An American Werewolf in London

An American Werewolf in London is currently available on instant Netflix.

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

“After surviving a vicious werewolf attack that left his friend dead, an American backpacker in London becomes a murderous werewolf himself. Prowling the streets of London, he learns that his living-dead victims will wander in limbo until he’s dead.”

“Have you tried talking to a corpse? It’s boring. “

Hot off the twin successes of Animal House and The Blues Brothers, writer/director John Landis was finally able to get his werewolf project approved. Studio executives naturally wanted Landis to again cast John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd but Landis instead cast relative unknowns David Naughton and Griffin Dunne.

The cast is fantastic. David Naughton, at the time famous for being the face of Dr. Pepper, does a wonderful job handling the humor and pathos as our victim/werewolf David Kessler. Jenny Agutter is marvelously sexy as David’s nurse Alex Price. Griffin Dunne still manages to steal the show from both of them as David’s best friend Jack.

The score by Elmer Bernstein is effective but almost non-existent. This is due in part to Landis’ decision to use Bad Moon Rising and multiple versions of Blue Moon in the soundtrack. The licensed songs fit the quirky nature of the movie quite well.

Makeup special effects, not just limited to a werewolf, finally got their due with An American Werewolf in London. Rick Baker won the first ever Best Makeup Oscar in 1982 for his work on this film. He would go on to win again for Harry and the Hendersons (1987), Ed Wood (1994), The Nutty Professor (1996), Men in Black (1997), How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000), and The Wolfman (2010). He was nominated five other times as well.

The storyline is all over the map and the entire plot can easily be summed up in two sentences, albeit with spoilers. In spite of this, Landis’ script is able to mine the subject for a fantastic amount of humor without the film being a comedy, a true friendship, a sexual tryst that feels real, fantastic special effects, some scares, and a marvelous dream sequence.

Michael Jackson was so enamored of this film that he hired Landis to direct his Thriller video, Elmer Bernstein to do the incidental music, and Rick Baker to do the makeup effects. The Thriller video is also amazing and features a voiceover by Vincent Price.

People Watch:  John Landis does a cameo as the man being smashed into a window. He also did some of the stunts for the movie. Frank (Yoda) Oz has a small part as Mr. Collins and, as a result, Miss Piggy and Kermit also appear in the movie (as themselves).

Remake-itis: In 1997, director Anthony Waller and three writers tried to repeat Landis’ directing and writing success and made An American Werewolf in Paris. It was not a successful effort.

The Keep

The Keep is currently available on instant Netflix.

The Keep (1983) – Rated R

“Director Michael Mann’s visual artistry is highlighted in this 1983 horror outing starring Jürgen Prochnow as Capt. Klaus Woermann, whose German soldiers are slain by an ancient spirit after they commandeer a Romanian castle during World War II. Jewish scholar Theodore Cuza (Ian McKellen) is forced to investigate and wants to unleash the demon to decimate the Nazis, but an enigmatic wanderer (Scott Glenn) intends to keep the evil contained.”

“Why are the small stones on the outside and the large stones here on the interior? It’s constructed… backwards. This place was not constructed to keep something… out. “

I have a terrible soft spot for Nazi villains, particularly in the horror genre. Ian McKellan is fabulous as the tutor in Apt Pupil. Dead Snow is a riotous Nazi Zombiefest. I love Peter Cushing in Shock Waves. The military horror movie, The Outpost is quite good. Gregory Peck is fun as Dr. Mengele in The Boys from Brazil. I have even been known to watch The Madmen of Mandoras aka the shorter, better version of They Saved Hitler’s Brain!

I love The Keep. The Keep is a complete mess. The Keep is a terrific horror movie. The Keep is a terrible horror movie.

Michael Mann is an incredibly stylish director. After The Keep, he would start Miami Vice (1984), change Miami for Chicago and make Crime Story (1986), make the first Hannibal Lecter film (Manhunter, 1986), and make the best film about the French and Indian War (The Last of the Mohicans, 1992). He launched the careers of Dennis Farina, William Peterson, James Belushi, and Robert Prosky – and that was just from his film Thief.

Mann assembles a nice cast here. Jurgen Prochnow is good here in what is essentially a retread of his good German soldier from Das Boot. Gabriel Byrne is the flipside and pretty nasty as the villainous Major Kaempffer. The always excellent Ian McKellen plays Jewish historian Dr. Theodore Cuza. Scott Glenn is the mysterious stranger. Alberta Watson plays Eva Cuza, Theodore’s daughter.

