Mimic: The Director's Cut [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (9th November 2011).
The Film

Oh, to be inside the mind of Guillermo del Toro. I don’t doubt it’s a chaotic environment, racing with macabre ideas at such a rapid pace that even he has trouble keeping up with them. Ever since he made a splash onto the genre scene with his Spanish alt-vampire film, “Cronos” (1993), he’s been rattling off more potential film ideas than he’d have time to tackle in his lifetime. His first major picture out of the gate was for Miramax, turning what was intended to be a 30-minute short film into a feature length theatrical film, “Mimic” (1997). Fans of del Toro will easily recognize the beginnings of his trademark style – austere environments, ripe with decay, every frame cluttered with an absurd amount of information and detail – but it’s a fairly well-known fact that the portly director has mostly disowned the film. I don’t think it’s a secret that the Weinsteins love to tamper with the films their producing up to the last minute – and sometimes even after they’ve been released – and the still-green del Toro got a first-hand look at how studio politics can affect a film. Rumor has it that Bob Weinstein was demanding changes constantly on the set, rewriting pages and severely inhibiting del Toro’s ability to craft a memorable horror picture. I never saw the end result of that unwanted collaboration, but the box office returns would lead me to believe that not many others did either.

Luckily, this is 2011, and we live in a time when many notable directors are afforded the opportunity to revisit past works, maybe right a few obvious wrongs (NOT like George Lucas does) and present home video audiences with a greater approximation of the film they had intended to deliver. That’s the case here, with del Toro coming back to “Mimic” in order to add an additional 6 minutes of footage not seen in the theatrical release, in addition to tweaking the color palette and sound design (more on those last two later). Del Toro recently did a number of interviews regarding this new cut, and it’s fascinating to learn what it took just to get the ball rolling. He had to fight tooth-and-nail to get the studio to agree; then once they did the lengthy process began of finding all the footage form the film, re-editing it and matching up the score to flow over this new version. Del Toro stated that he eschewed a great deal of what was shot with a second unit, reinstating minor character moments to give the cast more depth. His chief complaint with the second unit footage was that it relied mostly on jump scares, and this is not something that should be endemic to one of his pictures. His style favors a slow-burn approach, allowing the scares to build through an almost unhealthy amount of tension.

An epidemic has been killing children in New York City, and it’s being carried by something in almost every home: cockroaches. Dr. Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino) and her soon-to-be-husband, Dr. Peter Mann (Jeremy Northam) have engineered an insect called the Judas Breed, designed to wipe out the city’s cockroaches which are spreading the disease. They were designed to only live for a generation, but three years later evidence is uncovered that not only are they still alive, but they’ve advanced hundreds of thousands of generations, grown exponentially in size, and are able to mimic the human form. As the two of them begin to slowly uncover what’s happening down in the city’s subway system, they realize that humans are soon to be replaced at the top of the food chain if they can’t find a way to eradicate them.

If there’s one thing this film could’ve done without, it’s the character of Chuy (Alexander Goodwin), an autistic special needs child who likes to mimic the sound of the man-sized bugs with a pair of spoons he carries around. Naturally, he wanders where he shouldn’t go and causes a number of problems for half the cast. He gets his father (a sympathetic role played by Giancarlo Giannini) killed, and then manages to almost wipe out everyone else because he’s unable to properly pay attention. I spent the entire film praying a bug would tear him apart, but del Toro already eviscerates a few kids, and you know damn well there’s no way the special kid is getting offed. I had to get that gripe out of the way because it’s really to only major weak point in this film.

As I stated, I don’t know how del Toro’s original, unapproved theatrical cut compares with this current version, but his comments lead me to believe the prior cut was typical 90's horror - meaning it was crap. Almost every shot in the film now comes from the lens he was behind, with all the second unit jump scares excised. Fun fact: the second unit director was Robert Rodriguez. Yes, that Robert Rodriguez. I’d assume he was nothing more than a hired gun by the Weinsteins, and that his direction on this film is likely not derivative of his work. Some horror fans might bore easily by the film’s slow burn nature, but I found it makes the reveals that much more fantastic. I hate being inundated by pointless jump scares ad nauseum. Del Toro knows how to finely craft a horror film so that you spend the majority of the first act trying to decipher what it is you’re seeing. Creatures are hidden amongst shadows, leaving your mind to piece together what it may be seeing. Then, of course, he’ll shoot a grotesque sequence where the beast is seen in all its glory, often revealing something more hideous than you imagined.

The only thing that wasn’t included in this new cut is del Toro’s originally proposed ending. There is an alternate ending on the disc, and I found it to be far more subtle, but his un-shot conclusion would have presented a bleaker future which could have possibly provided the film with a longer shelf life than it currently enjoys. Del Toro is a big name among film geeks, but everyone seems to forget he directed “Mimic”. He might’ve wished he could forget as well, so I’m pleased that he was given the OK to reassemble a vision as close to what he wanted. It’s never any fun when you discover a new director, only to go back and find tripe in their back catalog. With this new release, del Toro has done everything he could’ve to ensure fans won’t be disappointed.

Video

In addition to making significant editorial changes to the film, del Toro also manipulated the color timing to reflect the two dominant hues he wanted represented here: cyan and amber. True to his word, almost all of the film is bathed in or tinted with either color. I really have no issue with this, as it only serves to make the film “feel” like it belongs in his canon. The 1.85:1 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 encoded image isn’t particularly strong, however, and I’d hoped to get more out of it than we do. A majority of the complaints I’ve read singled out the crushed black levels in many of the darker scenes (read: 90% of the movie). While I can’t completely disagree with that assessment, I’ll say that I didn’t find them to be as deficient as others. Black levels are deep & rich, never grey or washed out, so even though some crushing may occur it isn’t the worst thing about the image. That would have to be detail, which is lacking. As you’d expect, the few daylight scenes exhibit greater detail, but with most of the film taking place in dark subway tunnels, the finer elements are suffocated. It isn’t that things necessarily look soft, but I expected a more defined image than what we’re given. The color palette has been tweaked considerably, as I said, so there isn’t much to “pop” here. Not that I was expecting a jaw-dropping image or anything. There’s also some very heavy grain in the image. I was able to look past it most of the time, but there are instances where it feels obtrusive. I’d rather deal with too much grain, however, than some DNR hack job. Speaking of which, I didn’t notice anything that looked digitally manipulated other than the color design.

