Review: Mimic - Director's Cut / Directed by: Guillermo Del Toro / Written by: Matthew Robbins, Guillermo Del Toro, Donald A. Wollheim / Starring: Mira Sorvino, Jeremy Northam, Charles S. Dutton, Josh Brolin
Mimic is something of an anomaly in Guillermo Del Toro’s otherwise stellar career thus far. Originally conceived as an epic Man vs. giant bugs film with serious religious overtones about natural selection, the film had half its budget cut and ended up not representing the original vision of the director. The film then faced further trials and tribulations in the editing suite as the Weinstein brothers kept asking Del Toro to cut segments of the film. At that point Del Toro was only on his second directorial job so had little in the way of clout to combat a producer powerhouse like the Weinstein’s. Apparently they were especially nervous about a scene where some kids get brutally slaughtered which must have shocked people back in the 90s. The film came out summer 1997 and quickly disappeared despite mostly positive reviews. Del Toro moved on to The Devils Backbone and Blade 2 and the rest is history.
I have always liked Mimic, when I first saw it on Laserdisc (remember that?) it was a brilliantly tense little film with giant bugs and the awfully attractive Mira Sorvino (what happened to her?). I would show it to all my friends and they tended to agree. It’s a film I watched a lot and even bought the DVD copy when my laserdisc player packed up. It’s only in recent years as Del Toro has become a more and more verbose voice in genre circles that I learned of the hardship he faced getting the film made and of his original vision. With that in mind it is now hard to enjoy Mimic without wondering what could have been. I was heartened to hear that a Director's Cut was on the way earlier this year and awaited it with baited breath.
For those of you who don’t know, Mimic tells the story of a New York City that is under the thrall of a disease epidemic which is killing children in the hundreds. The CDC traces the cause of the disease back to cockroaches in the sewer and joins forces with a scientist to wipe them out by introducing a genetic hybrid known as ‘The Judas Breed’ whose secretions will kill off the existing cockroach population. Three years later and the disease has all but disappeared but mysterious people in long overcoats are hanging around and people are disappearing. Peter (Jeremy Northam) a CDC doctor discovers an abandoned church which is full of filth and disease where someone or something has hung crap on the walls. At the same time his wife Susan (Mira Sorvino) is brought a strange new insect by some neighbourhood kids and discovers it shares the genetic make up of the Judas which was bred to die out after 6 months. Together they venture down into the subways under the city to discover the horrifying truth about what their creation has become and are locked in a fight for survival.
The first thing you should know about this Director's Cut of Mimic is that there is no additional material with the bugs. You do not get the bugs that attack New Yorkers or that form perfect human replicas that Del Toro speaks of in the special features. The additional seven minutes of footage is all in the first hour and mostly makes up character development and fleshes out the pregnancy subplot nicely. Somehow because of the additions the film feels better paced and less rushed than before, taking its time to get to its memorable set pieces with good character work and writing. Mysteriously one scene is excised completely from the original cut and doesn’t even show up on the deleted scenes. The scene is missing but something that relates to it is added with the almost cave painting like drawings of the homeless living underground appearing and showing the mysterious creatures that dwell there. Sadly the cop out ending is still present and correct along with the CGI flaws that the lower budget caused with the compromised vision. The Director's Cut also does nothing for Jeremy Northam’s awful performance. Northam was once tipped to be a James Bond shoo-in you know, but here he seems really miscast, stiff and awkward. Charles S. Dutton and Giancarlo Giannini and a young Josh Brolin make up the supporting cast and are all really good in their respective roles. Dutton especially has a world weary charm that has sadly been underused in cinema since the 90s when he also appeared in Alien 3.
Happily Mimic looks and sounds the business on Blu-ray. The picture quality is really amazing and reveals little details in the production design that were not obvious from the previous formats. The sound mix is also given a major boost and sounds perfect pumped through your home cinema system. It’s a shame that with the additional popularity he now has that Del Toro wasn’t able to do a George Lucas and go back and create some additional effects work to give Mimic the epic quality that he originally envisioned. This so called Director's Cut feels a lot like a cash-in effort and not at all what was intended from a real director's cut that truly would have been marvellous.
Mimic remains a solid B-movie with plenty to recommend it. It's fun, it’s scary and it’s wonderfully gothic and icky. This version of the film though is perhaps best for Guillermo Del Toro completists only.
Extras: Directors Introduction, Directors Commentary, Deleted Scenes, Reclaiming Mimic featurette, Back into the tunnels; Shooting Mimic featurette, Storyboard Animatics, The creatures of Mimic featurette, Gag reel.
'Mimic: Director's Cut' is out now on Blu-ray