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Saturday, February 9, 2013

MIMESIS -- DVD review by porfle

The promos for Anchor Bay's DVD release of MIMESIS (2011) sorta make it sound as though it has some kind of cool William Castle-like gimmick that virtually puts us inside a horror movie.  The actual premise, however, is that a group of horror fans at a post-convention party in a remote farmhouse are drugged and wake up inside a recreation of "Night of the Living Dead" dressed as the main characters. 

It's a potentially fun idea, but the execution fluctuates between mildly diverting and dull.  References to George Romero's 1968 original film begin when we meet three of the main characters at the horror convention--nerdy fanboy Russell (Taylor Piedmonte), his reluctant "cool" pal Duane (Allen Maldonado), and Goth girl Judith (Lauren Mae Shafer), who invites them to the "exclusive" afterparty. 

Most of you will have noticed that their first names match those of NOTLD actors, as will those of the people whom Duane (representing the original film's black protagonist) will discover hiding in the cellar of the farmhouse which will be their shelter against the attacking zombies after the mysterious "re-enactment" has begun. 

There are some curious exceptions to this, however--Judith O'Dea's "Barbra" character is represented here by someone named Karen (Jana Thompson), while the original film's "Karen" was the young daughter of cellar-dwelling couple Karl and Marilyn.  (Did I get that right?) At any rate, it's confusing enough that I just decided not to pay attention to any of that, and I would suggest you do the same. 

So anyway, Russell and Karen (whose name should be "Barbra") wake up in a cemetery dressed as "Johnny" and "Barbra" from NOTLD and, as you'd expect, get attacked by a zombie.  Karen escapes and joins Duane at the farmhouse, where they discover the people hiding in the cellar after they woke up there dressed as their characters.  Keith (David G.B. Brown), sort of a David Morse type, actually turns out to be more of a leader than Duane, and the two of them eventually clash over what course of action to take during the zombie siege. 

The zombies themselves are an anemic bunch--in fact, it seems to be the same three or four ghouls wandering around outside the whole time.  The makeup's pretty good although a bit too airbrushy, and gore effects are standard for this sort of flick.  Genre fans will notice some odd behavior from these creatures that deviates greatly from the norm, although the reason for this will be revealed later.   

Speaking of which--after a long stretch of familiar suspense-type scenes involving the living trying to escape from the living dead, there's a rather big "reveal" that some viewers may regard as a deal-breaker.  This jarring twist turns MIMESIS into an entirely different film, one that I really didn't care as much about until it sorta grabbed me again in the final minutes.  You, on the other hand, may find it as delightful and imaginative as many film festival attendees apparently have according to the press release. 

For me, the most atmospheric part of the film is the pre-titles sequence with Courtney Gains (CHILDREN OF THE CORN) as a farmer being stalked by the undead.  Later, genre stalwart and Rob Zombie mainstay Sid Haig puts in a couple of brief appearances as a Romero-like film director.  The acting among the main cast runs from fair to slightly below average. 

Director Douglas Schulze does a workmanlike job although his lackluster staging and meandering camera, along with a ponderous musical score, sometimes drain the suspense from the film rather than building or maintaining it.  These elements do begin to improve during the second half, however, and, despite what some might consider a seriously off-putting twist, MIMESIS does manage a certain amount of suspense and the occasional jump-scare.

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  The sole extra is a commentary track with Schulze and co-writer Joshua Wagner.

MIMESIS is an interesting idea--in fact, sequels are planned involving other classic horror films--but the concept just didn't take off for me the way the filmmakers intended it to.  Still, it's an admirable effort that obviously had some care put into it, and is way above much of the assembly-line dreck churned out in the name of "horror" these days.

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