Mexican director Guillermo del Toro has made a meteoric but unexpected rise to fame in the past few years. He quietly built up a fanbase and honed his writing and directing chops with his own unique take on the horror genre, creating pictures that felt more akin to a Grimm fairytale than the 1970's slasher movies.
After a series of comic book movies (predating the rise of the Marvel Cinematic Universe) and six Academy Award Nominations and three wins for Pan's Labyrinth, del Toro's stock was on the way up. But his ascension to international fame and the amount of success he's garnered, including last year's Academy Award for Best Director and Best Picture, could not have been more delightfully unpredictable.
Guillermo del Toro has a distinct style with particular themes pervading his filmography. He loves monsters, stemming from a lifetime of adoring classics like The Creature From The Black Lagoon. He is fascinated by ghosts, and the interplay with the undead and the living realm. The apparitions may be frightening, but are not his films' villains.
The real monsters in his films are usually mankind; driven by malice and a lust for power, and often working at the expense of young children. His career trajectory and blatant love of the cinema have led to one of the most successful and unique filmmakers working today.
Del Toro's second film, and his debut outside of his native country of Mexico, fits well into his filmography on a surface glance. It is another of many monster monsters, though less visually inventive than those seen in his more successful films. Its visual style is dark, with the travels through the sewers giving it a damp feeling. The criminally underrated Mira Sorvino stars, and is the first of many leading female protagonists of del Toro's movies.
On paper, Mimic sounds so interesting. Mankind meddles with nature and gets its comeuppance in a Twilight Zone fashion as violence erupts from its very creation. But the execution is clunky, with a trite family-planning metaphor used to parallel the creation of the genetically engineered "Judas breed" creatures. The movie also treads familiar ground with the released mutated cockroaches supposedly only being female and unable to breed; like Jurassic Park, life finds a way.
Mimic was plagued by production and post-production issues, and del Toro was unhappy with the completed product. Though a director's cut was subsequently released, the film still feels like a director getting his bearings and experimenting rather than a fun cinematic experience.