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Film / Mimic

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Mimic (1997) is an American Sci-Fi Horror film by Guillermo del Toro and starring Mira Sorvino, Jeremy Northam, Josh Brolin, Giancarlo Giannini, Charles S. Dutton, and F. Murray Abraham in a minor role, inspired by a short story of the same name by Donald A. Wollheim.

In Manhattan, cockroaches are spreading a deadly disease that is claiming hundreds of the city's children. Entomologist Susan Tyler (Sorvino) uses genetic engineering to create what she and her colleague (and husband) Peter Mann (Northam) call the Judas Breed, a large insect (looking like a cross between a termite and a praying mantis) that releases an enzyme that kills off the disease-carrying roaches. The Judas Breed work spectacularly and the crisis is abated. Since the Judas Breed have also been designed to be sterile and unable to breed, the hybrid species should die out in a matter of months.


Some years later, people begin to go missing in the subways and tunnels under the city. Susan, Peter, and their staff learn that they severely underestimated the Judas Breed's ability to adapt to its conditions. The Judas Breed has found a way to reproduce itself and has evolved in order to better hunt a new food source. To everyone's horror, they discover that the Judas' new food source is humans, and now the insects have grown to be as big as people and can mimic the appearance and behavior of humans (from a distance) with uncanny accuracy...

Although del Toro was unhappy with the film as released, it includes several examples of his most characteristic hallmarks. "I have a sort of a fetish for insects, clockwork, monsters, dark places, and unborn things," said del Toro, and this is evident in Mimic, where at times all are combined in long, brooding shots of dark, cluttered, muddy chaotic spaces. According to Alfonso Cuaron, del Toro's friend and colleague, "with Guillermo the shots are almost mathematical; everything is planned." That feature is evident too in Mimic, in the photography, most notably in the brooding shots described above and especially in the set design.


Mimic was followed by two Direct to Video sequels, Mimic 2 (2001) and Mimic 3: Sentinel (2003). In 2011, a "Director's Cut" was released on Blu-Ray.

