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Featured Blu-ray Review: Mimic Franchise Collection

May 1st, 2012

Mimic Franchise Collection - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Mimic came out in 1997 and marked the English-language debut of Guillermo Del Toro. The film earned a solid profit and respectable reviews, enough to generate two direct-to-DVD sequels. However, Guillermo Del Toro wasn't with the theatrical cut and late last year he finally got a chance to release a Director's Cut. That screener never arrived, but this week a complete franchise collection hit my desk. Did the changes improve the original film? And are the two sequels worth checking out?

Mimic

The film begins with scenes of empty school yards and quarantined hospital beds. An epidemic, Stricklers' disease, has been sweeping through New York City and has claimed the lives of many, many children. Susan Tyler is called in by the CDC, headed locally by Peter Mann, to help out. She's an entomologist, which is key, as the disease was carried by the common cockroach. She helped genetically engineer a new species by combining termites and praying mantises. This new species, named Judas Bug, spread a chemical to the cockroaches causing their metabolism to speed up to incredibly high levels. The cockroaches would literally starve to death because they could no longer eat fast enough. The Judas Bugs will then die off, because they can't reproduce in the wild. It's a great success, and within six months, the epidemic is controlled. (And Susan and Peter are married.)

Fast forward three years, we see a man being chased and he's so scared of what it was he tries to jump off the side of a building to get away. He doesn't get away. When the police show up the next day, they find a Chinese sweat shop, but it has more fecal matter than sweat, which is why Peter and the CDC are called in by the head detective, Josh. One of the workers is taken away on a stretcher babbling about Dark Angels coming to get them.

Meanwhile, Susan is at work preparing for a bug exhibit at the museum, when two young boys come in to sell her some insects. It's mostly butterflies that she probably has more specimens than she needs, but she wants to keep these kids excited about learning. They do have something special, or so they claim. Susan doesn't even bother looking till long after she paid them and they are gone. When she does look, it's huge. (About the size of her palm.) Upon further inspection, she realizes it's just a baby. And shortly after that, she realizes it's just a baby Judas Bug. That's impossible. They were only supposed to have a lifespan of six months, tops. And they were supposed to be unable to breed outside of the lab. Now she's got to stop it.

Mimic is, in essence, about giant bugs eating people. This is a B-movie setup if there ever was one. A filmmaker working in this genre can either embrace the B-movie silliness of the premise, like with Eight Legged Freaks, or try to elevate the film above its premise with style. Guillermo Del Toro tried the latter route and for the most part he succeeded. This film is very stylish and this not only helps set it apart, it helps build tension and doesn't rely on jump scares like the theatrical version of the movie did. We also get a lot more character development this time around. Not every thing works and there are a few too many clichés thrown in, while it feels padded in places. (The film is based on a short story and in order to stretch it out into a feature-length film, a lot of supporting characters and sub-plots are added in. Too many are added in.)

The original version was worth a rental, but the director's cut of Mimic is worth owning for fans of the genre, or for fans of Guillermo Del Toro.

The Extras

Extras start with an introduction by Guillermo Del Toro, who also sits down for an audio commentary track and a retrospective featurette. All three focus heavily on the film's troubled production and how he tried to fix it with his director's cut. There are two making of featurettes, the first on the design of the creatures and the second more behind-the-scenes. There are also deleted scenes, outtakes, and a storyboard animatics.

The film doesn't look great on Blu-ray, unfortunately. There were a lot of shots, mostly second unit / establishing shots, that were far too blurry for the format. They are only establishing shots for the most part, but there are enough of them that it is a distraction. It was also a very dark movie, and while the blacks were strong, you do lose a lot of details in these shots as well. Granted, it is a step up from the DVD, but not something you will use to show off your home theater system. The audio is much better with good use of the surround sound speakers and the subwoofer. There are plenty of dynamic effects and the underground scenes are very echoey.

Mimic 2

The sequel begins with a cacophony of radio chatter talking about the events at the end of the first film. It seems the big explosion at the end of the first film didn't kill all of the big bugs. The action begins with Lincoln Trahn being chased by one of the bugs till he's forced into the path of an oncoming taxi. When the lead detective arrives, he's informed Mr. Trahn was carrying 75 pounds of dirt, while after the impact, he face was removed. Not the kind of case you want to deal with on your day off, but that's the fate ahead of Det. Klaski.

