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,
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
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
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.