September 24, 2010

Rabid Rewind: Resident Evil

Resident Evil
starring Milla Jovovich, Eric Mabius, and Michelle Rodriguez
written & directed by Paul W.S. Anderson
Screen Gems (2002)

I may be in the minority among movie fans when it relates to Resident Evil because I think it's a pretty good horror film. It's by no means a masterpiece, but for a film that's basically a body count film it accomplishes what it sets out to do: provide an exciting thrill ride with plenty of zombies. And when you consider that the source material is a 90s era video-game, it's downright great compared to its peers.

I remember playing Capcom's Resident Evil on the Playstation back in the day. A spooky game with quite a few tense moments and jump-scares, but I never cared for the rigid game play. Super Mario Bros. had a more robust playable character as far as I'm concerned. The subject matter and the plot for Resident Evil though, that's where the enjoyment of the game rested. The film adaptation was eventually made by Paul Anderson, but I wonder how the movie would have looked if George Romero's script had been approved when he was originally signed to direct.

The movie centers on Alice (Milla Jovovich) who wakes up at the start of the movie with amnesia, naked in a shower inside a mansion. As she explores the mansion, she finds two others with amnesia--one of whom is supposedly her husband--and a group of commandos. There has been a virus outbreak in an underground laboratory run by the Umbrella Corporation, and Alice is an employee subjected to a nerve gas that wiped her and memories of the other two, and the mansion is a kind of backdoor entrance to the lab. They all venture into the facility and find everyone down there is dead. But, of course, the virus has some after effects beyond killing people, as all of the dead rise up as zombies and go on the attack.

When I watched this movie, I thought the blending of horror and sci-fi was well done. The underground lab gave a great sense of the being buried alive. The commandos felt very two-dimensional though, with the exception of Michelle Rodriguez who somehow manages to give the most cardboard characters a glimmer of rough-edged humanity. Rodriguez has been typecast over the years to play this kind of role, but she's just so damned good at it. As for Milla Jovovich playing Alice, I thought she portrayed remarkably well a fragile and frightened damsel with an emerging bravery and bad-ass attitude that manifests as her memory returns.

The villains are for the most part a horde of mindless zombies. There's not a lot to say there, but the mutations the heroes come across in their efforts to destroy the Red Queen are unique enough to make the film stand out from other zombie flicks. The Red Queen, a computer program that runs the facility and actively orchestrates the virus outbreak, adds a face to the enemy. A cold and calculating artificial intelligence with an army of zombies at its disposal, the Red Queen becomes all the creepier because its voice and avatar are fashioned after its creator's deceased daughter--a young girl who died from a disease the lab was supposedly trying to cure.

My appreciation for the film may be skewed because I think Milla Jovovich is just a cool kitten. I mean, I didn't even hate the two sequels it spawned thanks to her. Mind you, I'm not in any hurry to see the new 3-D sequel, Resident Evil: Afterlife. Not even Milla can sway me into spending money on such a repellent gimmick. The original Resident Evil is not without its flaws, like the stilted dialog and flagrant asides to fans of the video-games. I think there's enough of the movie to like though, that it deserves a chance from folks who haven't seen it yet.


  1. Well, I like the first Resident Evil movie, it really is a rather good horror. I would like it better without some disgusting stuff like the scene where a soldier gets chopped into pieces by laser (which was stolen from The Cube anyway...) but still, it has a great atmosphere and th actors do a great job. But let's face it, the sequels are...just bad, really bad.

  2. I think I'm totally alone in really liking the second Resident Evil film....
    Heck, I liked all of them. I wish I could see the new one.

  3. Eygam - Did that happen in The Cube been a few years since I saw that. I rather enjoyed that scene, myself, though I can see how it might turn some off. And yes, you are quite right about the sequels--but Ali Larter lessens the sting.

    Andrew - I should re-watch the second some time. The only scene that sticks out for me is the church scene.

  4. The first movie is more than ok. It followed the game but not at the expense of the movie experience. It had some suprising good scenes and it had more than its share of shocks and action. I do believe it fell under "the curse of video game movies."

    Lazarus Lupin
    art and review

  5. Fox - I guess it isn't a laser but some strings or something in The Cube. But the idea of a guy falling apart in slow motion is from it.

  6. Lazarus Lupin - Video-game adaptations do seem to be clumsily scripted most times. Shame too, because there are some gorgeous games that could use a movie adaptation.

    Eygam - Ah. I don't recall that scene, but I see where you're coming from. Sliced and diced any which way is unpleasant.