Tomorrow sees the long overdue release of Troy Nixey’s Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, and while normally if a shot-and-in-the-can horror movie’s road to the big screen is as long winded as Dark’s, it means the movie is a stinker. However, Nixey’s film is an eerie, entertaining, spook house flick—with a premise that’s far more interesting than most of its “generic white family moves into the wrong big ‘ole house in the country” brethern.
So in honor of the film finally opening, today’s For Your Consideration tips its digital hat to the man who shepherded the film (which is actually a remake of a ‘70s made-for-TV movie), from page to screen: Guillermo Del Toro.
There’s plenty to choose from when it comes to this Mexican-born filmmaker, but his more readily loved films like Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone are fairly similar to Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (a young kid with a crappy home life deals with the supernatural), which is precisely why now is a perfect time to dive into one of his overlooked films: the 1997 creature feature, Mimic.
Plus Mimic is on Netflix, which certainly makes narrowing down the choice a lot easier.
Who Made It: Guillermo Del Toro directed from a script co-written with Matthew Robbins (the duo also wrote Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark) based off of a short story by Donald A. Wollheim.
What’s It About: Cockroaches have begun spreading a highly infectious and fatal disease around Manhattan. Children are dying left and right and the only immediate hope comes from a pair of entomologists (Sorvino and Northam) who decide to solve the problem by releasing a genetically-engineered, roach-killing insect into the wild. This “Judas Breed” does exactly what it’s supposed to and the children of NYC are safe once again.
Until years later, of course, when the Judas Breed has evolved into a highly efficient man-killer.
Why You Should Watch It: There are plenty of reasons to check out Mimic, but for the sake of this article and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark on the immediate horizon, it’s worth your consideration solely because it’s unlike Del Toro’s other films. Sure, he’s still working with many of his now-familiar cinematic fetishes (intricate creature design, and dank, dark places hiding inhuman species), but he’s also working within the confines of the studio system. While this no doubt resulted in a slightly different film than Del Toro set out to make (his director’s cut finally hits DVD/Blu-ray this fall), I actually think that makes the film all the more interesting.
There is no reason a B-level creature feature from Dimension Films should look this good. Hell, looking over the last 20 years of the studio’s history, Mimic is actually the best looking films they’ve ever made. The picture is layered with texture and depth and personality, giving every shot a lived-in, real world feel that you just never find in movies about killer insects. It’s this “We could have cut corners, but why would we?” attitude that elevates the entire film.
On the surface, there’s nothing too inspired about its script or its cast, but when they come together under the charge of Del Toro, there’s an electric current that unites it all. Mimic isn’t just another B-movie creature feature, it never ironically indulges its roots, but instead it treats the material with the utmost sincerity. That’s what makes Del Toro such an interesting filmmaker to me; sure, he’s got a bold cinematic eye, and, sure, I like his macabre fairytale style. But more than anything, I appreciate that he doesn’t look down at his audience. His films aren’t saying, “This is what you want, isn’t it?” but rather, “This is what I’m going to offer, take it or leave it.” And though he didn’t direct Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, that’s definitely the deal that’s on the table.
Some people won’t be into it, but if you’re willing to go on Mimic’s bizarre ride, I have a feeling you’ll be digging the Dark as well.