This film contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The film expands on the short story by necessity (as even in audiobook form, the original story is about 20 minutes long), and adds the entire plot about the Judas Bugs. In the original story, the Mimics are implied to be a natural form of mimicry adaptation, with parallels drawn between them and the insect species living alongside ant hives in disguise, and also has a Twist Ending that reveals that the Mimics are not the only species that have adapted to live under mankinds nose unseen.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Chuy is almost certainly autistic with odd habits, attention to very specific details, avoidance of eye contact, and little to no fear or emotional response to what should be very scary or shocking situations.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Mimic 2 ends with Remy and one of her students trapped in her apartment with a Not Quite Dead Judas bug—minus its head— lying feet away from them.
  • Artistic License – Biology: So many things:
    • Insects cannot grow as large as humans, their body structure just doesn't work at that size. Though they apparently evolved lungs, it doesn't get around the molting problems or lack of an efficient vascular system in a bug that size.
    • Termites have kings and queens, but the giant mantis/termite hybrids seem to have the former without the benefit of the latter.
    • The news report about the Judas breed claims that roaches are "infected by an enzyme" when they touch its secretions. Enzymes are chemicals, not pathogens, hence can't "infect" anything.
    • And of course the whole concept of Mimic 2 is completely absurd. Insects and mammals have completely different chromosome and reproductive methods. The Judas Breed resembling humans wouldn't change that.
  • Audible Sharpness: All over the place with the Judas insects' praying mantis-like front legs.
  • Bittersweet Ending: In the third film, Marvin manages to survive a Judas Breed attack and even save his friend, but his mom and most everyone else in the apartment is dead, and it's indicated that Judas Breed nests have sprung up underneath most if not all major American cities without anyone being aware of it, and that at any day the creatures will reach a critical enough mass that they'll swarm the surface in numbers too vast for the police or military to deal with.
  • Bioweapon Beast: The Judas breed was initially engineered to deal with cockroaches. This went awry right after they dealt with the roaches.
  • Black Guy Dies First:
    • Inverted. Leonard's death is the last one in the film.
    • Subverted in the third movie, where the first adult to die is Desmond.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Josh's death in the first film.
  • The Can Kicked Him: The first death occurs on the toilet.
  • Chekhov's Classroom: In the first movie, Susan tells the kids about some bugs' practice of taking prey deep into a nest to be eaten later. Later, she gets grabbed in the subway by one of the Judas Breed and nearly gets eaten herself after waking up in the sewer.
  • Cockroaches Will Rule the Earth: A similar concept used, a race of insects evolve in record time and become not only huge, but also a real threat for humanity.
  • Creepy Cockroach: Played with. The movie's breed of man-sized insects (basically a termite-praying mantis hybrid) can be confused for giant cockroaches, but they were actually designed originally as an answer to the disease-spreading roaches in New York City. After the new biological weapon had consumed all the roaches, they continued to evolve into ever larger breeds and started preying on humans...
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: A security guard has his face boiled off by an acid spray from the Judas Breed.
  • Cure for Cancer: The movie puts a bit of a twist on this trope in that in order to stop an epidemic affecting the children of New York City, they don't engineer the giant mutant killer bugs to manufacture a direct cure, but because the Judas Breed specifically feed on cockroaches, the disease's carriers. They just become anthropophages after devouring the entire cockroach population.
  • Death of a Child:
    • Two kids are horribly slaughtered by warrior bugs when they find and try to mess around with an egg case.
    • In the third film, the very first victim of the Judas Breed is a young boy who lives with his father and pre-teen brother. A scene later in the movie shows the inside of the apartment, where the older brother and the father have been torn to pieces.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Josh.
  • Determinator: The human-sized Judas Breed.
    • n the first movie, a bug takes a full magazine from a pistol after being sliced in half by a sliding door and still manages to scurry out of sight after maiming the shooter.
    • In the second movie, the resident jock brandishes a blade torn from a paper cutter and a leg severed from a bug, suggesting they should attempt to fight their way to safety with improvised weapons, only to be upstaged by the resident geek pointing out that, yeah, he's strong enough to chop off a bug's head - that just means it will die of thirst in about a week. Humans like themselves will be long dead as the reflex action of the bug's body will have shredded them. In short, the bugs can only be killed by the equivalent of being crushed to paste - like being hit by speeding subway trains or incinerated with high explosives.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: In the first movie, for the very few characters that survive.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Leonard in the first film. He knows his uncontrollable bleeding will eventually set the bugs off no matter what they do, so he leaves the car, draws the bugs to him, and goes out fighting.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: The Judas Breed were supposed to die off in a few weeks, but something went wrong and they didn't, instead mutating into out-of-control to man-eaters.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Sometimes, averted quite hard at other times: The two kids who find an egg case get a really good look at a shredded dog before they're attacked and ripped apart themselves.
  • Hard-to-Light Fire: Peter has to resort to striking sparks by banging scrap metal against pipes in order to set off the trapped gas and roast the bugs.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: An injured Leonard throws himself at the mercy of the bugs to help the others escape.
