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Mimic: Sentinel
IMDB Rating: 4.4/10 from R votes
Release: 14 October 2003 (USA) /

Mimic: Sentinel

Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Director:
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: In a decaying neighborhood, asthmatic and allergic amateur photographer Marvin Montrose spends his days and nights confined in his room, snooping on his neighbors in the next building with his camera. When a boy disappears in the spot and then the local drug dealer Desmond, Marvin suspects a mysterious garbage man and his sister Rosy and her friend Carmen investigate. Meanwhile, Marvin witnesses the death of Detective Gary Dumars and a stranger on the street by two mutant Judas Breed insects and discloses that their prime suspect is the CDC Agent Kirchner. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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Critic Reviews


Series note: As the Mimic films are not direct continuations of the same storyline--they're simply related thematically and in some subject matter--it does not really matter what order you watch them in.

It's no secret that Mimic 3 has a number of similarities to Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954). In fact, as writer/director J.T. Petty comments in his interview on the DVD extras, "Rear Window with giant cockroaches" was the high-concept pitch-line presented to him fresh out of New York University's film school, solely on the basis of his student film, Soft for Digging (2001), which won a Special Jury Prize at the 2003 Boston Independent Film Festival. What's less frequently talked about is that Mimic: Sentinel is a challengingly artistic, well-made film that weaves various themes of voyeurism throughout its length. Even its subtitle, "Sentinel", has numerous intended meanings, including various senses of "guard" or "protector", and of course, "watcher".

Mimic: Sentinel centers its plot on Marvin (Karl Geary) and his unusual family--sister Rosy (Alexis Dziena) and mom Simone (Amanda Plummer). Marvin is a survivor of Strickler's disease--the affliction that was wiping out most of New York City's kids at the beginning of the first Mimic (1997). This has caused him to seem slightly like a cross between someone with Down's Syndrome and autism, with a boatload of asthma-related allergies to boot. In other words, he can barely leave the house without severe threat to his health. So he spends most of the time in his room in a large Brooklyn apartment building, voyeuristically studying the neighbors in the building across the street while he snaps photographs of them. He has a large wall of snapshots with nicknames for everyone, including the mysterious "garbage man". It's not long before Marvin observes some strange occurrences, including what he says is the murder of Rosy's friend Desmond (Keith Robinson). This initiates relationships with a couple other key characters--one a cop, one a beautiful woman from across the street, and gradually we enter more typical Mimic (monster-attack horror) territory.

The three Mimic films to date comprise what is without a doubt one of the most unique horror film series. Each film has a completely different style and focus, yet all are related in significant ways, and each is very good to excellent. This third film is probably the most artistically "difficult" entry. Eventually, during the climax, Petty takes a slightly more conventional route, as I'm sure he had to per the producers and studio, but he still manages to retain his unique vision throughout Mimic: Sentinel's length.

Petty takes his time when it comes to pacing, and he doesn't give you the material you'd probably expect right away, despite the brief, conventional attack scene of the prologue (although note how Petty dwells on the victim's eyeglasses--yet another metaphor for looking at the world through a voyeuristic veil).

For a long time, we see most of the "action" through Marvin's camera, occasionally through Marvin's window without the camera, and even through the photographs on Marvin's wall (this aspect is a nice nod to Remi's photo fetish in Mimic 2, 2001). At one point Petty even presents important scenes as a series of photographic stills, similar to Chris Marker's La Jetée (1962), which Petty would surely be familiar with as an NYU film student.

The shots through Marvin's camera all emphasize an artificial "framing" in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, to underscore the inherent voyeurism of films and film watching. This is also done in a more purely stylistic way during the climax, where Petty adds a fuzzy-edged circular aperture around the frame, giving an effect something like watching the film through someone else's eye. There are various other often subtle instantiations of voyeurism and related themes throughout the film, including characters who are inside various kinds of containers (a sewer, a trunk, a refrigerator, an implication of in a wall, clear plastic sheeting, etc.), which are then either perforated so that others can see inside while not being completely visible or in the same space, or which are transparent and afford a somewhat sheltered view.

Even when the "horror material proper" finally begins, Petty makes the brilliant move of showing most of it from a distance. For example, we watch an attack from Marvin's room, looking out his window to the building across the street. At that point, I wanted the film to continue in that highly unusual mode, as it underscored the theme so well, so it was a bit of a let down at first when Petty had to become more conventional. But as I mention above, he still retains his original touch during the conventional material too.

Petty's unusual pacing and approach also gave even greater weight to his surprisingly brutal gore scenes. I particularly loved the long, lingering tracking shot through an apartment after a bloody attack. That had far more impact than actually seeing the attack would have had. And once Lance Henriksen's character arrives in full force, the film takes a refreshingly bizarre and slightly nihilistic turn.

Speaking of Henriksen, he is excellent as always (what genre fan doesn't love Lance Henriksen? He's even great in the bad films he does, like The Untold (aka Sasquatch), 2002). The rest of the cast turns in great performances, too, partially because they're so odd. I was a bit disappointed that the film is so short (the credits start rolling at the 72 minute mark), but on the other hand, the story is complete as it stands. It's more important that the film is the right length to tell the story.

In Petty's DVD extras interview, he says that working with actors who have a lot of dialogue made him want to only do romantic comedies in the future. Don't do it! This is such a fine, unique horror film that Petty needs to work much more in this genre.

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