Who ever said that the cockroaches were bad in New York City? You ain't seen nuthin' till you've seen a full grown member of the Judas breed. This film points out that some people are too preoccupied with the potential alien somewhere out there disguising himself as a human being in the civilized(?) world whilst, ultimately, the real danger could be beneath our very own feet. One possible solution to the problem might be to keep our kitchens cleaner.

© RCV Film Distribution

A new disease carried by cockroaches threatens the lives of vast numbers of children and, whereas Mighty Aphrodite might not have been able to help, Dr. Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino) seems to eradicate the danger by developing a new, man-made species called the Judas breed that destroys the roach and itself dies within a period of months. Three years later, they discover, much to their dismay, that Mother Nature didn't like her scales being tipped. The common roach may not have had the wherewithal to escape the clutches of its predator, but the Judas breed manages to outwit humans by camouflaging itself to mimic its destroyer. Now, there are lots of defence mechanisms to be found in New York City, but this is a new one. Naturally, the task of saving mankind falls upon the shoulders of Dr. Tyler (who started it all) as well as her husband Dr. Peter Mann (Jeremy Northam), who happens to be the deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control. Genetic engineering, they now discover, does not seem to hold the key to a perfect future.

Before the populace becomes aware of what's afoot, various characters are sliced, eaten, and served up raw. These include the Gepetto-like shoemaker (Giancarlo Giannini) whose autistic son rattles his spoons for the man with strange shoes, the good subway cop (Charles S. Dutton) who really only wanted to get home on time, some kids, a few of the homeless and anybody else who wanders unwittingly into the path of the hungry bugs. The rampage of the roach killers really gets off the ground, so to speak, when they start flying toward their 6 foot victims with the greatest of ease and nastiest of mandibles.

Their mimicry is not absolutely perfect, so that if anyone is foolish enough to move closer and make comparisons, they might simultaneously be ringing the dinner bell. Even the two young boys who find a dishonest way to make a quick buck discover that larvae too have moms. Dr. Taylor should have thought twice before showing them a photo of what one looked like and telling them to stay away from it. She had already paid them (very little cash) for the first bug specimen (packed like a prize in a cereal box) and mentioned that a nice juicy Ootheca (insect egg) would be much more interesting. What in the world did she think they would do when she left them alone to their own devices? Maybe some entomologists are too little involved with the living.

The gothic subway tunnels designed by production designer Carol Spier, based on photos of an extant disused 1904 New York subway station and inspired further by the work of contemporary Polish artist Beksinski, are enticing to behold. One never knows exactly what awaits the next person venturing into the darkness. A real sewer as well as a turn-of-the-century subway station were among the locations utilized. Two miles of hose helped to keep the sewer moist with more dripping water than was used in Welles' "Macbeth". Cinematographer Dan Lausten's lighting heightens the effects throughout the film. Creature FX designer Rick Lazzarini assisted by a team including Rob Bottin (need I say more?) developed the frisky creatures out for a late snack. Director Guillermo del Toro (an ex-student of Dick Smith who has done extensive work in FX himself) says, "Everything is not what it appears to be. If Mimic makes people think twice about who or what is standing next to them in a subway station or too nervous to venture down a dark alley, I'll be a happy man."

It gives a new edge to waiting for the 7th Avenue line late at night. Don't depend on the security cameras; take some bug spray with you for those private moments.

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett