Mimic: The Director's Cut (UK - BD RB)
Chris takes a look at the StudioCanal release of this director's cut of the film
When the children of Manhattan fall prey to a deadly plague spread by the city's cockroaches, entomologist Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino) and her husband Peter Mann (Jeremy Northam) genetically engineer a new breed, the Judas, to kill off the more common insects by way of a secreted enzyme. The experiment is a resounding success, and with the roach population brought under control the crisis is averted. However, some years later a series of mysterious disappearances occur around the city's tunnels and subways. Having come to Susan and Peter's attention they discover worrying signs that point to the Judas strain. Although engineered to die off within six months, it appears that the bug survived and has been interbreeding with common roaches, with the resulting offspring rapidly evolved into a new form of life; one that has adapted its physical form to hunt a new prey - humans.
Ah Mimic. It's one of those nineties creature-features that I have reasonably fond, yet less than lucid memories of. Back in 1997 I had no idea who Guillermo del Toro was and I wasn't even subconsciously aware that someone by that name had directed the film. All I remembered were giant bugs, a young boy with a fondness for spoons, and a lot of running around in tunnels covered in smiley insect guts. Oh, and there was a big explosion at the end. It was a mildly entertaining film, but not one that lived long in the memory, and in spite of seeing it a bunch of times on TV I wouldn't call myself a fan. Even so, del Toro's subsequent success with films like Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth got me interested in his earlier work, and in particular his negative experience working on Mimic. While it's not uncommon to hear horror stories about studio interference ruining films, it is uncommon for director's to be given the opportunity to return to their films and realise their original vision, so this Blu-ray is something of a rare treat even if it's not a perfect version of the film as originally envisaged.
Mimic arrives on Blu-ray with a 1.85:1 widescreen transfer (1080/24p AVC) that looks very good for the most part. Now I have to hold my hand up and admit that I have no idea how closely this presentation mimics (excuse the pun) the theatrical experience, but from what I understand the film has always looked a little soft and that's occasionally the case here. That's not to say it looks like it's been run through the DNR machine, as there's a layer of visible grain that lends a pleasantly filmic appearance to the proceedings, and fine detail is actually very good, especially in facial close-ups. Having said that, one thing you'll notice almost immediately is that the contrast has been pushed to the point where virtually all shadow detail is crushed. This is apparently an intentional move, but with Mimic being such a dark film to begin with it does make it hard to see what's going on in some scenes. The colour palette is fairly subdued and cool, with a natural appearance featuring a lot of earthen tones. Some of the darker shots are a little on the noisy side, but thankfully not so bad as to completely ruin one's enjoyment, and other than that and the black crush there's not a whole lot to complain about. In fact, I was actually quite impressed overall.
Whatever slight misgivings I might have about the video presentation they don't translate to the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track, which is simply fantastic. Even the opening credits sequence is alive with atmospheric surround utilisation, really drawing you into the picture from the off. Early on there's a fantastic thunderstorm that, were it not uncommonly hot at the time of writing, could have convinced me that it was pouring down outside. The atmosphere is maintained throughout, with the sound of dripping water, hissing steam and trains in the underground tunnels, not to mention the clicks of the Judas bugs as they move around the soundstage, which are genuinely creepy. As the film progresses they can be heard hissing and scurrying all around the place thanks to some precise discrete placement. Their attacks are also accompanied by some pretty potent bass. The clarity of the dialogue is also excellent, never becoming muddied despite having to compete with some fairly aggressive effects. The film’s moody score is similarly impressive, providing a solid accompaniment to the rest of the aural elements. I’m not going to bang on about this one for ages, or throw lot of technical jargon at you, I’ll simply say that Mimic has an outstanding audio mix.
The disc includes a fairly healthy collection of bonus material, including a customarily absorbing commentary from del Toro. The director is one of those people who has mastered the art of commentary, scarcely pausing for breath as he delivers a constant stream of facts and anecdotes. In addition to his insight he is also surprisingly candid (although not brutally so) about the troubled production. I've sat through more than my fair share of dull chat tracks in recent times, but this one is well worth a listen.
Moving on we come to a 'Video Prologue with Guillermo Del Toro' (01:05 HD), in which the director introduces his new cut of the film. This is followed by the similarly themed 'Reclaiming Mimic' featurette (14:31 HD), in which del Toro discusses the troubled production and his hapiness at finally being given the opportunity to create a version of the film that better represents his original vision. He had some interesting ideas for the film's finale that sadly were never shot, but you can hear all about them in this short piece. Creature design is the focus of 'A Leap in Evolution' (09:35 SD), followed by 'Back into the Tunnels: The Making of Mimic (05:22 SD), which is a vintage making of featurette. A series of deleted scenes (05:11 SD) and storyboard animatics (06:04 SD) are also included, with a gag reel (02:20 SD) bringing up the rear.
Mimic: The Director's Cut isn't a great film, but it's a solid first studio effort from a director who would go on to do great things. You can see the foundations of everything that followed in this film, and one has to wonder what could have been if del Toro had been allowed to do it his way all those years ago. Fans of the film and the director in general are in for a treat with this Blu-ray, which presents a pleasing image accompanied by an absolutely terrific soundtrack. The extras are quite interesting, although truth be told they're a little insubstantial when compared to the home video releases of del Toro's other films. Even so I have no qualms about recommending Mimic in high-definition.
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 31st October 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 English
Subtitles: English, English SDH
Extras: Introduction, Audio Commentary, Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Storyboards, Gag Reel
Easter Egg: No
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Mira Sorvino, Jeremy Northam, Charles S. Dutton, Josh Brolin, Giancarlo Giannini, Alexander Goodwin, F. Murray Abraham
Length: 112 minutes
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