One thing we’ve learned from sci-fi and horror films is that monsters and weird things find ways to survive, to evolve, to adapt, to keep coming back. It was true in the case of the Judas Breed, a bug genetically engineered by Dr. Susan Tyler to be a sellout traitor that kills off the diseased roaches of the Manhattan sewers and then dies out, that instead managed to squirt out tens of thousands of generations in a couple years and evolve into a six foot termite-mantis that can mimic the shape of a human to survive on the streets. It was also the case with the MIMIC movie series itself. Guillermo Del Toro and the Miramax marketing department created an identifiable enough brand, the Weinsteins or somebody okayed a direct-to-video sequel, and with a third of the budget and no need to attract box office I suspect it was able to be hatched with less of their scrutiny and meddling. While MIMIC is an interesting movie that doesn’t entirely deliver as slick mainstream entertainment, its sequels are in a good position to exceed expectations. They’re better than you fear and different than you expect, thus fulfilling the potential of the DTV sequel format.
Part 2 is written by Joel Soisson, a long time producer who had recently moved into screenwriting with HIGHLANDER: ENDGAME and DRACULA 2000, and would become a go-to DTV sequel guy for the company (DRACULA II and III, HELLRAISER: HELLWORLD, HOLLOW MAN 2, some PROPHECYs, some PULSEs, some CHILDREN OF THE CORN, etc.). The director they chose was a little more unusual. Jean de Segonzac was a d.p. as well as director for Homicide: Life on the Street, and he pretty much created its groundbreaking and widely imitated documentary style. He also shot John McNaughton’s NORMAL LIFE and an amazingly raw documentary called EIGHT-TRAY GANGSTER: THE MAKING OF A CRIP. So at the time I felt he brought some credibility to this thing.
(I was probly not aware that he’d directed BAD AS I WANNA BE: THE DENNIS RODMAN STORY.)
Not surprisingly, Mira Sorvino didn’t come back for the sequel. So what are your options there? You could have another actress take over as Susan (the DARKMAN II approach), you could have a new character that you say is her daughter or something (the ROAD HOUSE 2 approach), you could just have a whole new set of unrelated characters (the, let’s say, WILD THINGS 2 approach). Instead they chose something like the TREMORS 2 approach of promoting an original supporting character to the lead. But MIMIC doesn’t have any side characters as notable as Fred Ward and Michael Gross, so this stars Alix Koromzay as Susan’s friend Remy.
From one perspective that’s kind of funny – when I saw this at the time I’m not sure if I even remembered she was from the first one. The character didn’t even register with me enough to realize she was a fellow entomologist, so I doubt anybody was anxious to find out more about her. But I think that that’s exactly what’s so cool about it. Remy doesn’t seem like the type of character who normally gets to be the protagonist of a genre movie, nor does Koromzay seem like an actress who usually gets to be the lead (in fact this is the only feature she’s gotten top billing in). So once again this is the DTV sequel spirit: taking the opportunity to do something they’d never let you do in a “real” sequel.
This came out in 2001, four years after the first movie, and also takes place four years later. New York City homicide detective Klaski (Bruno Campos, voice of the prince in THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG) is investigating a succession of dead bodies found hanging from the wires with their faces ripped off, and figures out that they all knew Remy, who is working as a teacher in a poorly funded (i.e. racially diverse/DANGEROUS MINDS style) high school.
Remy has been through alot, not just Judas-Breed-related. She breaks up with an abusive boyfriend, and adds a Polaroid of her bruised face to her wall of shame, where a shocking number of injury selfies are labelled with the names of the men responsible. (Her camera is later used for a really cool horror gimmick: it’s too dark to see outside but she holds it out the window and blindly takes a flash photo, which proves to catch the bug’s face.)
She has reason to hate some of these victims, but the detective soon sees for himself that oh shit, there is a god damn INSECT MAN stalking her, maybe he would make a better suspect. Eventually they figure out it’s trying to mate with her. Harassing her and having unfair expectations of her just like the human men it’s mimicking.
This one has evolved beyond the one from part 1. They can’t believe it at first, but it grows to imitate the faces of its victims. Imagine seeing a bug man and recognizing his false face as an imitation of somebody you knew. That happens here!
Remy also realizes that this bug has the ability to learn from mistakes. Clever girl. But one thing I like is that as terrifying as this new reality of giant bugs is, they still see him as kind of pathetic leftovers of a previous bug invasion. Early in the movie Remy is talking to students about an ant from a fallen colony with no fertile queen. She calls him the last warrior, with no one left to bury him. This Judas Breed is the same. A ronin. Kind of tragic. (Still a stalker, though, I’m not defending him.)
Cinematographer Nathan Hope (HELLRAISER: INFERNO) does a good job of getting a Del Toro look at times – shadows, yellow tint, wet concrete, steam – not at all the de Segonzac Homicide style that I mentioned. There’s a clever shot where the camera drops toward Klaski and it seems like a P.O.V. monster attack shot, but then is revealed as the P.O.V. of a bloody corpse being dropped on him from above. Yuck!
Creature effects this time are handled by Gary J. Tunnicliffe, who is so entrenched in the world of Miramax DTV sequels that he did makeup formost of the DTV HELLRAISER sequels and even directed HELLRAISER: JUDGMENT. He’s good, though – his Clive Barker association goes back to HELLRAISER III and CANDYMAN and he worked on some other classics like BLADE and GINGER SNAPS. So we get to see various gooey bugman stages, and de Segonzac also does well with the scenes where you just kind of catch a glimpse or see a silhouette and it, like, swoops down and slashes through the roof of a cab and shit. Pulling people up the side of a building so you see them zip by the window. Pretty aggressive, these last warriors.
Another good grossout: they find an empty skin. They call it “the outer shell.” Somebody says, “We gotta find it while it’s still soft.” That’s the spirit! Since four years have passed they’re able to have some real pros dealing with these things now. Instead of the CDC proper they send a unit from the Epidemic Intelligence Service, led by “Darksuit” (Edward Albert, GALAXY OF TERROR). It’s the kind of agency you need in a city where they find a dead guy (Bill Cho Lee, KINJITE: FORBIDDEN SUBJECTS) who was carrying 75 pounds of dirt in a suitcase, killed in a (forgive the pun) bug deal gone wrong.
I like that it gets gradually more apocalyptic. Remy, two of her students and Klaski are holed up inside the school. There are piles of furniture blocking places, like a beaver dam. Made me think of how ants build things out of little pieces of things they carry over. They’re stuck in his nest, and in danger from the “good guys” trying to fumigate the place. And there’s a pretty fuckin cool ending where (SPOILER) the thing shows up at her apartment trying to fake being Klaski. I think that’s a new spin on the creepiness of the mimic concept, for one to have the confidence to come out into the daylight even though… come on, dude. Who do you think you’re fooling?
There are a couple recognizable character actors – specifically Jon Polito (HIGHLANDER, various Coen Brothers films) and Jim O’Heir (LOGAN LUCKY). It’s funny to be watching a MIMIC movie and think “Oh, shit, that’s Jerry from Parks & Rec!” and then the bug kills him and steals his face. Also of note, we see him in his apartment watching TV and eating a bowl of chips and he’s surrounded by stacks of newspapers. It’s not important that he’s a hoarder or anything like that so I thought that was kind of a cool gratuitous detail. Thanks for the elbow grease, set decorators.
I thought I had reviewed this for Ain’t It Cool, but apparently not. If I had it would’ve been pretty positive. And I’m sure they would’ve been grateful because that is not the mainstream opinion. It has an 8%/12% critic/audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes (mostly from reviews written 2-10 years later, from the looks of it). I liked it, though.