I only play horror video games. Not as a stance or anything, itās just what interests me. When Resident Evil first came out, I was super excited. I knew that it would differ from the game but I couldnāt wait to see how much. It started a series which continues this week with Resident Evil Retribution, the fifth installment in twice as many years. The series is hated by gaming fans and loved by the general public but are they really so different? Letās take another look at the series from the beginning as we prepare for evil to go global.
Resident Evil (2001)
Resident Evil was promoted as an origin story to show just what happened to Raccoon City. We are introduced to the somewhat familiar mansion and a team of not so familiar commandos. Here we are introduced to Alice (Milla Jovovich), an Umbrella employee with a lack of memory and a ton of secrets. The team has an agenda of their own which Alice and a new Raccoon City P.D. member named Matt Addison (Eric Mabius) are not a part of. Their mission is to infiltrate āThe Hiveā, an underground bio-weapons base, and shut it down. The problem is that the Hive is filled with its employees who are infected with an agent known as the T-Virus and are now zombies. They must now battle not only the Hiveās A.I. defense system, but hordes of the undead as well.
As far as video game adaptions go. This film is pretty good. It does actually start off with some horror movie scares and some creative kills, though closer in tone to āFinal Destinationā than Dawn of the Dead. It hits enough of the overall beats and provides some genuine fan excitement by including the Licker, Zombie Dogs and some familiar mansion aesthetics. The film actually ends with the now familiar Ravaged Raccoon City, setting the stage for the games.
Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)
Having set up the characters and situations, Resident Evil Apocalypse jumps right into the world of the game and attempts to meld the two sensibilities into a cohesive mythology. This film is as close as we ever got to a straight adaption of the Video Game as you would ever get. It basically is a loose adaption of Resident Evil 3 Nemesis.
Alice is surviving in Raccoon City as we are introduced to āThe Master of unlockingā Jill Valentine dressed in her alternate āhooker outfitā from the game (BTW if you are truly a fan, you get that āUnlockingā reference) and Mr. āAll the girls love my sexy accentā AKA Carlos Olivera. The three form a team along with other stars members and a pimp, or as Jimmy Smits might say, a āCompanionaterā (Free Sons of Anarchy plugā¦youāre welcome). The mission, to escape the now quarantined Raccoon City before it is nuked. To make things worse, they are being stalked by a superbeast (not a cool Rob Zombie superbeast either), but a hulking zombie killing machine known as The Nemesis. There is something strangely familiar about it though, what could it be?
āApocalypse definitely has its moments. Itās cool to see game characters in the flesh and the stars uniforms and little Easter eggs scattered throughout are a plus. The film firmly establishes Milla as the central character of the film series and by the end of the film; all bets are off as to where the story is going.
Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
The world is now ravaged with zombies and there is a definite āRoad Warriorā feel to the opening of the third film. Alice, who is suffering increased mutations because of her captivity by Umbrella near the end of the last film, is an outcast among the group which now includes a band of survivors lead by Resident Evil 2 fan favorite Claire Redfield (Ali Larder). The Raccoon City survivors have one goal, to get to Alaska and start a new lives, while Aliceās goal is to get to Umbrella and end a few.
This film is where the series did what it had to do. Whenever you have a property that is an off shoot of another, you have to grow into your own to become successful. Itās just the way it is. A prime example was Highlander the Series (interestingly enough established and directed by Russell Mulcahy who directed this film). That show started off based in the limited confines of the original film but as the show grew more popular, it became necessary to recreate its mythology so that the series could reach its full potential.
The film sets up a pay-off that youād never thought youād see the extensive cloning of Alice by Umbrella. How crazy would it be to see an army of Alice clones attacking Umbrella agents? I didnāt think we would ever see that. I was thankfully wrong.
Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)
After an all-out attack on Umbrella by Alice and her army of clones (a sequence as cool as any in the Matrix sequels) Alice finds herself in zombie ravaged Los Angeles and reunited with Claire as they fight to survive and get to a safe haven known as Arcadia. Sidelined by plane trouble, they are forced to land on the top of a prison building where several survivors are holed up including a famous athlete and a Hollywood sleaze ball (played by S.O.A.ās Kim Coates). Claire is reunited with her brother, the original Resident Evil gameās Chris Redfield (Wentworth Miller). But for every bit of good, something bad comes with it as they must now not only content with the zombies but a new giant and seemingly unstoppable creature known as the Axe Man or Executioner.
This film really set a new bar for the series. It was filled with action but also presented the zombie infested Los Angeles that I have imagined in my dreams (or nightmares). I loved every detail right down to the sky. It had a specific feel for me that was strangely and authentically connected to Los Angeles. A feeling I only get from Michael Mann films. I know most of you will have no idea what Iām talking about and others will dismiss the notion since it wasnāt shot on location, but for me, it was a bit of a dream come true.
These films are not for every fan but they are entertaining films. Each one has propelled the story of Alice as both a sequel and a stand-alone film. Weāve enjoyed great original characters and cool incarnations of game characters. Some People want to complain that its ānot like the gameā Itās been 10 years, get over it. Besides, letās look at the straight adaptions of games, actually, letās not, because they mostly suck. I am excluding Mortal Kombat (very cool and also directed by Anderson) and D.O.A. (Fuck everyone who doesnāt like that one). OK I digress, back to our regularly scheduled programā¦
Will I be seeing Resident Evil Retribution this weekend? Yes. We are getting more game characters, Leon and Ada Wong, and new Russian army Zombies (yes, please). We are getting the return of Jill Valentine (in her Resident Evil 5 incarnation) and a larger scope than ever before. I care about Aliceās journey and that of the lives she touches. Itās a fun and entertaining journey that takes me away for two hours at a time. And when all is said and done, isnāt that why we go to the movies in the first place?
Other Horrific Musings:
Rob Zombie's Lords of Salem edits: Frankenstein VS The Witchfinder! http://ow.ly/dItWm
Nuclear Nightmare: Chernobyl Diaries (2012) http://ow.ly/du3mr
A lot of unhappy endings: MALEVOLENCE (2004) http://ow.ly/du3Bz