Resident Evil [retro review]

“I’ve been a bad, bad girl.”

The Scoop: 2002 R, directed by Paul W.S. Anderson and starring Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, and Eric Mabius

Tagline: A secret experiment. A deadly virus. A fatal mistake.

Summary Capsule: Special forces stage a raid on a nasty hive of zombie buggers

Justin’s Rating: Continue? 5… 4… 3… 2… 1…

Justin’s Review: Zombies are weird, when you think about them. They’re not so unique, in the pantheon of monster mashers. A bit cannibal with the appetite, a tad vampire with the communicability factor, and a lot mummy with the arthritic shuffle, zombies have always eluded my musings about why they’re more scary for horror movie occupants than, say, being target practice. I guess one factor has to be that they’re dead. They don’t have anything to lose, so any threats of lawsuits, noogies or public ridicule are useless against them. And then they’ve got this insatiable desire for human flesh and brains, and you just know how hard that is to find at 2 a.m. on a Saturday night. At least zombies always have lots of friends, because the decaying have to stick together — no one else wants to be near them.

Based on a video game, Resident Evil has been railed against by the public because of the almost single-minded focus on action, gore and loud music; and the video game fans spit on it because they’re idiots. Really. They clamor for a movie translation of a scary game that had some of the absolute worst dialogue ever to grace a game console (actual quote: “Don’t be upset… all weak people exist to be eaten.”), and then have the nerve to complain when the film isn’t Saving Private Ryan-worthy. Listen, it’s all about expectations. I was expecting zombies. I got zombies. I was expecting some guns. I got lots of guns. I was expecting some gorey FX. I got the inside-out dogs. And since this was directed by the same guy who did the slam-bam underrated Mortal Kombat, I was expecting a lot of loud, eardrum-rupturing music. And I got… WHAT? WHAT ARE YOU SAYING? YOUR CATS? I DON’T HAVE YOUR CATS!

Compared to an intelligent, thought-provoking drama piece, Resident Evil stacked up somewhere around “Kindergarten Playground Talk”. But as a mindless horror action-fest, I was more than happy to switch off my brain and let my id be stroked by a roller coaster ride that would ultimately end in my dog attacking me in my sleep. If you want to trash it, go ahead, but just remember: Tomb Raider. There is worse that has already been committed.

Milla Jovovich IS Alice, an amnesiac special forces agent who specializes in minimal speech and wardrobe. Both of those are probably a good thing, seeing as how she’s not exactly a master thespian. And there are other people, but they’re not really worth getting to know very well, seeing as how they’ll most likely be zombie kibble by the end of the film.

The opening of Resident Evil is gripping, and vaguely reminiscent of the superflu escaping at the beginning of The Stand. A deadly mutating compound known as the T-virus escapes in a massive underground laboratory, and a homicidal computer slaughters the workers en masse to avoid larger contamination. Seeing as how Captain Kirk isn’t around to defeat the artificial intelligence with befuzzling logic, a special ops team is sent to break into the lab, shut down the computer, and find out what the heck is going on.

We know the answer. Zombies. Come to papa, fresh meat!

Alice, suffering from the side effects of nerve gas, is pulled down with the team right into the thick of things. She doesn’t ever really act, aside from looking concerned and all that, except for one little moment when she smiles at this guy she likes, and I was struck: “Hey! Genuine Acting!” But that’s okay, cause we’re treated to all kinds of nifty scenes, including one death trap laser corridor that’s ripped shamelessly from Cube. Rarely does the movie slow down, including…

The relentless, in-your-face-and-ears score!

See, in most horror films, the soundtrack gets all loud and blarey when bad stuff happens, but it’s usually just noise. In Resident Evil, director Paul Anderson throws in some heavy industrial techno rock riffs that really play havoc with your body. On one hand, scary crap is going down, and you keep thinking, “What would it be like to be eaten alive by ten zombies all at once?” But on the other hand, the score is so pumping that you want to start doing push-ups or something, preparing to join the army right after the film ends. You don’t know whether to be scared or thrilled, so you end up twitching a lot. It’s fun!

So while it might not be the easiest film to defend with a straight face, it’s far from deserving of all the slander thrown its way. Resident Evil happily accomplishes all it sets out to do, and with only one bullet-time sequence to boot.

Can I have your brains? You don’t need them…

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Kyle’s Rating: The video games this film is based on is in turn based on MY LIFE SPENT BATTLING ZOMBIES!

Kyle’s Review: I was one of the last kids to get an original Nintendo system, largely because as a child I preferred being outdoors and building my own video games out of sticks and mud. Don’t ask. Anyway, Nintendo was fun and all, but not being a big video game guy to begin with I decided I would just stop with my NES and though to this day I read gaming magazines and every so often buy a PC game, I’ve directed potential arcade/console quarters towards more fulfilling expenditures like comic books and fried Twinkies. Needless to say, I’ve only seen Resident Evil screen captures in magazines before and the closest I myself have come to playing the game is examining the box at the game store and trying to mind meld with it (don’t laugh, sometimes it works!). But if they’re going to make a movie about zombies getting blown away, hey, I’ll be there with bells on! Zombie killing bells, that is!

Ultimately, though, I ended up just renting Resident Evil. It’s hard to properly review it as a film when I’m totally out of my depth attacking it as an aspect of a video game phenomenon, since I’ve never played the game. Whoa, I sounded really serious there. Moving on: so there is a mansion and somehow it’s connected to a big underground city and a scantily-clad chick with scantily-available memories joins with some military group that like she was already a part of, or something, and they infiltrate said underground city to fix a computer but find out zombies and other creatures are loose in the complex and the only way out is to shoot them all. We cool? Cool.

