Guillermo del Toro's killer cockroaches get a complete reworking for Blu-ray
Horror films about killer insects are nothing new. Cinema is littered with the broken carapaces of insect invaders, both big and small, that had waged war against mankind. And in 1997 it was the turn of giant genetically-altered cockroaches in Guillermo del Toro's first Hollywood movie.
A mix of traditional monster movie and the more eerie Gothic horror, Mimic stars Oscar winner Mira Sorvino (whatever happened to her?) as an entomologist who saves New York's children from a disease being spread by cockroaches. She does this by engineering a new species she calls the Judas Breed and releasing them in the sewers, where they should kill off themselves and the regular types via some scientific mumbo-jumbo to do with enzymes. Flash forward three years and something strange is going on under New York. People are going missing. Some kids find a big bug that appears to be descended from the Judas Breed. Cue a trip underground to discover a new type of horror that has been breeding under the city's streets.
A reasonable success at the time of its release, Mimic certainly stands apart from the rest of del Toro's filmography, always feeling like more like a work-for-hire job than anything he had a personal stake in. Not surprising really given the way that Miramax handled the film, re-editing it to create a more traditional monster movie, trimming away the little quirks and touches that the filmmaker usually brings to his work. This Blu-ray serves up a new cut of the film that del Toro claims comes much closer to his original version of the film. It's not wildly different (but the changes do help the story and characters) and nor is it exactly the film he hoped for (the producers simply wouldn't let him shoot everything he wanted to). But there's no denying that it's a better movie, and one that comes much closer to feeling like a true Guillermo del Toro movie.
Picture: Mimic is a dark film. Scratch that, it's an incredibly dark film. As such, this Blu-ray's AVC 1.85:1 1080p encode isn't likely to wow you with its visual prowess. Instead, it simply sets out to deliver the best presentation of del Toro's film you could hope for in a home cinema environment. And for the most part it succeeds.
It's certainly a considerably sharper and more film-like image than the film has ever received before. And the splashes of colour del Toro uses (such as the cool blue lighting found underground or the burning amber of glow sticks inside the abandoned train carriage) are exceptionally well rendered, with just the right saturation and vibrancy. Detailing is reasonable at best - close-ups are generally fine, but wider shots often lack fidelity and can sometimes looks a touch mushy. Edge enhancement also raises its head from time to time - possibly in an effort to try and sharpen those same wider shots.
Then we come to the amount of grain the image. We're big grain lovers at here at HCC, but the amount of grain evident in Mimic's encode isn't just pervasive, it also fluctuates from shot to shot. Blue-lit underground sequences are particularly grainy, much more than the rest of the film, which has a knock-on effect on the quality of the image.
Picture rating: 3/5
Audio: Mimic comes to Blu-ray sporting not just a new edit of the film, but also a pretty spectacular new DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 remix. It's a thoroughly immersive piece of sound engineering that shies away from obvious aural scare tactics and instead favours dragging you kicking and screaming into the world it creates.
And what a world it is. The opening sequence alone is an aggressive tour de force that will give your system a real wake up call. And after that you're immersed into a terrifying world of strange abstract sounds, skittering insects and roaring bass. There's a surprising dynamic range to the entire mix, not to mention inventive use of the entire soundstage. And to cap it all off there's the wonderfully natural dialogue (that sometimes floats ghost-like through the surround channels as the action heads into the tunnels) and the rich tones of Marco Beltrami's score.
Audio rating: 5/5
Extras: The undisputed crown jewel of this Blu-ray's bonus feature package is Guillermo del Toro's audio commentary. Fans will already be expecting great things given the fascinating chat-tracks he's recorded for his other films, but for Mimic he really pulls out all the stops. With some names changed for 'legal reasons' the filmmaker sets about outlining the complete history of Mimic, from its origin as part of an anthology film, to the various draft scripts that were written (Steven Soderbergh once had a stab at it) and then on to the sorry saga of the production itself, replete with tales of producer interference and dramatic re-editing. We might never get to see Mimic as del Toro truly envisioned it, but at least this commentary leaves us with a very clear idea of exactly what he was trying to achieve and the reasons why it didn't come together.
The fun doesn't stop there though. Guillermo del Toro also pops up in a video introduction (1.05/1080p) to this new cut of the film, explaining what viewers can expect from it. Following on from this is a collection of three featurettes. Reclaiming Mimic (14.31/1080p) covers similar ground to the commentary in outlining the differences between this new cut and the original theatrical edit of the film, but surprises by not repeating too much that you hear in the chat track. A Leap in Evolution (9.35/480p) and Back Into the Tunnels (5.22/480p) are both archival pieces, the first looking at the film's special effects and creature designs, the second providing a slightly more generic Making of... experience including brief cast and director soundbites.
Next up are three deleted scenes (5.11/480p) that still haven't made it back into the film, one of which is a longer – if not actually superior - ending. Finishing things off are six storyboard animatics (6.04/480p) and a gag reel (2.20/480p).
Extras rating: 4/5
We say: There's never been a better time or reason to revisit Guillermo del Toro's killer bug flick
StudioCanal, Region B Blu-ray, £20 approx, On sale October 31
HCC VERDICT: 4/5
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