Mann wrote the screenplay himself from F. Paul Wilson’s 1981 novel. I would love to see Mann’s original cut which was reportedly three and a half hours long. The Netflix version runs 95 minutes (96 listed on imdb) and is a choppy, incomprehensible mess.

The special effects run a wide gamut. There are great atmospheric effects such as the wall crosses and fog. The castle setting is absolutely wonderful. The climactic light show looks awful – as if this were from the early days of CGI. The device looks like a flashlight with fins attached.

The score is fantastic and done by Tangerine Dream. Tangerine Dream did some marvelous soundtracks in the late 70s and early 80s, notably for Sorcerer, Risky Business, Mann’s Thief and The Keep.

Final scorecard: marvelous atmosphere, good story, great location, nice acting (mostly), and wonderful score marred by incomprehensible plot, choppy editing, some poor special effects, and some sub-par acting.

The good news is that The Keep is available on instant Netflix even though it has never received a U.S. DVD or Blu-Ray release. Mann has disowned the film and squashed any release. The bad news is that the visual quality is pretty terrible, almost as if Netflix had copied it from an old VHS tape.

Night of the Comet

Night of the Comet is currently available on instant Netflix.

Night of the Comet (1984) – Rated PG-13

“Earth has been ripped to shreds after a run-in with a killer comet, and those who have survived are in a fight for their lives in this campy cult classic. Valley girl Reg (Catherine Mary Stewart) and her sister (Kelli Maroney) discover they’re two of the lucky few. But scientists are after them, and now they must run. Why? Because the researchers believe they need the blood of survivors to concoct a drug that can save them all from further ruin.”

“Don’t be an overachiever. You’ll fit in better with your age group.”

Okay serious apocalypticos need not apply. Night of the Comet is more in the nature of a comic zombie movie and predates Shaun of the Dead by two decades. It even arrives a full year before Return of the Living Dead would turn zombies into a figure of fun, although Return would popularize the zombie need for brains.

Night of the Comet is all over the map – science fiction, romance, horror, comedy, buddy picture, female empowerment and it ties all of them up in a nice zombie romp package. Thom Eberhardt is both writer and director here and his sole credit before this was the not bad low-budget shocker Sole Survivor (1983).

Yes it is cheesy but Night of the Comet is funny, intelligent, charming and has strong female characters. As always, seeing a city without people moving around is quite eerie. There is great use made of a Tempest arcade machine and Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun that set the tone for the movie.

Robert Beltran receives top-billing here as Hector. While he is fine, I am not sure why the top-billing as he is not the star and had only been in a few movies before this, though he was Raoul in Eating Raoul. He would go on to television fame as Chakotay on Star Trek: Voyager.

The stars here are clearly Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney as sisters Regina and Samantha. Never mind that the 25-year-old and 24-year-old play high school students, they are still wonderful together. They have a real bond with Regina being the serious older sister and Samantha the young flighty one.

Cult actress Mary Woronov had previously worked with Beltran in Eating Raoul. Here she plays a mysterious scientist named Audrey. Veteran character actor Geoffrey Lewis (Maverick, Salem’s Lot) shows up as another scientist, Carter. The much despised Buck from Kill Bill, Michael Bowen, plays Larry.

The film opens with a 1950s-style science fiction narration about the upcoming comet. Speaking of which, we are getting our own comet, the newly discovered comet 2012 S1 (catchy name isn’t it?). If the sun doesn’t do much damage to it, we could see the end of the world, I mean the comet late next year. Meanwhile have some fun with Night of the Comet.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is currently available on instant Netflix.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) – Rated R

“One of the most notorious films of the 1980s still terrifies. Serial killer Henry serves as mentor to dim-witted fellow killer Otis and as the object of his sister’s affections. Trouble is, Henry’s heart is too hard for friendship to penetrate. Disturbing, chilling and full of knockout power.”

