JANUARY 28, 2010
If there was an award for “Most Surprisingly Good Franchise”, I think the Mimic series would definitely net a nomination and possibly the award. The first film was famously troubled during production due to fighting between Del Toro and Dimension, though the finished product, while uneven, was still an original and enjoyable film. Then the first sequel expanded on one of the original’s minor characters and delivered some great death scenes and a pretty decent sequel story to boot. And now Mimic 3: Sentinel (just Mimic Sentinel on the film itself) turns out to be borderline great for its first 45 minutes or so, only to turn a bit too traditional for the finale (though still good). What the hell? Aren’t these movies about giant cockroaches that can impersonate people? How did they make ONE good movie out of that, let alone three?
Well that’s not my job to figure out. My job is to tell you that Mimic 3 is essentially Rear Window, except that the villains are human-sized cockroaches. And when the film sticks to this concept (i.e. takes place almost entirely in the hero’s room, observing both human and monsters from across the street where the action is taking place), it’s wonderful. Director JT Petty, who previously impressed me with (what was actually a followup) The Burrowers, is a far better filmmaker than you would expect to be given a thankless job directing the 2nd DTV sequel to a not-very-successful movie, and it shows. He could have phoned this thing in and cashed his check, but damned if he didn’t make a solid thriller, with colorful characters you actually care about and some exciting setpieces to boot.
Oddly, my favorite attack scene occurs in that less-successful third act, when the Rear Window type stuff is tossed out in favor of more traditional action. After some rather generic exterior scenes and the like, Petty once again returns to the idea of confinement, as our hero hides in a refrigerator and struggles to keep the door shut from a rampaging Judas Breed. The only light is the fridge light, which turns on when the monster momentarily succeeds in getting the door open. Its talons are also puncturing and slashing the shit out of the guy, so his increasingly bloody hands are making it harder for him to get a grip on the inside of the fridge door (the butter and egg trays and such). He is just trying to hold out long enough for his makeshift bomb (oxygen tanks in the oven) to go off and kill the damn thing, and given Petty’s surprising willingness to kill off characters you “know” will be safe, you actually believe that he is in actual danger, something few horror films can pull off with their hero.
I hate to say it, but it’s largely the scenes with Lance Henriksen that keep the film from being a total A winner. He’s fine (he actually has the film’s best line - he sees some Judas about to strike, and simply utters “Well.... fuck.”), but again, they take away the “All from the hero’s POV” aspect. There’s an attack scene about halfway through where the hero watches it all from his camera lens, obscuring from us what is actually happening, and I wish these Lance scenes were the same. Of course, it’s Lance Henriksen and thus it would be kind of a waste to keep him out of focus and in shadows and such, but still, it feels a bit like a missed opportunity.
I was also a bit puzzled by Petty’s tendency to fade to events that were occurring at the same time. Like at one point Lance puts a character into a trunk, and then fades to show her inside trying to get out (two trunk scenes in a row!), rather than just straight cut. There are other instances as well, and it distracted me. I was hoping he’d address it on the commentary, but if he did it must have been when I dozed off (he’s got a soft voice, and also I have been working double shifts and thus not getting much sleep). Otherwise, it’s a good commentary - he is definitely a creative and thoughtful director, and points out several things that never dawned on me (like how the actor holds onto the camera throughout a scene, as if it was his anchor). He also reveals that the apartment building that we are looking at for like half of the movie is actually a giant photograph plastered over the hero’s window. Fooled me!
The other extras are cast auditions (no thanks) and a making of featurette that is largely informative, but there’s a bit about dead dogs that I didn’t find amusing, mainly because they never make it clear that it’s a joke. But it’s largely focused on the production side of things, instead of actors blowing each other, so I dug it. I was surprised that there weren’t any deleted scenes (the movie only runs 75 minutes), as they are the most common offering on Dimension DTV movies, but then again this is above and beyond the usual Dimension DTV movie, so I guess it makes sense. Even if you haven’t seen the others, I highly recommend checking this one out.
I also want to point out that this makes the second “It’s Rear Window With A Monster” movie that I’ve seen that worked far better than I expected, the other being Abominable. I say someone tries to meld the story with a giant monkey next.
What say you?