Follow TV Tropes


Film / Mimic

Go To

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...

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 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.
    • Near the beginning, a Judas bug stalks Susan outside her apartment, letting out a loud hiss through its mouth (signified by the small cloud of condensation). Insects don't breathe or make sounds through their mouth.
    • Dr. Tyler states that if they kill the Judas Breed king, the whole species will die out because the single fertile male will be gone. However, this completely ignores population dynamics, operating on the baseless assumption there's only one colony of Judas Breed in the whole city when there should've been many colonies already (which could explain how there are sequels).
  • Artistic License – Law: The common (and dangerous) myth of a mandatory waiting period to report a missing person appears here. Manny is told he can only report Chuy missing after forty-eight hours have passed, leading him to conduct his own search.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Insects evolving into the size of human beings is one thing, but also being able to fly while carrying a person is even more questionable. In general, the film assumes that all the attributes of a normal insect, such as their speed, durability, and strength, would scale perfectly to human-scale, completely ignoring Square-Cube Law.
  • Audible Sharpness: All over the place with the Judas insects' praying mantis-like front legs.
  • Backing into Danger: 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.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: The Judas Breed. They were already fairly large insects originally, but after a few years of accelerated evolution, they eventually become human-sized (and hunting-eating).
  • Bioweapon Beast: The Judas breed was initially engineered to deal with cockroaches (not by hunting them, but by secreting a chemical that's deadly to them). This went awry right after they dealt with the roaches because they eventually moved on to rats, and now people.
  • 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.
  • Black Dude 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.
  • Cell Phones Are Useless: Peter tries to call Susan when he's in the subway to let her know her pregnancy test was actually positive
  • 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.
  • Continuity Snarl:
    • In the 2nd movie, the female protagonist Remi is implied to be the female protagonist's sidekick from the first half of the movie, but she looks completely different, is now a redhead instead of a blonde, and is apparently a teacher at a run-down school in the South Bronx.
    • In the first movie, the Judas Breed are established to be termite/praying mantis hybrids. In the 2nd movie, they are described as "cockroaches, with a little ant and termite thrown in".
  • 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 — they mimic the appearance of roaches to infiltrate the colonies, then kill the roaches off through predation and the secretion of toxic chemicals. 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.
  • Cub Cues Protective Parent:
    • Susan is given (unknowingly) a nymph specimen of the Judas Breed, and an adult soon arrives through her window to retrieve it. She's only spared because she's one of the main characters.
    • The two kids who found the nymph later try and steal an ootheca (read: egg sac) from the bugs' nest, and are brutally eviscerated by one of the insects for their trouble.
  • 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. A stray dog is also eaten by one of the insects in the same scene.
    • 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.
    • In 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.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Peter and Manny are able to walk in plain sight of the bugs by smearing themselves with the fluid from the pheromone sacs of a dead bug, disguising their scent as one of their own. The effect wears off very quickly though.
  • 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.
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: The Judas Breed were created by genetically splicing termite and mantis DNA to create a bioweapon that would wipe out disease-carrying roaches after attempts to find a vaccine for the illness proved fruitless and conventional chemical deterrents were useless against something as hardy as a cockroach. Of course, nobody predicted that they'd evolve into giant human-mimicking predators with the potential to supplant mankind as the dominant species on Earth.
  • 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.
  • Happy Ending Override: The mere existence of sequels means that the destruction of the Judas Breed at the end of the first film is retconned to a "Shaggy Dog" Story.
  • 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.
  • Improbable Infant Survival:
    • 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.
  • It's Quiet… Too Quiet: While underground, Leonard notes how unusual it is that they haven't seen any "track bunnies" (read: rats) around. The audience can obviously surmise that they've either all been eaten or packed their bags and fled after the Judas Breed arrived.
  • 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.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Susan and Peter want kids but she's been failing to get pregnant and it puts a bit of a strain on their marriage despite Peter's continued encouragement. Subverted when it turns out Susan misread the pregnancy test.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang!: Peter and Leonard end up falling into part of the old New York armoury and make Josh go back for help through the subways alone. Predictably, Josh ends up blundering into the Judas Breed's nest and is butchered.
  • Look Both Ways: Giant Bug vs. Subway Train. Point goes to the train.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: The Judas Breed are a genetically engineered hybrid of termite and mantis, displaying the termite's eusocial colonial behaviour and chemical secretions, and a mantis's natural mimicry, spiked claws, and voracious predatory habits.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Dr. Susan Tyler is a hot blonde 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.
  • Monster Delay: The film keeps the Judas Breed shrouded in shadow until the hour mark, and even after that, it continues not showing them clearly because the rest of the story takes place underground.
  • 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.
  • Noisy Nature: The Judas Breed constantly make chittering, hissing, chirping noises wherever they go, even though real insects are virtually silent (with the exception of those like grasshoppers or cicadas that make noise to attract mates). The clicking sounds used by the Judas are even an important plot point, because Chuy is able to communicate with them by imitating their sounds by clacking spoons together.
  • Non-Answer: When Susan asks her mentor, Dr. Gates, about whether he still thinks it was right for her to create the Judas Breed, he replies that three years ago he would have considered it unforgivable, but he also realizes that his two grandchildren probably wouldn't be alive now if it weren't for her, so he doesn't consider it right pass judgement anymore.
    Susan: That's not an answer, Walter.
    Dr. Gates: It's not an easy question.
  • The Plague: The mutant bugs were first engineered to kill the cockroaches carrying a child-killing plague.
  • Primal Fear: Multiple are used at once: enclosed spaces (most of the story occurs in the abandoned subways), the dark (most of the film is set at night or underground), being Eaten Alive (humans are the Judas Breed's preferred prey), and of course, bugs (the Judas Breed).
  • 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.
  • Sinister Subway: The man-eating Judas Breed are nesting and hunting in the subways of Manhattan, coming outside only when its night. Eventually, the main characters end up trapped in their hive underground.
  • Stalker Shrine: Mimic 2 has Remy's door, covered with pictures of herself.
  • Super Toughness: The Judas Breed has all the durability of a cockroach, taking two full clips of pistol fire at pointblank range and being chopped in half to kill one of them.
  • 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.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • The two kids wandering through the underground subways of Manhattan at night looking for bugs to give to Dr. Susan. Even if there weren't giant man-eating insects infesting the subways, that's a really stupid thing for kids to be doing.
    • Susan too. She's wandering through a subway station at closing time alone and walks right up to a strange "man" without thinking about what a horrendous idea this could be. The only reason she isn't killed is because the bug takes her back to the nest as food alive.
  • 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