“If you shoot someone in the head with a .45 every time you kill somebody, it becomes like your fingerprint, see? But if you strangle one, stab another, and one you cut up, and one you don’t, then the police don’t know what to do. They think you’re four different people. What they really want, what makes their job so much easier, is pattern. What they call a modus operandi. That’s Latin. Bet you didn’t know any Latin, did you kid? “

Let me start with a warning. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is, as befits the title, a very ugly film. It is low-budget, though that actually works in favor of the grittiness of the film. It is not fun and you will feel like you need a shower after watching it.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is written by John McNaughton and Richard Fire and directed by John McNaughton. It is a heavily fictionalized version of the story of Henry Lee Lucas. McNaughton does a wonderful job of capturing life among the working poor while also acquiring the mindset and brutality of a serial killer.

The film opens brilliantly with a slow, pull-back of a victim in a field. We then cut to Henry finishing a meal in a diner. Scenes continue of Henry going about everyday life interspersed with scenes of victim’s bodies. While showing the bodies, audio is played lightly detailing their last moments.

Henry is Michael Rooker’s feature film debut and Rooker knocks it out of the park. His portrayal of Henry is amazing. He borrows some mannerisms from interviews with Henry Lee Lucas, imitating how soft-spoken and shy Lucas was but Rooker creates a very layered portrayal out of that. It is unfortunate that he quickly became typecast as a heavy because of it.

The only two other stars of the film are Tom Towles as Henry’s friend, Otis and Tracy Arnold as his sister, Becky. Everyone else is incidental or a victim. Tracy Arnold was quite good but abandoned films fairly quickly. Tom Towles nailed playing a scumbag and would go on to become a character actor, often specializing in heavies as Rooker has done. Most recently Tom Towles was in several of Rob Zombie’s pictures (Halloween, The Devil’s Rejects, House of 1000 Corpses).

The two reasons to watch Henry are Rooker’s understated, down-to-earth performance and McNaughton’s bleak, nihilistic yet authentic view of suburban America as filtered through the eyes of a serial killer.

Sequel-itis: In 1996, Chuck Parello, a man who had nothing to do with the first movie, wrote and directed Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer 2: Mask of Sanity. Michael Rooker was, of course, offered the title role but he turned it down.

Hellraiser

Hellraiser is currently available on instant Netflix.

Hellraiser (1987) – Rated R

“Clive Barker’s directing debut follows the tale of a couple (Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins) who move into an old house and discovers a hideous creature (Oliver Smith) — the man’s half-brother (and his wife’s former lover) — hiding upstairs. Having lost his earthly body to three demons, the man’s been brought back to life by a drop of blood on the floor. Soon, he’s forcing his former mistress to bring him human sacrifices to complete his body.”

“What’s your pleasure?” – “The Box” – “Take it. It’s yours. It always was.”

Clive Barker does a fabulous job of adapting his novel, The Hellbound Heart to the screen. This is also Clive Barker’s feature film debut as a director. As with many of Barker’s books, Hellraiser is a wonderful story of sexual discovery, power, and horror.

Ashley Laurence makes her feature film debut as well, playing our young heroine. She is charming as the vulnerable, inexperienced Kirsty. Clare Higgins is appropriately icy as Kirsty’s stepmother Julia, a woman regretting her choices. Sean Chapman is rascally as adventurous Uncle Frank. Doug Bradley is quite unnerving in his feature film debut as Lead Cenobite, though you probably know his character better as Pinhead.

Andrew Robinson does a great job of playing Kirsty’s father, Larry. Robinson has a good range and an uncanny ability to lose himself in his roles. Watching him here, you wouldn’t realize that he was the punk killer in Dirty Harry. Seeing Hellraiser and Dirty Harry, you wouldn’t recognize him as Garak in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Special effects run a gamut here from simple to complex as well as from well-done to quite dated. The imagery is fascinatingly horrific. Obviously the Cenobites are a highlight. Hellraiser is quite gory and filled with sexual situations.

The Cenobites and the box are fantastic and iconic. Unfortunately the sequels thought the Cenobites and box were the reason for the film. They didn’t understand that they needed to be in a supporting role – much like how Hannibal Lecter works perfectly in The Silence of the Lambs but less so when his role expands in Hannibal.

Hellraiser is the best sexual horror movie available – unfortunately, the sequels almost entirely jettison the sexual aspect. Barker once joked abut calling the film Sadomasochists from Beyond the Grave. The Cenobites and the puzzle box are just icing on the cake.

