Mimic (1997)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Cast: Mira Sorvino
Extras: Theatrical trailer

There haven’t been a lot of high quality horror movies around the last few years. The genre was slow, with only a few releases surfacing, until horrormeister Wes Craven’s smash hit "Scream" turned the focus back to horror. While it didn’t necessarily raise the stake for quality releases, it did open the doors for some other horror scripts, made with rather big budgets. One of the beneficiaries of Craven’s return is "Mimic" a fast-paced modern monster movie. This review is not exactly a spoiler but it will give away some of the movie’s outcome… as if you didn’t know how it ends anyway… You have been warned.

A deadly disease spreads through Manhattan, killing thousands of innocent children. The carrier of the disease is the omnipresent cockroach. In an effort to stop the ever increasing child-deaths, scientist Dr. Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino) develops a cure. She calls a genetically cloned roach the Judas breed; it attracts other roaches and kills them with its secretion. Despite the warnings of other scientists, the Judas breed is released into the Manhattan sewers with a built-in, self-destruct gene that kills all of their species within six months… or so everyone thinks.

Three years later, mysterious mutilations, murders, and disappearances cover the local headlines and Dr. Tyler finds unbelievable signs that the Judas breed seems to have survived somehow. Worse yet, it seems to have developed further and grown, and now that their natural prey is eradicated from the sewers of the town, it starts feasting on people. The most amazing and shocking discovery is that after generations of evolution, the Judas breed is now able to mimic its prey, and cleverly disguises itself as humans.

"Mimic" is an atmospheric horror thriller that creates plenty of suspense. Combined with the lighting, the well-designed and -arranged visuals, the ominous and agitating music, and the movie’s computer-generated main actors, it is a pleasantly surprising entry in the modern horror ranks. Still, "Mimic" has its flaws. Fortunately, the fast edited movie will not give you too much time to ponder those deficiencies, as it will distract you by skillfully dragging the viewer on to other events on-screen immediately. The movie contains many of the elements that made movies like "Alien" successful, proving that the formula still works… and the typical Hollywood happy ending, with flames conveniently destroying all evidence and tying up the loose ends is still annoying.

The worst thing about the movie is the inappropriate glorification of the movie’s heroine, Susan Tyler. The fact that she manages to defeat and heroically counter the threat by no means justifies the careless attitude with which she released her unfinished creations into the Manhattan sewers in the first place. I mean, get your priorities right, folks. Anyway, I don’t want to spoil the movie here, so take a look at it and make your own decision. There are also a few how-would-you-possibly-explain-this scenes in the movie; for example Dr. Tyler outruns one of the insects, while in all other scenes they are moving at almost the speed of sound…

On the other hand, "Mimic" offers some solid acting by its cast and believable characters. The script and stylish direction set up certain scenes in such an excellent way that the viewers grow very anxious for its payoff. These setups are well executed and highly efficient, placing "Mimic" apart from many other genre movies. The movie’s production design is very rich and shows us the realm of an abandoned subway station that is neither claustrophobic, nor too dark – but nevertheless extremely scary. Another highlight of the movie is the creation of the computer generated insects and the detail in the way they move around in our human world, as well as their own little dank corner of the dark. They seamlessly blend with the live-action footage, creating an eerie and unsettling atmosphere throughout the film. Rick Lazzarini designed the mutated insects and his work is exceptional. While mimicking humans they still remain completely insectoid and the way Lazzarini tackled the problem is amazing. Although the creatures move in dark areas for most of the time, hiding various aspects of their features, they also work nicely in lit subway tunnels and streets. When finally fully revealed, the creatures are well thought-out, with lush coloration and very interesting and frightening features, creating an exceedingly satisfying and memorable moment of movie horror… and as a nice side effect of this excellent creature design, "Mimic" goes almost completely without the ultra-slime found in its predecessors.

"Mimic" is presented in its 1.85:1 <$PS,widescreen> aspect ratio and comes on a single-sided disc from Buena Vista Home Entertainment. I was completely stunned by the disc’s transfer and rich image quality, even though the disc is not <$16x9,anamorphic> enhanced. The image is sharp and rock solid, without any hint of noise or color smearing. Most of the movie takes place in dark sewers that are dimly – if splendidly – lit and very gloomy. It is astonishing how good the transfer’s shadow details are in those environments, bringing out every little detail of the dark and dangerous underground world. The image quality of this disc ranks, quite frankly, with the best there are.

The disc also features a very impressive <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> soundtrack. The intense musical score by Marco Beltrami helps immensely to create an atmosphere of suspense and lurking horror. Unfortunately the disc does not contain any language track other than English and except for the English captions, you will not find any language subtitles. The fact that this is from a major studio that holds all the rights and licenses to create multiple language versions is very disappointing and not exactly the kind of commitment we hoped to see. If you can look over the movie’s evident ethical permissiveness and some scientific/physical flaws, "Mimic" is actually a pretty enjoyable, thrilling and gripping movie. It is stylish, delivers a lot of eye-candy, and is one of the more enjoyable and memorable horror entries of the last years. The disc offers a stunning, razor-sharp transfer with an amazingly wide and active soundstage, which makes "Mimic" a nice showcase disc for your friends the next time they come over.