Directed by Guillermo Del Toro. Starring Mira Sorvino, Jeremy Northam, Josh Brolin, Giancarlo Giannini, Alexander Goodwin, F. Murray Abraham, Charles S. Dutton. (1997, R, 104 min.)

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Aug. 22, 1997

Bummer about those Big Apple subways. First giant alligators, then cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers, and now giant, man-eating roaches -- with lungs, no less. Advance word on Mimic, the second feature from Mexican horror auteur Del Toro (Cronos), has been rife with interesting hype, and so it's a bit disconcerting to realize that the film is, in effect, a throwback to some of the classic B sci-fi pics of the Fifties. Specifically I'm thinking of Them and The Giant Mantis, and while those deliriously fun flicks remain high on my all-time list of guilty pleasures, Mimic is a decent enough updating of the shopworn “don't go in the basement” school of filmmaking, although I must admit I was expecting a little more from the man behind the inspired and wholly unique Cronos. Sorvino and Northam play Drs. Susan Tyler and Peter Mann, a husband-and-wife team of scientists working for the CDC who are called upon to halt an epidemic that threatens a full generation of children on Manhattan Island. Since the illness is transmitted through New York's notoriously hardy cockroach population, the pair decide to fight back by combining various DNA strands from other insects into a new breed that will kill off the offending crawlies. The plan works, the kids are saved, and no one much seems to care that (once again) the biological makeup of Mother Nature has been tampered with in hideous ways that are sure to result in doom -- doom, I say -- for all mankind. Three years later, the good doctors' mutant strain of bug (the aptly named “Judas Breed”) has evolved at an alarming rate and grown to roughly the size of Hulk Hogan. There are thousands of them breeding in the abandoned subway lines beneath the city, huge roach-like creepies with the ability to mimic the outline of a shaggy vagrant and thus ensnare their human prey. Armed with nothing but the hard-won assistance of a grumpy Transit Authority cop (Dutton), Tyler and Mann descend into the subterranean netherworld to seek out proof of their folly while F. Murray Abraham furrows his craggy brow up above and spouts the occasional half-baked scientific explanation (the best since Joe Dante's Mant! parody within his film Matinee). Once below ground, it's suddenly all-out war, man, with Sorvino doing a credible impersonation of Sigourney Weaver in Alien. For all its Del Toro touches (Goodwin as a young autistic boy kidnapped by the bugs), Mimic is a surprisingly hollow thriller. Creature effects legend Rob Bottin's (The Howling) “insectoid” creations are terrific to watch; the film makes you itch all over and crave a steaming hot bubble bath, or a series of them, but there's not much more to it than that. Which, come to think of it, is the way a good B monster movie should be.

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Mimic, Guillermo Del Toro, Mira Sorvino, Jeremy Northam, Josh Brolin, Giancarlo Giannini, Alexander Goodwin, F. Murray Abraham, Charles S. Dutton

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