Sounds like a video game set-up to me. But apparently this isn’t close to the games, or isn’t as close as it should be, so die-hard players are all like “hey, that movie SUCKED.” Whatever. I mean, it kind of did, but more because all we want to see is zombies and creatures attacking and getting shot up, but they need to “establish characters” and “establish setting” and “carefully avoid showing blatant nudity.” Oh well. The zombie parts are fun in a ‘hey, this didn’t cost too much to rent’ way, and the film is put together well. But if you’re expecting lots of zombies and bullets and pain and nudity, look elsewhere. If you’ve played the games till your figures are misshapen stubs, be aware the movie veers away from the game plots and be more aware that I don’t care, so I don’t want to get more emails on this topic. Make your own Resident Evil films! It’s probably legal, possibly. And it’ll get you outside. You gaming fans could use some sun, I suspect.

So, I don’t know what you’re expecting. You probably won’t find it in Resident Evil. It’s a nice try, but overall watching it will just waste time better spent watching James Bond or Animal Planet programming. Ponder that, and remember it takes a bullet to the head to stop a zombie. Also remember most zombies you see aren’t really zombies, they’re just pale video game players finally spending some time in the sun.

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Alex’s Rating: Mmm, I’ve got the Munchies!

Alex’s Review: This is probably the only time I’m going to put this in writing and own up to it as an opinion I’m willing to stand behind, for this one instance alone: The thing that makes Resident Evil worth watching is the predictability factor. There, I said it. I praised a movie for being predictable. Please hit the PayPal button on the front page to donate to the Heal Alex’s Mental Anguish Fund – mutant psychiatrists are standing by!

Hey now, don’t run off quite yet to tell the whole world! Just let me explain. While it does have a lot of similarities, watching RE is not exactly the same as your good old MST3K experience. No no, my friend, indeed not. While Resident Evil does describe a short-n-gory story arch obvious to anyone with a couple non-reanimated brain cells to rub together, it is actually pretty well put together when you just let it be what it is. You’ve only got to give it a chance.

You see, the fun (apart from making snide little comments and clever observations about what’s around the corner) is seeing just how they tackle the next step in the recipe for zombie-lickin’ goodness. Justin hit the overly aggressive mindless corpse on the head in saying it’s all about expectations, because if you just sit back and let yourself be entertained by this flick, you’re going to come away with a surprising craving for more. It’s not deep, but it’s got lots of neat little facets about it that make you grin and say to yourself, “Hey that was actually pretty cool.” Sure, I could take aim with my white-hot Mutant Laser of Criticism and blow this baby to smithereens, but that’s like picking off bratty pop-star clones with a high-powered rifle at the MTV Video Awards: it’s far too easy, regardless of how much the annoying little buggers actually deserve it. Yeah, I’m looking at you, Tatu.

As someone who hasn’t played the game, I probably had an easier time of it just accepting this as a musically pumped-up, adrenaline-powered, highly visual blood and guts fest. On the other hand, if it had been adapted from some kind of cult work of fiction noire, my guns would probably be smoking now. As it is, Resident Evil slid stealthily under my radar after a hard day’s work, and nibbled politely on my leg until I was reduced to a zombified shell of myself, hell bent on sinking my teeth into a little bit of raw meat. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t the movie that did that to me, but at least my job pays fairly well.

So yeah, in short: Resident Evil bites, but you never know – you might just like that sort of thing. I did.

Girl on girl zombie action

Intermission!

  • A newspaper in Racoon City reads ‘The Dead Walk!’ This is a direct reference to Day Of The Dead in which a newspaper at the beginning of the film reads the same.
  • There is a shot near the end of the film of Alice’s eye close up. This is a direct reference to the first game in the series. The close up eye shot is the logo/title screen of the game.
  • Many comparisons to Alice in Wonderland
  • The S.T.A.R.S. logo on the police car at the end of the film
  • Like in the games, after something is switched on/off, something else happens elsewhere. When the Red Queen is deactivated for the first time, all doors elsewhere are opened.
  • Can’t you just format her hard drive?
  • Don’t try to get off an elevator that’s broken
  • The Red Queen says that resurrecting the dead is based upon the fact that “Hair and finger nails continue to grow long after death.” FALSE, hair and fingernails die along with us. They only appear to grow because our bodies shrivel up like raisons when we die. Almost as bad as Keith Richards. [Thanks Robert H.!]
  • Resident Evil is based off of Capcom’s PlayStation (and now, Gamecube) games. It revitalized the “survival horror” genre, and featured numerous creatures and bloody effects. The events of this movie take place a few days before the first game in the Resident Evil series and its last few scenes (with Alice waking up in a zombie filled Raccoon City) take place during the second game.
  • Director George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead) was originally attached to write and direct, but left the project due to creative differences over the script.
  • The second movie based on a video game directed by Paul Anderson. The first was Mortal Kombat
  • Is It Worth Staying Through End Credits? At the end of the credits you hear the line “When we get out of here, I think I’m gonna get laid.”

Groovy Quotes

Red Queen: You are all going to die down here.

Red Queen: I’ve been a bad, bad girl.

J.D.: I shot her five times! How was she still standing?
Rain: Bitch isn’t standin’ now.

Rain: When I get outta here…I’m gonna get laid.
Kaplan: You might wanna take a wash first.

Red Queen: I implore you.
Kaplan: Implore away!

Rain: All the people that work here are dead.
Spence: Well that doesn’t stop them from walking around.

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6 Comments

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