The explosion of Horror in Asia towards the end of the millennium saw numerous classics, but as with most movements, drifted into overexposure and inferior cash-ins (yes “The Wig” we are talking about you!). Recently however, some signs of revival have started to appear in this genre. “The Mimic” follows on from 2016’s “The Wailing” with its rural setting and ancient magic overtones.
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A family moves into a country house to recover from the disappearance of their son who vanished after the wife Hee-Yeon had left him with their dementia-afflicted mother. After an incident with their two other children, Hee-Yeon discovers a young girl in the forest and takes her home. Despite protestations from her husband Min-ho (who wants her to be taken to the police), the girl becomes a surrogate child. As mysterious voices afflict the household and dire warnings from a blind neighbour are given, the family slowly becomes aware of the danger outside and potentially within.
At times, “The Mimic” feels like a greatest hits compilation of contemporary Asian Horror with seasoned horror fans sure to pick up on elements seen in other movies. There is nothing wrong in this when done well and “The Mimic” is certainly one of the better examples in recent vintage. We have haunted mirrors, creepy children, a bit of mysticism and the neighbour warning of evils. All that’s missing is a female ghost in white with long white hair.
Familial grief has underscored many a good horror film from “Don’t Look Now” to Hideo Nakata’s seminal “Dark Water”. Horror often relies on its protagonists acting irrationally and at least here, there is a logical reason for it. Indeed, there is an air of inevitability about the conclusion with an ending that feels both open and natural, despite also feeling rather familiar too. Again this is more an observation than a criticism, as the ending makes sense given the narrative that came before.
The jump scares take time to come after the opening pre-credits sequence, but this allows time for characters to develop and the fragile nature of the family structure to slowly unravel. The final third sees the scares come thick and fast. As the action locates to the cave, the sense of disorientation is boosted by natural lighting that emphasises the shadows and gloom. Our uncertainty about the girl and the Shaman’s vocal mimicry adds to the suspense.
The film is anchored by a splendid performance by Yum Jung-ah as the grieving Hee-yeon. As the film progresses and her obsession with her surrogate daughter grows, her behaviour becomes more erratic but understandable. For the dramatic elements to work, an empathetic performance is needed to carry us through the final act. As her more matter of fact husband Park hyuk-kwon has a less sympathetic role but only in that his character is behaving more rationally despite the seemingly colder actions. The children are all fine and Shin Rin-ah as the girl is particularly creepy with the audience never quite sure about her motivations. It’s these performances and the overall design and direction of the movie that lift the production above other contemporary horrors.
“The Mimic” is a really good slow burner. Initially drawing you in with it’s well crafted opening sequence before taking a step back to unsettle before concluding with a genuinely scary final act. Definitely worth check in out for those that like their Horror with a bit more meat to it.