Mimic is creepy fun on this DVD.

Mira Sorvino, Jeremy Northam, Alexander Goodwin, Giancarlo Giannini, Charles Dutton, Josh Brolin, Alix Koromzay, F. Murray Abraham. Directed by Guillermo Del Toro. Aspect ratio: 1.85:1 (letterbox). Dolby Digital 5.1. 105 minutes. 1997. Dimension Home Video 14251. Rated R. $ 29.99.

I've always been a sucker for giant-bug movies. I'm sure this is traceable back to my impressionable youth when I saw Them! on television. Of course, the big-bug genre is replete with its share of stinkers; Empire of the Ants comes to mind. However, Hollywood's latest oversized-insect opus, Mimic, turns out to be a superior offering and a genuinely creepy science-fiction film.

Oscar winner Mira Sorvino stars as Dr. Susan Tyler, an entomologist who has developed a genetically engineered insect designed to destroy cockroaches---specifically, the roaches scuttling around Manhattan Island. Of course, ridding Manhattan of cockroaches is a dream of New Yorkers, but in Mimic, the extermination of the pests is meant to end a nightmare: The roaches carry a plague that is killing the city's children. The new insect is called the Judas breed, which has a life span of six months and is engineered to be incapable of reproducing.

Three years later, however, Tyler is given a specimen that leads her to believe the Judas breed has indeed reproduced. Needing further proof of the breed's survival, Tyler, along with her scientist husband (Jeremy Northam) and an unwilling NYC transit cop (Charles Dutton), takes a field trip into the subway system where the initial specimen was found. Here, she comes to a horrifying realization---the Judas breed has mutated and begun mimicking its only predator: humans. With a brood of six-foot insects hiding somewhere in the subway, the race is on to destroy them before they can spread beyond a single nest.

Director Guillermo Del Toro uses the film's underground setting to build excruciating tension. Within the dark labyrinth of abandoned subway stations and access tunnels, Mimic keeps its audience on edge. The film's state-of-the-art computer-generated insects, as well as their mechanical counterparts (designed by Rob Bottin), are realistic and scary. Unlike the slow-moving, rubber-suited giant insects of yesterday, Mimic includes rapid-fire bug attacks that add one more disturbing layer of believability to this tale of genetic engineering gone berserk.

In terms of DVD quality, Mimic rates very highly. The letterboxed transfer is properly framed and effectively reproduces Dan Laustsen's dark, atmospheric cinematography. Like most recent transfers, Mimic offers a crisp, well-defined image. The film's color scheme features many hot and cold hues that are faithfully re-created on DVD without the bleeding or color noise found in analog video sources. In a couple of instances, digital-compression artifacts are noticeable in very dark backgrounds, but these are brief and never bothersome.

Those who are impressed by a well-mixed Dolby Digital soundtrack will love Mimic's psychoacoustically oppressive atmosphere, which is perfectly wed to the film's tension-inducing visuals. Sound effects swirl up from everywhere, making optimum use of Dolby Digital's discrete-channel capability. Marco Beltrami's musical score is effectively mixed into the soundtrack, with his standout opening-credit music setting the tone for the rest of the film. A matrixed Dolby Surround-compatible track is also available on the DVD, as are English subtitles and a theatrical trailer.