I have long been a slave to the gods of Netflix, trawling through the categories; desperately looking for something to watch before my dinner gets cold or as an unobtrusive background whilst I game, only to be bemused by the synopsis’s or finding myself despondent within the first 5 minutes. Forcing me into the same wretched cycle, before surrendering and watching the same thing I always watch.
Last week, during my nightly quest, I lingered at the bottom of the Sci-fi and fantasy list. There I found Mimic 2, below its successor Mimic 3. I knew nothing about these films but I had always meant to watch Mimic. I don’t know why, the only things I knew about this movie was it involved disease, monsters and an entomologist so the scientist in me was intrigued plus the synopsis sounded ridiculous.
So I started what became a herculean task of watching the Mimic franchise and I submit my findings to you, please heed these words as a warning; not of the ethical issues raised by the films but of the films themselves, there is a reason they are at the bottom of the Netflix pile.
Upon seeing the prestigious Guillermo del Toro at the helm of this film, I was a little excited. I have seen a fair few of his films and loved them, loved some of the ones he just produced too. However, this did not feel like a Guillermo del Toro movie. There were several of his trademarks (insects, eyes, etc.) but none of his charm, and upon further research I found that even he was not happy with the final cut and created his own version which I may watch to restore my faith but I digress.
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Staring: Mira Sorvino, Jeremy Northman, Josh Brolin, Charles S. Dutton, Giancarlo Giannini & Doug Jones
Run Time: 105 Minutes
Release Date: 1997
When I’d started the film, I saw the usually Guillerimo del Toro thing of lots of bugs and eyes in the opening credits overlaid with some snippets of news reports and chatter. I didn’t really make much sense but I ran with it; we then meet our protagonists with very little explanation of what the hell was going on. There was a lot of sick kids and nuns and apparently she was the only one who could help them – but that’s Hollywood for you.
So a lot of plot is being thrown at me within the first 7 minutes but with very little explanation, there is something to do with bugs and what appears to be washing-up liquid and humanity is saved. I re-watched the first 7 minutes of this film as I genuinely thought I had missed something, some indication of what the hell was going on, turns out that a brief press conference just after this section explained “everything”. I put that in quotation marks as it is one of the first issues I truly have with this film. I know that this film is in the Sci-fi and fantasy genre but I do like them to have some sort of plausibility; coming from a scientific background, I did take a little offence to the whole bio engineered killer bug scenario and the idea that only one person created this new genetically modified species. That is me looking at it as a scientist, as a film lover I still thought it ridiculous especially since this random entomologist apparently started boning the guy from the beginning as soon as she met him.
I never actually cared about any of the characters: when stuff started happening to them, I just was not bothered. They felt so poorly developed that sometimes I started rooting for the bugs. The main protagonist Susan played by Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite, The Replacement Killers) and her husband Peter Mann played by Jeremy Northman (Happy Texas, The Invasion) felt so bland that I could have been watching cardboard cut-outs and be more entertained. And the subsidiary characters which included a child who I really wish they killed with his sodding spoons (he mimics peoples walks using a pair of spoons and keeps naming their shoes – you would want to kill him too) the boys father, a shoe shine who is almost as annoying as his son, the token cop whose stupidity is matched by his ineptitude and finally Josh Brolin (Goonies, Planet Terror, No Country for Old Men) in one of his earlier roles and you can see why he kept quiet about it.
Storyline is so convoluted and ridiculous that it is hard to enjoy or even follow for that matter, everyone ends up being an expert about something; the cop ends up knowing how to operate a vintage subway system with no explanation or much context other than they are on a vintage subway car which does not work. It is trying to be intellectual, scary and a bit of a thriller but never accomplishing any of them. I cannot even consider it one of the “so bad its good” films as at least those have some sort of saving grace.
Enough about the story, onto the monsters. One thing we have to be thankful for from this film is it is the first collaboration between Guillermo del Toro and the fantastic Doug Jones (Pans Labyrinth, Hellboy, too much awesome to list) The monster was cloaked for the bulk of the film “mimicking” its major predator, the humans, which means it found a big coat for the most part. We get the first full glimpse of the creature about 54 minutes in; a cross between a termite and a praying mantis, it looks more like a giant flying ant. Neither species display this kind of defensive camouflage (the mantis does successfully mimic its surroundings but are not know to mimic their direct predator) and the evolutionary plot device borders on the farcical but again that’s the scientist in me having a moan. This species is mimicking its main predator, however, they were released in the sewers 3 years previous to the bulk of the film and there has been no human/giant bug interaction noted within that time period. Jeremy Northmans character works for the centre for disease control and prevention who worked on this new breed so it would be safe to assume that any indication that giant bugs were about, they would likely give him a bell. There are just so many plot holes that it makes me sad. Anyway, the monster itself looks pretty good for a giant bug but there is a lot of zoom shots and CGI versions of the bugs that it becomes a bit lost.
