Stomping Around in the Dark double feature: “From Beyond”/”Mimic”

Posted: October 13, 2009 in Jeff Holland, Threat Quality
Tags: , , ,

From Beyond has that wonderful moment you sometimes feel about midway through a  movie, From Beyondwhere you realize, “Ohh. They’re ALL going to get fucked up. Okay, let’s do this!” Just because you LIKE Jeffrey Combs, that doesn’t mean he’s gonna make it out of this at all okay. The moment you realize this is when he is half-eaten by what can only be described as a giant, toothy worm and does not die.

Everyone involved looks like they’re having an absolute blast making that movie. It isn’t as knowingly funny as Re-Animator, but there is that same manic glee going on at every level, from the makeup FX to the overexcited performances (seriously, how has there never been a movie where Jeffrey Combs and Bruce Campbell try to out-ham each other?!), that is hard not to get on board with.

I recommend it if you like seeing people getting creative when presented with a problem like, “How do we show a guy get devoured by a swarm of insects, on a budget of fifty bucks?”

+++++

Then there’s Mimic. I was aware that Guillermo del Toro disowned the project over producer interference; I also know that it was expanded to feature length from its initial size as part of a mimicsci-fi anthology film. But man, it’s almost like you can spot the exact moment that the movie stops being the clever idea del Toro had, and starts being a bland, unwieldy Aliens knockoff.

(It’s about the time Mira Sorvino gets carried away by the giant bug they’re hunting.)

Up until that point, there were a lot of ominous shots and giant spooky libraries and creeping an audience out with the simple prospect of normal-sized bugs in the dark. And it even had a motif! Sorvino’s character is trying to get pregnant – and the irony is that she already “birthed” the bug-monster that’s currently eating people, and has evolved to “mimic” the basic appearance of a human. See, that’s a neat idea. That’s a movie I’d like to see.

And then the stupid giant goddamn bugs trap the cast underground and it becomes Shitty Aliens. It stops being about anything other than Run Away From the Bug Things. It abandons the motherhood angle. It even forgets about the “mimicry” thing that’s IN THE STUPID TITLE.

I’ll let del Toro off the hook a little, but I’m starting to think maybe he’s not a very good writer. Here are the three del Toro movies I actually liked: Blade II, Hellboy, and Hellboy II. Here are the ones I disliked: all the rest (yes, Pan’s Labyrinth, too, despite its beautiful visuals). Based on this pattern, I think maybe he’s just better working with stories he didn’t come up with. So I imagine The Hobbit will be pretty awesome.

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Comments
  1. braak says:

    Honestly, del Toro wrote Hellboy II at least, and I don’t think the script in that was really great. It wasn’t bad, per se, but I kept feeling like they shirked one last round of polish on it.

    Anyway. Both of these movies are based on short stories and rapidly depart so far from the premise of those pieces that a person might be forgiven for not knowing.

    From Beyond, especially, has that peculiar Stuart Gordon/Brian Yuzna brand of gooey-monster-sex-horror that makes you think that these guys are really only interested in HPL because he’s got a cool name.

  2. Jeff Holland says:

    I tend to not worry so much about the source material simply because so MANY movies deviate so wildly from the source – particularly if it’s a short story (which is funny, since a short story should be far easier to adapt than something novel-length) – that if you go in looking for absolute adaptation, you’re just going to get your heart broken.

    In other words, I’m not watching “Mimic,” by Donald Wollheim. I’m watching Guillermo del Toro’s “Mimic.” (or more accurately, del Toro’s “Mimic,” as further re-thought-out by Bob Weinstein).

    But yeah, I don’t think anyone’s watching the Gordon/Yuzna movies and thinking, “Wow…I did not know that Lovecraft was so into slapstick and gooey costuming.” And if they are…well, it might get them interested in reading the actual stories, so that’s probably for the best anyway.

    (I am an optimist, dammit.)

  3. braak says:

    I don’t worry about source material usually, either–in fact, the Mimic short story doesn’t really serve adaptation very well at all, but it’s got such a neat idea that I can’t blame anyone for trying.

    My concern for the Gordon/Yuzna movies is that, after seeing them and then saying, “Hey, I like oozes and guys with penises on their heads. Maybe I’d like H. P. Lovecraft!” maybe they’d go read some H. P. Lovecraft and never touch the stories again.

  4. Jeff Holland says:

    Well then Lovecraft didn’t need those guys anyway! Lovecraft’s doing just fine without those readers!

    Lovecraft is so…so lonely.

  5. braak says:

    Also, why do all screenshots from 80s horror movies look purple? Was that just a think they were doing with light back then?

  6. Dave says:

    Ever seen Cronos, Jeff? It’s a slight, borderline clichéd story, but a nice twist on the vampire myth. I’m in agreement about Mimic, though – it definitely lost what made it interesting and devolved into the usual monsters in the dark stereotypes.

    As for a nice, gory (if cheap-looking) and funny horror, you couldn’t go far wrong with Black Sheep.

  7. Jeff Holland says:

    Cronos was my first del Toro movie, and that one didn’t hit me either. It’s been years since I’ve seen it, but I’m pretty sure my feeling on it was, “I’m sorry, I was under the impression that there’d be a bit more vampirism in this vampire movie.”

    (I also assumed there’d be more ghostiness in “The Devil’s Backbone,” so that’s twice he tricked me!)

  8. V.I.P. Referee says:

    “I recommend it if you like seeing people getting creative when presented with a problem like, ‘How do we show a guy get devoured by a swarm of insects, on a budget of fifty bucks?’ ”

    Hehehehe…

    Wait, did you just knock “Pan’s Labyrinth”? Oh, just PL’s script. Ok. I agree: That was the film’s weakest link (which, in many cases, would’ve been a total death sentence for the story). You may pass.

  9. Jeff Holland says:

    Pan’s Labyrinth is an absolutely GORGEOUS film that just happens to have a story I don’t care about. I’m not even really saying it’s a bad story, just one that’s not aimed at me, at all. I get the fairy-tale aim, but the story’s way too simplistic for adults, and possibly traumatic for children, so I believe the target audience is simply Guillermo del Toro’s (adorably pudgy) inner child.

    Also, please note that I don’t feel good about liking Blade II more than Pan’s Labyrinth. But c’mon. That movie is awesome, as long as you ignore that it’s part of the otherwise mediocre “Blade” series (not hard to do, as Wesley Snipes is the most easily-ignorable part of the movie).

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