Saturday, June 21, 2014


Hidden deep under Raccoon City is a secret experimental complex called The Hive. It is owned and operated by the Umbrella Corporation, a huge multinational that controls a major part of all commerce on earth. The Hive is used to carry on and control dangerous and illegal experiments of both a biological and viral nature. As Resident Evil begins, someone is stealing one of these experimental viruses; this unknown person intentionally exposes the complex to the contagion as he leaves. The Hive's controlling computer, known as The Red Queen, detects the contamination and locks the facility down to keep the virus from spreading outside — killing everyone still trapped inside in the process. From here the film cuts to a gothic mansion in which Alice (Milla Jovavich) has just awakened in the shower, her mind affected with amnesia. A young policeman, followed by a black-clad commando squad from the Umbrella Corporation, invades the house. The squad takes Alice and the cop prisoner, explaining that she's an employee of the Corporation stationed in the house to guard a secret entrance to The Hive. (As part of the Hive's automated defense mechanism, she was incapacitated by stun gas pumped into the house to knock out intruders. The amnesia is a short-term side effect.) The squad proceeds into the underground complex to discover the reason for the lockdown and take back control of the facility from The Red Queen. This turns out to be harder than they hoped. Although the virus has now been cleaned out of the Hive's air system, the effect of the virus on the dead bodies inside has turned them into murderous zombies with a taste for human flesh. Couple that problem with The Red Queen's attempts to kill off the invaders and a strict two-hour time limit before the entire complex is sealed from the outside - permanently - and the tension level skyrockets.

RESIDENT EVIL is a damned good junk-food movie. This film is never going to be anyone's idea of a classic, but it does work on a strong entertainment level. There's a nice central mystery and enough violent surprises to keep your eyes off the clock. I can't comment on how fans of the various video games it's based on will like it, but as a horror movie fan I found it to be great fun. The long sad cinematic history of movies based on video games is littered with so many bad films that a sane man turns from thinking about them lest he be locked away begging for death by joystick or Tetris block. When I learned that Paul W. S. Anderson had written and directed this one I despaired for I have seen his previous movies and have disliked them all. I know Mortal Kombat, Event Horizon, and Soldier have their defenders, but I can find next to nothing good to say about them. So imagine my surprise when I found myself actually enjoying this film! Not that there aren't problems. There is at least one point right after the initial zombie attack where it appears that a bit of narrative has been cut out to speed the pacing at the expense of clear storytelling. Overall I was happy with the film even though at times it felt like a game of 'spot the film reference'; many scenes are homages to other movies (if you're charitable) or outright steals (if you're not). Often this type of thing will anger me but here it didn't. I attribute this to the confidence and forceful momentum of the story. Every few minutes we are introduced to a new situation or problem that pushes the characters around like rats in a maze. One criticism I've heard from others is that for an R-rated zombie movie, RESIDENT EVIL is very light on gore and I have to agree  - there should have been a good deal more graphic violence. Unfortunately it looks like the producers were afraid to go too far, knowing that, since it's based on a popular video game, parents' groups just might have a fit should little Billy see entrails flying about. It's too bad, really, because the potential was there for a better movie had more daring filmmakers been in charge. 

Anyone who sat through Tomb Raider knows that live action movies based on video games are probably never going to be a great idea, but RESIDENT EVIL avoids most of that film's dreadful pitfalls. It's not a great movie; it's not even one of the better zombie movies... but it is fast and fun - the cinematic equivalent of hot buttered popcorn that you can't stop eating until it's gone. I just wish it had worked harder for that R rating.

Maybe I need to review each film in this series? Dumb fun is the short form call. 

1 comment:

Kal said...

I am not a gamer so this movie had nothing to impress me with. I love those stories where a team of individuals are sent to do a mission and most of them die during it. I just love that storyline and it's infinite variations. This one is one of my all time favorite fun time rainy Saturday afternoon movies. I like everything about it from the way Mila is dressed to her way of dealing with those zombie dogs. I hate the Umbrella Corporation.