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The story tells of a deadly disease devastating New York City’s children and carried by it’s cockroaches. Entomologist Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino) creates The Judas Breed, a new insect, genetically bred to destroy the infected cockroaches, then die-off themselves. The Judas Breed have other ideas and are not only thriving, but are soon growing, evolving and nesting in the city sewers. They are also now preying on humans. Susan, along with her husband, Dr. Peter Mann (Jeremy Northam), who is Deputy Director of the CDC, and reluctant subway cop, Officer Leonard Norton (Charles S. Dutton), find themselves in the fight of their lives, and the lives of everyone in the city, as they enter the catacombs of NYC’s massive subway system to find and destroy the The Judas Breed.
Film is directed by Guillermo del Toro from his script with Matthew Robbins, from the book of the same name by Donald A. Wollheim. It’s a solid, modern day sci-fi/horror, that is not without a nod to the giant bug movies of the 50s. It’s got a good story, a top notch cast, some good gore, excellent creature FX and there is enough carnage and action to satisfy the average monster/giant bug movie fan. The attack scenes are intense and suspenseful and Del Toro gives his creatures a nice air of mystery, till he’s ready to reveal them. When he does, they are menacing, vicious and have a character about them. He creates a lot of mystery and atmosphere and his visual style is gorgeous as usual. His visual eye makes good use of the underground subway system setting. The cinematography by Dan Laustsen is both colorful and filled with atmospheric shadows and the score by Marco Beltrami is very effective.
As said, there is a good cast here. Sorvino is a strong heroine as Susan. She has a hard time convincing the authorities of what she’s discovered and goes to investigate herself with only Peter on her side. Jeremy Northam is solid as Peter. He’s more concerned with having a baby than investigating Susan’s claims, at first, but comes to believe Susan is on to something. Charles S. Dutton is also really good as Officer Norton, a tough guy who is reluctantly dragged along on the giant bug hunt. The film also has a good supporting cast with Giancarlo Giannini as a shoe shiner whose autistic son (Alexander Goodwin) has an interest in the creatures, Josh Brolin, F. Murray Abraham, and, in a small role, Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus, as a department of sanitation employee who finds something very interesting in the garbage.
I’ve always liked monster movies and am a huge fan of Guillermo Del Toro, so it’s no surprise I champion his giant bug movie set in the sewers of NYC. I really do believe this is a good and very underrated monster movie that doesn’t get enough love. A director’s cut is now available on blu-ray, as Del Toro was unhappy with studio tinkering on the original release. It expands the story of Sorvino’s Entomologist and her husband, Peter as they try to have a baby, basically adding a bit more of a human element to already likable characters. Those looking for more creature stuff in the director’s cut will be sadly disappointed. A really good monster flick that doesn’t get the respect it deserves and was sadly a box office disappointment upon release in 1997.