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.