We then flash to Remi Panos, Susan Tyler's colleague from the first movie and the only character to be in both films, who has become a school teacher and is currently teaching her students about insects. She's teaching in an inner city school that is about to be torn down. We witness two disastrous choices in dates, as one man she dated once has become a stalker, while her date for the night gets a little too fresh. We also witness these two men end up just like Mr. Trahn.

Later that night, Detective Klaski turns up at Remi's place asking about Lincoln Trahn. Turns out Mr. Trahn and Remi had a history. He was a trafficker in rare and endangered species, so there were enemies. When her stalker nearly lands on Detective Klaski's head, he's got a really strange case. It gets weirder when the Department of Defense gets involved.

Meanwhile, after a couple more kills, Remi gets stuck in the school with one of her students, Sal, and one of her former students, Nicky, who has a crush on her, while the Mimic stalks them. Eventually Detective Klaski catches up with them and the four of them have to try and survive.

The term I would use to describe this film is, "Unnecessary". It is a huge step down from the original in nearly every regard from story, to acting, to directing, to special effects. There's not a lot of plot, and what there is is too often delivered in a large expository dump. And even then, much of the film makes little or no sense. The acting was mixed. Alix Koromzay was good in her part, but the script didn't give her much to work with, while a lot of her co-stars were hamming it up too much. At times, the special effects looked cheaper than they should have, given its $10 million budget. There are some okay gore shots.

Bottom line, compared to a lot of direct-to-DVD releases, Mimic 2 is only mixed. Considering how bad most of these films are, that's a pretty damning remark.

The Extras

Extras include a 17-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, a 6-minute featurette on the sound, and five deleted scenes. The audio and video presentation is weaker than on the first film, which is not surprising, since this film had a lower budget and there are two films crammed onto one disc. The details are soft, the colors rarely pop, the blacks tend to swallow up too many details, etc. The audio is better, but still nothing to get excited over.

Mimic 3: The Sentinel

The third film takes a different approach. We begin by being introduced to Marvin Montrose, who suffers from environmental hypersensitivity due to his brush with Stricklers' disease and can't leave his bedroom for any length of time. To pass the time, he takes countless pictures of his neighbors writing notes and keeping tabs on the events. He lives with his stoner sister, Rosy, and his overprotective mother, Simone.

Marvin spies in on his neighbors, whom he gives nicknames like Ma Bell, #1 Dad, Garbageman, Birdman, The Veiled Lady, etc. He learns from his sister that The Veiled Lady is named Carmen. His sister even invites her over to see his picture collection. Fortunately, she's not creeped out, but intrigued about his hobby, even more so when she learns why he's a shut-in. After Carmen leaves, Marvin and Rosy see Desmond, Rosy's boyfriend / neighborhood drug dealer, sell some pot to Ma Bell, but something spooks Ma Bell. That something then kills Desmond.

They get their mother to call the cops, but unfortunately, they didn't get any pictures, because Marvin ran out of film. Additionally, because of Marvin's reputation for calling the cops over and over again, Det. Gary Dumars, the detective that comes to investigate, dismisses the claims of the two kids. He is, on the other hand, a little more interested in their mom. So it is up to Marvin to figure out what is going on, with help from Rosy and Carmen.

I'm of two minds when it comes to this movie. For the most part, it is a rather... let's say deliberately paced film that slowly builds suspense. Despite what I would call pacing issues, this part of the film really worked. The acting was good, the writing was good, it was suspenseful. I actually cared about the characters, unlike in the previous film. It was stylish. I especially loved the director's use of still photos to create flip book like scenes. There were a few too many clichés thrown in, but those were forgivable. On the other hand, after a great setup, the ending was a bit of a chaotic mess. After watching it the first time, I was confused on how certain characters lived or died. That said, the overall effort is certainly worth checking out and is a huge step above of the average compared to most direct-to-DVD sequels.

The Extras

Extras start with an audio commentary track with writer / director J.T. Petty. There is also a 15-minute making of featurette and 16 minutes of auditions. The video quality is better than the previous film with sharper details and better colors, but it maintains deep blacks. The audio is on par with the other sequel.

The Verdict

Of the three Mimic films, the first is worth owning, the third is a solid rental / lean towards a purchase, while the second one is best forgotten. Does that make the overall box set worth picking up? Since the Blu-ray Box Set costs just $6 more than the first movie individually, I would say yes, as long as you are leaning towards a purchase for Mimic 3: The Sentinel.


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