It seems like every prolific director has one film they’re not particularly proud of thanks to studio meddling. Alfred Hitchcock had his Suspicion, Spike Lee had his Malcolm X, Orson Welles had everything he made after Citizen Kane, and Guillermo del Toro had Mimic, a modest monster movie about giant killer cockroaches impersonating humans in the New York subways. Del Toro’s fans have probably heard him jest about the troubled production and the resulting, unsatisfactory film in various interviews, press conferences and Comic Con panels. Personally I always thought he was too hard on himself. Mimic was by no means a great movie, but it was an enjoyable little shocker filled with good ideas and memorable scares. I once even told Del Toro that to his face, which he laughed off in a typically self-deprecatory manner. I hope that Mimic: The Director’s Cut, out today on Blu-Ray, makes him feel better. It makes a very good film into a nearly great one, and offers spectacular special features to boot.
For those who haven’t seen it, Mimic tells the story of an entomologist, played by then-recent Oscar winner Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite), who saves Manhattan from a plague afflicting the city’s children. It turns out that cockroaches carried “Strickler’s Disease,” so she genetically engineered a new “Judas Breed” to take their place in the eco-system and then swiftly die out. Months later, the plague is a thing of the past but the Judas Breed has survived and evolved rapidly into man-sized monstrosities capable of impersonating humans, at least in dim light. They’re terrorizing the subways and breeding like crazy, and it’s up to a small group of characters played by the likes of Sorvino, Jeremy Northam, Josh Brolin, Giancarlo Giannini and Charles S. Dutton to stop them before they, too, are squashed like insects.
That’s what the original film was about.
The director’s cut of Mimic tells that exact same story but adds genuine depth to film. The first cut was an overt Frankenstein riff, in which man-made monsters come back to haunt us, which was adequate but standard. The new cut expands on that notion to examine notions of fertility and religious doubt. In scenes now restored to the film, del Toro juxtaposes the mass breeding of the Judas Breed with Sorvino and Northam’s feeble attempts to procreate despite an apparent genetic predisposition against it, raising questions of which, exactly, is God’s greatest creation, emphasized by – again – newly restored scenes of religious subversion and man’s inhumanity to man. In the special features, del Toro speak at length about how these themes were originally going to be an intrinsic part of the film, and the director's cut only restores a small amount of that content (alas, the only parts that were actually shot), so they don't quite transform Mimic into some kind of modern classic, but they add meaningful subtext to a film that originally felt more like a better-than-average genre exercise, and the end result is a marked improvement on every level.
That being said, it’s still about giant cockroaches. Elements of silliness remain, particularly in an embarrassingly over the top climax with towering explosions more befitting a Michael Bay joint than anything in Guillermo del Toro’s canon. However, this was the film del Toro was forced to shoot, and well over a decade later it’s all he has to work with, much like Richard Donner’s preferred cut of Superman II, in which he was forced to keep elements of Richard Lester's kookier version because it’s the only footage he had available. But Guillermo del Toro still manages to subvert many Hollywood conventions, particularly the one that says you can’t kill dogs or kids. He does both, in the very same, very scary scene, and would deserve bonus points for that alone, if the rest of the movie weren't so well-crafted (even in the original version).
Mimic scuttles onto Blu-Ray with a truly incredible special edition that you simply have to buy. Period. The picture and sound quality is out of this world, with a crisp, detail-laden image full of inky blacks and rich colors, and a surround sound presentation that will actually creep the hell out of you with its eerie creaks, moans and scurryings past each speaker. Moreover, del Toro has tricked out Mimic: The Director’s Cut with some of the best bonus features around. If nothing else, you owe it to yourself to listen to his sprawling, hilarious and ridiculously informative commentary track, in which he explains – as much as he legally can – how everything went wrong, how anything went right, and how the experience of directing Mimic made him evolve into the filmmaker he is today. There are also some really interesting featurettes about the creature design and other behind-the-scenes aspects, a short introduction to the film, deleted scenes, animatics and a spry gag reel. Not all of these special features are presented in anamorphic, however, so be ready to adjust your screen settings accordingly.
If you’re anything like me, you’re surprised that Mimic even got a Blu-Ray release in the first place, let alone one of the best (non-Criterion) special editions in a long time. If you liked Mimic before, it’s a “Must Buy.” If you hated Mimic before, it’s a “Must Buy.” If you have any love for either Guillermo Del Toro or the horror genre as a whole, it’s a “Must Buy.” I loved this release.
CRAVEONLINE RATING (Film): 8/10
CRAVEONLINE RATING (Blu-Ray): 9.5/10