Resident Evil

You’re all going to die down here!

Year Released : 2002

Director : Paul W.S Anderson

Cast : Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Eric Mabius, James Purefoy, Martin Crewes and Colin Salmon

So I missed out on doing thirty-one reviews in as many days due to work commitments, which is disappointing, but as I’ve mentioned a few times I’ve reviewed mainstream films on days 10 and 20, so now it’s time for the final one and it’s a film that most wouldn’t expect me to like, 2002’s “Resident Evil”.

I’ve written about the film franchise a few times on this site, including a lengthy list of reasons why the franchise sucked as a whole, but the first in the franchise is one of those films which you could class as a guilty pleasure, especially for me. I remember being a 17 year kid when it was released 2002 and I saw it on the opening showing, and then again the following day. It is one of the few films that I’ve seen at the cinema twice whilst not actually working for one.

Plot

Alice (Jovovich) wakes up in a shower with precisely zero memory. She explores the mansion when a SWAT team suddenly invade the house and take her with them through a secret entrance. The group, lead by One (Salmon), boards a train that takes them to an underground lab for Umbrella that they say Alice, along with a man named Spence (Purefoy) were protecting under the false guise of marriage. One eventually reveals that several hours earlier the AI that controls the lab killed everyone inside but they don’t know why.

The group eventually arrives at the entrance to the AI’s mainframe, but upon it hearing what the plans are as Kaplan (Crewes) explains to Alice, Spence and an anti-Umbrella activist named Matt (Mabius). The doors at either end of the entrance shut tight and a laser slices up One and three other operatives. The other terrified members of the group do eventually get down to the mainframe and short out the AI, but that in turn opens up the doors, releasing the re-animated corpses of the former employees.

With the group on a very tight schedule before the doors shut forever they are forced to make their way through the zombies, although some get bitten and start turning. Can they get out?

Hold on, why the hell do you like this?

I’m going to start this with the simple admission of that I know that “Resident Evil” is a movie that can easily be disliked by many and I suspect quite a few people will have read that I like this movie and been shocked, but I genuinely do. This was released in 2002 and I was still in my “I love Resident Evil” phase, I was able to complete both the second and third games in less than 90 minutes each at this point and whilst I wasn’t that impressed with Code Veronica, it wasn’t enough to put me off.

As mentioned above this is the start to a franchise that is far from perfect. In my eyes the first addition to the franchise is the only one that isn’t bad. There is a distinct lack of slow motion for the most part (something that definitely plagued the films in the latter half of the six movies) and it isn’t overly reliant on try to pay homage to the games in an obvious sense, which in my view is a good thing.

I covered this slightly in the aforementioned list of problems with the franchise in general and that is that in all of the sequels there are too many nods, references and characters that are from the computer games that the films are based on, but there are very few of any of those in the first “Resident Evil” movie. If you’re watching this as someone who had never played the games then you won’t get some of the little Easter Eggs here and there, but that in my opinion is why the first works much better than the sequels. The only big part pulled directly from the games and not generically from general zombie films is the addition of the licker (the creature with the long tongue), which plays the part of the main enemy in the second half of the film.

The five sequels brought in characters from the games, but they do not resemble their computer game equivalent in the slightest and that is a huge problem because you’re automatically going to compare the two versions. There are already enough issues with all of the sequels to not have to worry about that extra comparison.

Whilst I was disappointed that a film with the title of “Resident Evil” has very little in relation to the games, other than it being about zombies and has the Umbrella company involved. This means that it can act as a stand alone movie and because of this there is a bit more freedom.

That creative freedom makes this feel like a much more appropriate horror than the other films became. I was hooked right from the opening scene in which a group of office workers are trapped in an elevator. In the six film franchise this is the only one that feels like a traditional horror film and one that was focused on telling a story rather than simply attempting to make money. Hell, even Michelle Rodriguez puts in a decent performance.

Unlike the sequels, the first movie is a bit of a slow build and the zombies turning up feels justified at that point. You’re seeing the dead bodies around and are trying to figure out what is generally going on, not noticing that they’re moving when they’ve moved on, such as one of the scientists that is floating in a flood lab. That’s not to say that there aren’t some silly elements to the zombies in this movie, such as that same zombie emerging randomly from the water some time after the main characters have started having a long conversation in that time, even though it is well established at that point that the zombies are going on pure instinct to feed and don’t have the mental capacity to think or plan.

The soundtrack is loud, in your face and at times aids greatly to the movie. Marilyn Manson’s mix is still on my iTunes to this day, whether it being the haunting main theme or the explosive “Seizure of Power”. 

Summary

The first in a six part film franchise and comfortably the best, “Resident Evil” is comfortably one of my favourite favourite zombie films and if you can get over that there are virtually no major references to the game, other than the odd loose connection here and there, then I think you’ll enjoy it to.

Don’t go in expecting a masterpiece, it’s not a classic in the genre by any stretch, but for me it is one of those films that I still enjoy as much now as a 33 year old as I did in 2002 when I saw it for the first time as a 17 year old (it came out two months before I turned 18), and that is surely a good thing.

Watch this, don’t bother with any of the sequels, especially “Retribution” and “Final Chapter”, the fifth and sixth films respectively.

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