I do not like bugs. Just the idea of seeing one where I live or even crawling on me gives me the creeps. Despite all this, Guillermo Del Toro’s Mimic is a film about bugs that is creepy but not in the sense of Arachnophobia because spiders are a different story. It’s a horror film that works as a thriller and is interesting in that the main character is an entomologist. I do often wonder what lurks below our surface streets. What’s down there living below? In fact, insects outnumber the human population by at least 1000 to 1. That’s quite a large number if you think about. There are roughly 10 million species of insects on this planet alone!
Mimic tells the story of a deadly disease carried by cockroaches in Manhattan called the “Strickler’s Disease” that is claiming the lives of children. Dr. Peter Mann (Jeremy Northam) is the Deputy Director of the CDC and recruits an entomologist named Dr. Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino) who uses genetic engineering to create a new bug called the Judas breed. They are large insects that can release an enzyme that causes the roaches to increase their metabolism, which results in them starving to death faster. The Judas proves successful, which then ends the disease.
We fast-forward three years and Peter and Susan are now married but something strange is being found in the sewers of the city. Large insects with actual organs are being discovered. People are vanishing without a trace and a little boy named Chuy (Alexander Goodwin) has seen these bugs in person. They make funny noises when they walk and he copies the sounds when he hears them. Chuy’s father Manny (Giancarlo Giannini) is a subway show shiner who looks for his son after he disappears one night.
An investigation gets underway when Peter and Susan start looking for more specimens of these large bugs that resemble the Judas breed. They are much larger and are somehow multiplying even though no males were ever created. Peter’s assistant Josh (Josh Brolin) and MTA officer Leonard (Charles S. Dutton) venture down into the bowels of the city where they uncover eggs of the Judas breed. Soon, people are separated and are attacked by the bugs. One ends up getting killed where Peter and Susan can examine and study it. It’s revealed that the bug’s evolution has drastically changed in just three years. Normally, the evolution process would take multiple generations, but this is not the case. It’s revealed that a male Judas is somewhere the tunnel of the city and that it needs to be located and destroyed before the bugs expand further out.
Del Toro really makes use of filming in dark areas and I felt spooked wanting to know if something was waiting to pop out of the corner. Even though this film is sort of like a slasher film, I enjoyed the moments where the scientists were trying to figure out how their creation has become a threat. The actors do a good job in their roles and I especially liked the character of Leonard. He’s confused at the sight of all this and asks a good question, “If this thing has been around, how come no one has seen it?” Just the idea of seeing someone who was something sends chills down my spine. There is even a moment when this happens and it works greatly.
Mimic delivers the creepy atmosphere and a villain that is quite unique. Even though the film was a box office disappointment, critics did like the how the film felt scary without resorting to tired old clichés. Del Toro was initially unhappy with the film because the producer Bob Weinstein would arrive on the set and make unreasonable demands that would deviate from the script. Since that time a Director’s cut was released in 2011 and Del Toro has never worked with the Weinstein’s ever since.
For some, Mimic may have a slow story and the fear of bugs may get under your skin. For me, Mimic is dark, scary and features some ideas that I really liked. The idea of bugs evolving to mimic its predator and the moments where people are killed are tension filled. It’s sad that I’ve missed a lot of Del Tor’s films but his style really won me over with Mimic. It may seem aged but looking at Del Toro’s career it’s one film that should be added to your list if you like his style, and boy does this film have it.