South Korea’s cinema has been one of the most interesting in the world in the last decade (or maybe even in the last 20 years). This prolificacy goes beyond the horror genre, but it sure has given moviegoers some dark thrillers (I Saw the Devil, The Vengeance Trilogy and Forgotten, for example) and great horror flicks (A Tale of Two Sisters – personal favourite – Bedevilled, Train to Busan, The Wailing…).
Consequently, I went into The Mimic – a South Korean supernatural horror tale – with high expectations. This film came out in Korea in 2017, but has been made available for the rest of the world only this year – through subtitled version distributed on DVDs and Blu-Rays.
So, the big question is: was it worth the high expectations? Well, yes and no, in my humble opinion.
Quickly, the story: after a rather graphic opening scene, where a man and a woman kill a girl and a dog and bury them into a thick wall, perhaps unleashing something very dangerous, the movie follows another woman whose son is missing. She moves with her husband and daughter to a nearby town, in a new house close to where the aforementioned murder(s) occurred and takes in a young girl she finds near Mt. Jang – a mysterious mountain where there appears to have existed a mythical creature that mimics human voices.
Continue reading and check my final grade below...
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From the get-go, The Mimic shows the difference between American PG-13 movies and the rest of the world PG-13 horror flicks. Yes, unlike the films I mentioned in the first paragraph, The Mimic was given a safe rating and yet, especially over the first half hour, it manages to be rather uneasy and disturbing despite the lack of gore and extreme violence.
Indeed, The Mimic succeeds in combining an unsettling overtone with a sad and melodramatic story. The mother (Yum Jung-ah, from A Tale of two Sisters as Hee-yeon) is a character the viewer really feels for: she’s depressed because of the loss of her son but doesn’t give up on the search, unlike her husband (Park Hyuk-kwon as Min-ho) who’s trying to move on.
In terms of performances, I can’t help but praise the child actors in this film: the two girls, Hee-yeon’s daughter and the one she adopted, are great in the film. Seriously, they act better than most adults in TV series and made-for-television schlock!
Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the characters. Although the performances are all-around fantastic, the characters are quite difficult to read and to spot from one another. This is my main issue because, due to the high number of characters in The Mimic, as a viewer you really struggle to understand who’s who and what’s a protagonist’s motivation… I really feel this film requires multiple viewings in order to fully appreciate what’s the role of every person involved.
Yet, the last 30-40 minutes suffered from two problems. First, before the grand finale, there are 10 minutes (more or less) in which literally nothing of any importance happens: the movie could’ve just been 10 minutes shorter and this down moment would never have happened. Furthermore, the ending itself drags for a bit too long in my opinion, which causes it to be slightly less effective than it could’ve been.
Besides that, there’s loads to like about The Mimic. The legend of Jangsanbeom – a spirit from Korean folklore that lurks people by imitating loved ones’ voices and devours them – is very compelling and enriches the story with a unique, exotic touch. This is also enhanced by the visuals, very reminiscing of The Wailing (also in terms of locations), with a cinematography that’s not exceptional but it’s very pleasant to look at nonetheless.
As for scary moments, The Mimic utilises conventional techniques (no jump-scares though… hurray!) that most of the time work, due to great makeup effects and practical special effects.
Before I conclude, I want to add I also liked how, perhaps, The Mimic is also about loss and grief, as this subject matter is implied in a few sequences and quite explicitly addressed during the climactic ending.
In conclusion, I think The Mimic is a very good horror movie – not as great as other South Korean examples from recent years, but it surely deserves to be watched. Seek it out and enjoy The Mimic.
The Mimic 7.5/10