Resident Evil Movie Review

The best part of playing the Resident Evil video games was the suspense - moving through the shadowy hallways, twitchy in the knowledge that at any moment a zombie (human or otherwise) would leap out to chomp on your neck or leg. And better yet, you'd have your trusty shotgun in hand to blow that dirty ghoulie out of your path.

But while the Resident Evil games may have set new standards for thrills, suspense, and gore for video games, the movie really only succeeds in the third of these. Instead of creating real tension, it barrages you with false suspense and really loud, fast-paced techno metal (score by Marilyn Manson) to give the sense you should be scared. And when all else fails, gross the audience out. Worse, there's not a drop of comic relief in sight.

Fortunately for the games' fans, the plot isn't just repurposed story from the game, so there are some surprises. The movie is a prequel to the first game, setting up the tragic events of fabled Raccoon City, beginning in the underground experimental lab of international mega-corporation Umbrella - a place called The Hive.

Someone has stolen the lethal T-virus which turns living things into flesh-eating zombies along with its antidote, and unleashed the virus into the Hive, forcing the Hive's supercomputer - the Red Queen - to kill everyone inside. A group of commandos swoop in with Alice (Milla Jovovich) - an Umbrella security agent with amnesia - to shut the Red Queen down. But once inside the complex, they're soon battling the horrors the contamination left behind - zombie humans and dogs, a computer that won't let them shut her down, and a hideous mutant called The Licker.

To the filmmakers' credit, they got one thing right in casting Jovovich as the lithe and sexy Alice. Say what you will about models-turned-actress, but Milla took this badass female role very seriously - and makes it work way better than you'd expect. Not only does she get the shooting and martial arts down, she also nails some very menacing moments where she's able to stare down even the baddest of bad guys. And for the most part, director Paul W.S. Anderson (not Paul Thomas Anderson of Magnolia fame) certainly knows how lucky he is to have her, but he should have given her more to do. The best moments in the movie are of her whacking, kicking, and shooting; and there are really just three short fight scenes where she gets to strut her stuff.

Instead, we get way too much footage of the team fighting some of the most pathetic looking zombies you've ever seen. The zombies from the "Thriller" video are more frightening than these sluggish, made-up creatures. Not much scarier, the Licker is most chilling when you don't see it, barely catching small glimpses of it scurrying up walls; but it's almost silly in its few spotlight scenes.

While I certainly didn't come to Resident Evil with high expectations, I was actually disappointed. I wanted cool, scary zombies and zombie dogs. Instead I got pasty people and Dobermans coated in ketchup. I wanted slow-mo scenes of zombies being torn apart by machine gun fire. I wanted dark shadows and suspense. I didn't get any of these things. And I'm sure the games' fans will be let down that they don't get those essentials either.

Predictably, Resident Evil sets up for the obligatory sequel. But this installment is just plain un-dead on arrival.

No sense crying over spilled milk.


Resident Evil Rating

" Grim "

Rating: R, 2002


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