Audio

In the extras, del Toro talks about how he wanted an aggressive sound design intended to envelope the listener so that they feel like they’re in the movie. I’d have to say he succeeded tremendously thanks to this Blu-ray’s DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround sound track mixed at 48kHz/24-bit. From the opening title cards, there is an astounding level of activity that most horror films don’t enjoy. I felt like I was back in NYC listening to the screech of subway cars jetting through the tunnels. While it’s always important – and expected – that films will utilize the rear speakers to add in the sounds of the city when we’re out in public, what really gives this track a great dynamic is the insects themselves. Just like the film’s characters, we’re spending the film trapped in a dark, dank environment with little lighting and massive bugs. The track deftly handles the clicks and pops and the insects, often having effects come from different speakers at different times, confusing viewers into thinking they know where an attack is going to come from. The mix here is perfectly balanced and completely immersive, doing exactly what del Toro set out to accomplish. Man, he’s really nailing everything he can on this Blu-ray, isn’t he?
Subtitles are available in English, English for the hearing impaired and Spanish.

Extras

This is a huge release for fans of del Toro’s work. Not only are we getting the "Director’s Cut" of the film, but Lionsgate has also made sure that the disc is awash with bonus features. Included is an audio commentary, behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted scenes, animatics and more. There’s also a second disc containing a digital copy of the film.

DISC ONE:

A video prologue with director Guillermo del Toro, (1080p) runs for 1 minute and 4 seconds. The director welcomes you to this new edition of his film, which is the closest approximation to what he had intended.

Have you ever listened to a Guillermo del Toro audio commentary? You’re likely to learn more from his open discussion than you’d get out of a semester at film school. He’s stated numerous times that he despises commentary tracks which only serve as a “lengthy Oscar acceptance speech”, full of glad-handing and scene descriptions. Del Toro is known for his painstaking research when composing a screenplay, and he talks NON-STOP in an effort to fill listeners in on every possible facet of the production. This is a highly enjoyable, informative and insightful track that fans will relish.

“Reclaiming Mimic” (1080p) is a featurette that runs for 14 minutes and 31 seconds. Del Toro discusses what he’s done here to make the film more in line with what he had planned. All the major changes are outlined so that fans can understand what he was trying to do revisiting the film all this time later.

“A Leap in Evolution” (480p) is a featurette that runs for 9 minutes and 35 seconds. Del Toro and his team of creature designers talk about how they approached creating the film’s insects. Always a stickler for accuracy, del Toro instructed them to peruse his large collection of insect books so that everything they designed could be traced back to an actual example in nature.

“Back into the Tunnels” (480p) is a featurette that runs for 5 minutes and 22 seconds. The film’s cast members discuss how much they have enjoyed working with del Toro as a director. Everyone seems to be in agreement that he’s full of so many ideas that it astounds them, but he also has a very clear & concise vision of what he’s out to accomplish.

A few deleted scenes (480p) are available for the following:

- “Lunch at the Park” runs for 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Susan and Peter have another discussion about babies while they eat.
- “Kidnapped” runs for 44 seconds. This is a quicker, alternate look at Susan’s kidnapping.
- “Alternate Ending” runs for 1 minute and 57 seconds. Though it isn’t the grim ending del Toro wanted to shoot, this one has a less sugary sweet feel that the current cut.

Six storyboard animatics (480p) contain del Toro’s original hand drawn storyboards edited to the film’s sound track. They include:

- “Judas” runs for 46 seconds.
- “Pinned Down” runs for 13 seconds.
- “Pipe Limbo” runs for 24 seconds.
- “Death of Josh” runs for 2 minutes and 18 seconds.
- “Run for the Car” runs for 1 minute and 10 seconds.
- “The Big Bite” runs for 1 minute and 6 seconds.

A gag reel (480p) runs for 2 minutes and 20 seconds.

Bonus trailers (1080p) have been included for the following Lionsgate releases:

- “Scream Blu-ray trilogy promo” runs for 1 minute and 41 seconds.
- “Lionsgate horror promo” runs for 1 minute and 6 seconds.
- “The Presence” runs for 1 minute and 41 seconds.
- “EPIX promo” runs for 2 minutes and 1 second.
- “FearNet originals” runs for 1 minute and 1 second.
- “Break.com promo” runs for 58 seconds.

The disc is also enabled with the bookmarks feature.

DISC TWO:

This is a digital copy of the film for use with iTunes and Windows Media portable devices. The file size is 1.58GB.

Packaging

The 2-disc set comes housed in a keep-case with each disc housed opposite the other.

Overall

I’ve been curious to see this film for years, even before I knew it was a Guillermo del Toro film. I don’t recall his theatrical cut receiving much praise, but since this is a new cut it should be viewed as such. Anyone who hated the film initially would do well to check this version out and see if it’s more in line with what you were hoping for. Del Toro certainly seems to be as happy about it as possible. Since this Blu-ray can be had for so cheap (usually around $10, which is a friggin’ steal) I’d suggest anyone who is a fan of the man’s work add it to their collection.

The Film: B- Video: C+ Audio: A Extras: A Overall: B-

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.