People Watch: I have to assume that actor Simon Bamford is Clive Barker’s friend. He plays the Butterball Cenobite in Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II. The only two other films he has been in are Clive Barker’s Nightbreed (1990, Bamford plays Ohnaka) and Clive Barker’s Book of Blood (2009, Bamford plays Derek)

Sequel-itis: Wowzers! Hellraiser spawned Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988), Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992), Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996), Hellraiser: Inferno (2000), Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002), Hellraiser: Deader (2005), Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005), and Hellraiser: Revelations (2011). They just kept getting better and better. I kid of course. The second movie was tolerable – after that the only thing to recommend them was Doug Bradley as Pinhead and they even replaced him in the last one. Hellraiser is currently awaiting the reboot treatment.

 

More New Stuff to Watch While You’re Stuffed

Netflix added a number of new things to watch over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Oscar winners The King’s Speech and Hugo are now available.

As usual there are some new horror offerings: Silent House, The Hole, Strippers vs. Werewolves, Attack of the 50 Foot Cheerleader, Rites of Passage, and Zombie Apocalypse: Redemption. If you’re finished with Twilight and missing Robert Pattinson, you can always try Bel Ami.

To bridge the gap between horror and television, the first season of American Horror Story is now available as is the fourth season of U.K.’s Being Human.

Vintage television got a huge boost with The Jack Benny Show, Suspense, One Step Beyond, Abbott & Costello Colgate Comedy Hour, Date with the Angels (Betty White), Bob Hope: The Comedy Hour, Life with Elizabeth (Betty White), Make Room for Daddy, Man with a Camera (Charles Bronson), My Hero, Private Secretary, Red Skelton: America’s Funniest Man, Roy Rogers with Dale Evans, Spike Jones: The Legend, Studio One: The Defender, The Cisco Kid, The Goldbergs, The Life of Riley / Our Miss Brooks, Ozzie and Harriet, You Bet Your Life, and Bonanza.

Some of the vintage television series only have a handful of episodes but I’d be surprised if that didn’t expand soon.

We also got a few documentaries: The Invisible War, Forks Over Knives: The Extended Interviews, and They Call it Myanmar: Lifting the Curtain.

The rest of the offerings: Snowman’s Land, Alter Egos, Measure of a Man, and A Little Bit of Faith.

 

Black Water

Black Water is currently available on instant Netflix.

Black Water (2007) – Rated R

“Inspired by true events, this terrifying tale of man vs. beast follows the ill-fated boat excursion of three vacationers through Northern Australia’s mangrove swamps and their fight for their lives against a ferocious crocodile. When their vessel suddenly overturns and the guide (Ben Oxenbould) disappears into the water, Grace (Diana Glenn), her boyfriend, Adam (Andy Rodoreda), and her younger sister, Lee (Maeve Dermody), must think fast.”

“The Saltwater Crocodile population in Northern Australia is expanding. So is the human population.”

Black Water had the terrible misfortune of suffering from the common idea. Like 2012’s multiple Snow White adaptations, 2007 had a plethora of crocodile movies.Black Water got lost amid the din.

Rogue, set in Australia like Black Water, starred Michael Vartan, Radha Mitchell, and Sam Worthington. Primeval starred Dominic Purcell, Orlando Jones, and Jurgen Prochnow. Lake Placid 2 starred John Schneider and Cloris Leachman. Black Water stars no one – I do not mean that in a mean way, just that Black Water stars no one that people outside of Australia know.

Black Water is clearly the baby of David Nerlich and Andrew Traucki. Both men serve as writers, directors, producers, and both worked on the visual effects. They fashion a very intimate affair here. The entire cast (speaking parts) consists of only five people – four family members and a guide.

For being unknowns, the cast is wonderful. Andy Rodoreda is Adam, a brave and concerned husband on vacation in Australia. Diana Glenn is his pregnant wife, Grace. Maeve Dermody is Grace’s sister, Lee. All three of them show very convincing fear, relief, concern, and panic. Their relationships feel very real. The only other person on their doomed outing is their guide, Jim, played by Ben Oxenbould.

Part of the reason Black Water works so well is the cinematography by John Biggins. Both the aerial shots and the slow traverse by motorboat of the mangrove swamp are gorgeous. There is a dark night scene, lit only by flashes of lightning, that is particularly harrowing.

Thankfully CGI is not used to create an improbably gigantic crocodile. Special effects are kept to a bare minimum. Black Water is not a splatter film. The crocodile shots are wonderful too, using a minimal show, the technique is very reminiscent of Spielberg’s Jaws.