Overall, this film is rather flawed in my opinion, I know it is a monster movie and not meant to be taken seriously but there is too many issues for me to just overlook and enjoy. I would only recommend this film if you and a bunch of mates are having a boozy bad movie night and even then, there are so many better options out there.
Mimic 2: Hardshell (2001)
Director: Jean de Segonzac
Staring: Alix Koromzay, Bruno Campos, Edward Albert, Will Estes
Run Time: 81 Minutes
Release Date: 2001
Mimic 2 amps up the gore within the first 5 minutes, adding facial mutilation to the bugs bag of tricks. The tenuous link from the previous film is the random assistant Remy is now a teacher and just a messed up female. Much like the first film, it is really hard to care about any of the characters, especially when they die or get injured. The overarching plot is that the bugs have mutated more and are now clever enough to slice peoples faces off to use as disguises, for some strange reason they have become obsessed with Remy; killing people close to her and trapping her in a school. It appears that the bugs are now able to hatch plans, create elaborate and absurd traps and have poor taste in women.
Cast in general tend to ham it up, the lead Alix Koromzay (Kindagarten Cop, The Haunting) does a slightly better job of explaining what is going on and does have one of my favourite lines from the series (“because I’m the f**king teacher and I said so“) but her character is hard to relate to. The film makes a bit more sense than the first one up until around the 66 minute mark where things just go a bit weird, even for a giant bug monster movie. Sonny from Grease (Michael Tucci) turns up telling her she was pretty much pregnant with a load of bugs which saved her life and then the bug morphs into some weird gelatine like ken doll looking thing that just does not make any kind of sense.
I somewhat knew what I was going in for when I started watching this film, and it was what I expected for the most part; it was the last 15 minutes which turned it into something quite absurd and not in the good way. Only watch if you want to see something farcical but again there are many better options out there for that.
Mimic 3: Sentinel (2003)
Director: JT Petty
Staring: Karl Geary, Alexis Dzienza, Amanda Plummer, Rebecca Mader, Lance Hendrickson
Run Time: 76 Minutes
Release Date: 2003
The shortest of the three and the most brazen thievery of a storyline. This movie is basically rear window with weird bug things, even down to the font of the opening credits. To me, this film has a larger appeal if you purely look at the casting – there is Lance Henrickson (do I really need to say what he is in…) Amanda Plummer (Pulp Fiction, Hunger Games: Catching Fire) and Rebecca Mader (Iron Man 3, Men who stare at Goats, Lost) however they are not quite in the lead here, we have Karl Geary (Hamlet) as a house-bound recluse, who was one of the few survivors of the “Strickler’s Disease” cause by the cockroaches from the first film (cue tenuous link) and all he does is take pictures of his neighbours while his drug addict sister (Alexis Dziena – Invasion, When in Rome) does all the leg work.
This film tries to up the ante by straight up murdering a child in the first scene; the second film does have child murders but they was a bit more obscured and it was kinda part of the storyline rather than just doing it straight off the bat. However, this film is more about the tension and angst of a thriller (*cough*rear window*cough*) that trying to be a horror monster movie like its predecessors.
Set 10 years after the original it’s quite different in tone, it is easy to see why is was a straight-to-dvd sequel. There seems to be no logic in the killing, I know its a monster movie about bugs but the previous outings did seem to have some sort of explanation for the killings whereas this one is a bit more arbitrary – murders for the sake of it. Yes, the bugs are searching for an egg thing in the building but I do not understand why, they do not need the egg thing since they have survived so long and through many attempts at an insect-genocide plus why was it there in the first place.
Lance Henricksons character wrote a book about the insect and is apparently creating new fertile ones for some unknown badmen, I know I shouldn’t look for logic in these films but some sense would not go amiss. The monsters themselves are a tad more violent this time around but look more akin to those in the first film, well the CGI versions at least. The ending of this franchise is a bit more thrilling I suppose but it is marred by the overuse of poor CGI and characters which lose all depth as soon as something bad happens although they had little depth to begin with. If you want to watch something short and trying to be Hitchcock-ian, go for it but to be honest, just watch Rear Window.