We’re all genre fans here. We’ve all been to a comic, movie, scifi, or horror convention and run into roleplayers and cosplayers that just take things a bit too seriously. And then there are the ones who take it too far, enough to creep us out a little. That’s who inspired Douglas Schulze’s Mimesis. Meet me after the jump for my thoughts on this bizarre and frightening revision and reenactment of Night of the Living Dead.
What is mimesis? It’s an odd word with more than a few interpretations but almost the same meaning. Mimesis comes from the ancient Greek meaning, loosely, imitation. It’s been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and in its original use, mimesis regarded the reproduction of art, especially with an eye toward realism – life imitates art. In that sense, mimesis is adding a touch of realism to the artistic. And thus we come to Mimesis: Night of the Living Dead.
Co-writer/director Douglas Schulze took the old Greek idea of mimesis and melded it with his experiences at horror conventions. He never really intended to remake Night of the Living Dead, although the reproduction is admirable, but his intention was to comment on the horror fans at conventions that cosplay and roleplay just a bit too over the top for normal folks. Here he creates a situation where the victims are forced to reenact the classic film for the entertainment of psychotic roleplayers.
The afterparty is a huge part of most conventions. There are usually three or four, or depending on the size of the con, dozens. They are invite only so if you get asked, you know you’re cool, or at the very least accepted, or got the right person’s attention. Everyone wants to be cool, everyone wants to be accepted. And if you’re lucky, you might just get lucky, or make some new friends, either way, it’s cool.
In Mimesis, it’s a trap. We’re introduced to two friends, who at first seem like a couple of average con goers. A stereotypical nerd and his buddy who really isn’t into it, but there as wingman. Sid Haig makes a fun appearance as a horror filmmaker speaking at the con. After some much-too-brief commentary on sexism at cons, the two guys are invited to an afterparty by an attractive woman named Judith (Lauren Mae Shafer), and the trap is set.
Night of the Living Dead
The afterparty is nothing special, more high school red plastic cup party than convention afterparty, and eventually everyone fades away. Unfortunately they don’t fade because of the boring party, it’s because their drinks have been spiked. Everyone, including our nerd and wingman, wake up in strange places in different clothes – basically dressed as characters in George Romero’s original 1968 Night of the Living Dead near a house and cemetery identical to the one in that flick. And yeah, there are folks acting the role of zombies that literally bite into flesh and appear to eat.
Our nerd goes down quick, of course because he’s dressed like the first victim of the film. Wingman, who we’ll call in homage Duane (played convincingly by Allen Maldonado, who most recently had a bit part in Denzel Washington’s The Equalizer)), takes the lead just like his doppelganger. As he is an outsider to all things horror, he doesn’t recognize what’s going on. As they meet others, like the family in the basement, I am shocked only one horror con attendee sees the obvious references to Night of the Living Dead.
With Duane in the lead, and unlike their earlier movie counterparts, they start to pick up the vibe of what’s happened. They are at the mercy of psychopathic roleplayers. They catch one, who admits just as much, before his cohorts kill him zombie-style. When they discover that the Judith in their midst is in with the ‘zombies,’ they cast her out, where she becomes prey just like everyone else.
Captured, we find that the ‘zombies’ are just actors in a haunted house dedicated to the movie looking to be promoted to thrillkillers. They’ve also kidnapped Sid Haig’s character in an effort to impress him. He doesn’t give them what they want, instead he offers the best commentary on what Schulze is trying to say. I find it brave for a horror movie to basically indict its audience as they watch.
Mimesis is predictable in places, but doesn’t disappoint. It makes its point, the good guys win, and contains some impressive horror effects, and even some chilling new tricks using cellphones that bring the old “The calls are coming from inside the house.” into a present day scare. And how can you beat any flick with Insane Clown Posse playing over the end credits. Recommended for fans of the genre.