The script handles everything in a very natural manner. After the initial attack and capsizing of the boat, the family takes stock of what they have to work with while they are trapped in a tree. There are a few implausibilities but none so dire as to break the tension.

Prince of Darkness

Prince of Darkness is currently available on instant Netflix.

Prince of Darkness (1987) – Rated R

“A cylinder of mysterious, green liquid is found in an abandoned church. It may contain the ultimate evil: an ancient iniquity that longs to escape. Several physicists try to comprehend what’s happening and race to save the world, even as they’re being turned into zombies one by one. Director John Carpenter fills Prince of Darkness with his trademark mix of horror and humor.”

“I’ve got a message for you, and you’re not going to like it. “

John Carpenter loves to destroy the world. Prince of Darkness is the second film in his loose apocalypse trilogy, following The Thing (1982) and before his ode to Lovecraft, In the Mouth of Madness (1994).

In a reversal of The Fog, the first half of Prince of Darkness is riveting as the mystery slowly unravels. The religious scenes without dialogue that take place during the credits are particularly well done. The book, the key, and the container of liquid are very creepy. The second half is enjoyable but fails to live up to the potential provided by the first half.

One of the things I love about Carpenter is his constant, excellent use of the 2.35:1 widescreen format and his great eye for the blocking of scenes. His electronic score adds to the suspense. Unfortunately Carpenter is not an actor’s director. He has an eye for choosing talent but not always getting the proper performance.

Jameson Parker (Simon of Simon & Simon, or was that Simon?) is woefully wooden here as our lead, Brian Marsh. Equally wooden and lacking any chemistry with Parker is Lisa Blount as female lead Catherine Danforth. It doesn’t help that some of their dialogue is pretty clunky. Dennis Dun provides some comic relief as Walter, though some others have found him irksome.

Thankfully Donald Pleasance does a wonderful turn as Father Loomis, a play on his character of Dr. Sam Loomis in Halloween. Pleasance was an amazing character actor that seldom got to lead, presumably because of his balding, portly physique. Returning for Carpenter from playing Egg Shen in Big Trouble in Little China, Victor Wong has a blast here as our Quatermass-like scientist, Professor Howard Birack. Also fun here is Peter Jason as Dr. Leahy. Jason would go on to appear in Carpenter’s They Live, In the Mouth of Madness, Escape from L.A. and Village of the Damned.

A side note: I understand this is grad school but Jameson Parker is 40, Lisa Blount is 30, Dennis Dun (Walter) is 35, Jessie Ferguson (Calder) is 46 and Dirk Blocker (Mullins) is 30. Yes, grad students are older but not by that much. Were there no bright young students in the class?

Prince of Darkness is a favorite horror of mine but it is definitely a flawed masterpiece. Watch it for the plot, theme, atmosphere, Victor Wong, Alice Cooper, and Donald Pleasance. Just try and overlook some of the poor dialogue and acting.

People Watch: Joanna Merlin, who plays the bag lady, would go on to be a regular on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit as Judge Lena Petrovsky. Alice Cooper not only plays ‘Street Schizo’ but also contributes the title song Prince of Darkness to the soundtrack.

From Dusk Till Dawn

From Dusk Till Dawn is currently available on instant Netflix.

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) – Rated R

“Robbers-on-the-lam Seth and Richard Gecko take an ex-preacher and his kids hostage. On a race to the Mexican border, they rendezvous at a cantina, not knowing the owners and clientele are bloodthirsty vampires in this ode to 1960s horror movies.”

“I’m not gonna drain you completely. You’re gonna turn for me. You’ll be my slave. You’ll live for me. You’ll eat bugs because I order it. Why? Because I don’t think you’re worthy of human blood. You’ll feed on the blood of stray dogs. You’ll be my foot stool.”

Director and editor Robert Rodriguez makes two separate movies here. The first is a criminals on the run saga which takes up quite a bit of screentime but then it morphs into a vampire survival tale. Although much of it is unprintable, Tarantino’s script has a lot of punch and great characters.

George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino play the outlaw Gecko Brothers. Clooney is firm, loyal and desperate as bank robber Seth but Tarantino is off-the-wall as his crazy brother Richard. They take a family hostage on their way to Mexico. The father is an embittered ex-priest, Jacob Fuller, played by Harvey Keitel. His children are Kate and Scott Fuller played by Juliette Lewis and Ernest Liu.

