to keep the blood pouring down the screen. It’s also so hard to say what impact the Weinsteins had on the final product of the film. Maybe their horrible cuts actually made the film better than the director would have made it (see Donnie Darko). Then again, this is the same director that brought us Hellboy, the Devil’s Backbone, and Pan’s Labyrinth so that track record right there may sway your opinion a little bit. No matter what you think of that situation, I’m here to tell you that Mimic is a solid horror film, and while you’re looking for some time to kill you should check it out.
Is it a cult classic, a fitting analysis, or complete forgettable?: There are idea here that want me to scream fitting analysis, however the future track record of del Toro will forever turn this into a cult classic of sorts. Think of it as the film that all del Toro fan boys have on their shelf just because it’s a Guillermo del Toro film. That’s how I saw the movie…