  • Human Disguise:
    • Done somewhat realistically; instead of morphing into an actual human-like appearance, the Judas Breed instead fold their wings to imitate a trenchcoat and have a carapace that folds over their insect head which looks like a mold of a human face. It would never hold up to even moderate inspection (even in full "human disguise" mode they look about as human as a frigging Necromorph), but in poor lighting it creates a human-like silhouette which works decently enough to allow the bugs to get close enough to strike.
    • The Last of His Kind Judas Breed in the second film has evolved to the point where it's intelligent enough to wear human clothing and is even able to grow a softer, flesh-colored, more human-like face carapace that's much more convincing unless you're within about 15 to 20 feet of it. It's convincing enough to Kill and Replace Detective Klaski and move through a (distracted) crowd at night unnoticed. It's implied this particular specimen developed mimicry to such an advanced degree through The Power of Love, and the later Judas Breed insects seen in the third film don't show such an ability.
    • In the short story, the disguise is more convincing, and the "Man In the Black Coat" the protagonist talks about moves around in broad daylight, albeit quickly and without interacting with anyone. It still doesn't hold up to any close scrutiny, and seems to rely on hiding in plain sight.
  • Infant Immortality:
    • Justified with Chuy at the end; he figures out how to mimic the bugs' clicking communication with his spoons, so the bugs accept him as one of them.
    • Horribly averted with the two bug enthusiast boys.
  • Last of His Kind: Remy's stalker in the second movie is indicated to be the last surviving Judas Breed. However, the third film shows the creatures have made a resurgence beneath several major American cities.
  • Look Both Ways: Giant Bug vs. Subway Train. Point goes to the train.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Dr. Tyler is a hot blond and boy does the film show it, especially the bath tub scene.
  • Names To Run Away From: Biblical Names: The Judas Breed, a species of giant insectoid monsters. Since the scientists who engineered them picked the name themselves, they can charitably be called idiots for actually expecting their bio-engineering project to not Go Horribly Right.
  • The Needs of the Many: In the second movie, the authorities are alerted to the Judas Breed's return and seal off the school they're in. The group leader is prepared to fumigate, even though two humans are still inside. As he says, he can't risk countless lives for two people he's not even sure are still alive.
  • The Plague: The mutant bugs were first engineered to kill the cockroaches carrying a child-killing plague.
  • Raincoat of Horror: The insects in this horror film use their mimicry to appear like hobos dressed in dirty raincoats.
  • Science Is Bad: The first film, at least — complete with those old standards, scientists babbling about how "We changed their DNA, we don't know what we did!" and other characters saying what basically amounts to "They tampered in God's domain." As though they should have been expected to realize that their plague-ending roaches would evolve into human-mimicking subterranean predators. Even the biggest critic of the project, Susan's mentor, follows up his criticism by saying that he had two grandchildren who would not have survived if the Judas bugs had not been released.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: The human villain of the third film is a scientist who has discovered a critical mass of Judas Breed underneath every major American city. Having decided that the problem has grown too big to be successfully stopped, instead of warning anyone he decides to steal a Judas Breed egg and sell it to the highest bidder in order to make enough money to move as far away from America as possible before Emergence Day happens.
  • Stalker Shrine: Mimic 2 has Remy's door, covered with pictures of herself.
  • Swarm of Rats: Averted in the first movie. Leonard notes he and Peter are far enough below ground that they should be seeing lots of rats, but he doesn't see a single one and finds that curious. The audience, of course, can guess the rats either got eaten by the giant bugs or fled.
  • Taxonomic Term Confusion: Walter's lecture refers to Insecta as a "Phylum". Insecta is a Class within the Phylum Arthropoda.
  • They Look Like Us Now:
    • The giant mantis/termite hybrids may not have a perfect disguise, but if you're in poor lighting and not paying attention, they look a lot like a tall man in a trenchcoat.
    • In the story, it's implied that the Man In the Black Coat is part of a species of insect that has naturally evolved a type of mimicry to be able to live in plain sight among humans.
  • This Cannot Be!: Susan can't believe the Judas Breed survived because the test specimens all died in the lab. Dr. Gates reminds her that life is essentially a big lab that has all sorts of variables that can't be accounted for.
  • Walking Backwards:
    • One of the Red Shirts has this reaction upon seeing a cache of giant mutant bug eggs under New York City. He backs right into a giant mutant bug.
    • Because they look more like people when seen from behind, the bugs themselves sometimes invoke this trope to get closer to their victims.
  • What Did You Expect When You Named It ____?: They called their big miracle remedy the Judas Breed. Possibly justified as it was meant to mimic and betray the insects that carried the deadly virus, but still...
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: Apparently the Judas Breed evolved into gigantic man-eaters that can impersonate human beings from fairly normal looking (if genetically engineered) insects within three years because they had an accelerated breeding cycle, said to maybe add up to "tens of hundreds of thousands of generations" within this timespan. Even if this is the lowest-ball two-hundred thousand generations, that would mean they grew and reproduced at an average rate of nearly two-hundred generations per day, meaning that each generation had to go from egg to nymph to reproductive adult in less than ten minutes.

Alternative Title(s): Mimic 3 Sentinel, Mimic 2


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