Rodriguez packs the movie with guest stars. Before the bar, John Saxon cameos as FBI Agent Chase. John Hawkes, Oscar-nominated for Winter’s Bone, has an early role as Pete the store clerk. Kelly Preston (Mrs. John Travolta) is a newscaster.

At the bar, makeup artist Tom Savini plays Sex Machine. Makeup artists Greg (Walking Dead) Nicotero plays Sex Machine’s friend. Director Robert Rodriguez pops up as a bandmember. Fred “The Hammer” Williamson plays Frost. The lovely Salma Hayek plays Santanico Pandemonium (and dances with a snake for you fetishists). Cheech Marin plays three roles: a border guard, Chet, and Carlos.

The criminals on the run saga is pretty good, mainly due to Tarantino’s funny script. It takes awhile to get to the vampire portion of the movie but once there, Rodriguez makes it a non-stop roller coaster ride of vampire destruction. Special effects are good and fun, with the vampires perishing in a myriad of ways. They use a lot of green blood to get some of the killings past the ratings board (an old trick).

People Watch: The wonderful Michael Parks plays Texas Ranger Earl McGraw. He would reprise that character again in Kill Bill parts one and two as well as both segments of Grindhouse (Planet Terror and Death Proof). He also plays writer Ambrose Bierce in From Dusk Till Dawn 3.

Sequel-itis: What happens when you take a franchise and get rid of director Robert Rodriguez, writer Quentin Tarantino, and actors Harvey Keitel, George Clooney, Salma Hayek, and Juliette Lewis? The straight to video back-to-back sequels – From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money (1999) with Robert Patrick and Bo Hopkins and From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter (1999) with Michael Parks. The only connecting thread is Danny Trejo but the sequels are not very good.

Mimic

Mimic is currently available on instant Netflix.

Mimic (1997) – Rated R

“Mira Sorvino stars as an entomologist whose work results in the eradication of disease-carrying cockroaches, only to create a new breed of lethal, man-sized insect in the sewer systems of New York City.”

Sometimes an insect will even mimic its predator.”

How do you make a good horror movie? It certainly helps to hire a visionary director like Guillermo del Toro. Guillermo del Toro disavowed Mimic in the end because of the monumental interference he suffered from the studio. The interference was so bad that afterwards he went back to Mexico. Still Mimic is an excellent horror movie.

Guillermo del Toro and Matthew Robbins wrote the screen story and screenplay. It is based on the short story, Mimic, by Donald A. Wollheim. The screenplay is well-plotted and very literate. It also wisely allows things to unfold over time.

Another nice ingredient in a good horror movie is to fill it with good actors. Oscar-winner Mira Sorvino is quite good as Dr. Susan Tyler. Her partner in the accidental creation of the creatures is Dr. Peter Mann, played by Jeremy Northam. Northam was recently in The Tudors as Sir Thomas More. The final member of their team is pistachio-eating Josh, amusingly played by Oscar-nominated Josh Brolin.

The supporting roles are filled by good actors as well. Dr. Tyler’s mentor is Dr. Gates, played by Oscar-winner F. Murray Abraham. Golden Globe-nominated Charles Dutton plays Leonard. Finally Oscar-nominated Giancarlo Giannini plays Manny, a father searching desperately for his lost boy.

In addition to the visionary director, good actors and literate script, Mimic also features great creature design, set design, and wonderful special effects. Backing Guillermo up was none other than Robert Rodriguez as the second unit director.

While Mimic is excellent, I would love to see what del Toro’s original vision was, especially given how fantastic Pan’s Labyrinth was. Guillermo recently released a Director’s Cut on Blu-Ray that he says he is happy with, being the best he could piece together with the elements available. Be aware that this film deals extensively with bugs, both giant and of the cockroach variety.

People Watch: Guillermo del Toro regular Doug Jones plays Long John #3 here. He played Fauno and Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth and Abe Sapien in the two Hellboy movies as well as Chamberlain and the Angel of Death in Hellboy II. Distinctive character actor Julian Richings, Death in Supernatural, plays a workman here. Norman (Boondock Saints) Reedus briefly plays Jeremy. Reedus is enjoying success as Daryl Dixon in The Walking Dead.

Sequel-itis: Obviously an iconic monster like the insects in Mimic have to be replicated. The straight-to-video sequels Mimic 2 (2001) and Mimic: Sentinel (2003) are quite forgettable.