It can definitely go on record that I am no fan of horror films. In fact, I only own four or five horror films. To be fair I don’t class Resident Evil as a horror film, because even to me, this was not a scary film. I’ll go as far as to say it wasn’t even a good film. In fact, it was honestly quite bad. My previous review of Assassin’s Creed made me wonder if other movie tie in games are as bad as that.
Unfortunately I didn’t really want the answer to be “yes”, but here we are. A bit of a rough opinion, but I don’t really like the Resident Evil games that much either. Yes I suppose they’re fun in co-op, but so was Dead Rising 2, Left 4 Dead and so on. Anyways, I digress, I’m trying to put this review off but I don’t think that’s a possibility at this point, is it?
What may surprise you the most is that I was really looking forward to this film for the first half hour. The opening music coupled with a brief intro was fittingly ominous. Because of this, there was a genuine feeling of unease around myself along with quite a tense disposition.
I’ve written in my notes several times that this sense nature stuck around for a good chunk of the films opening. And to be fair that atmosphere did in fact stay tense for a good while. The cinematography and use of establishing shots gave an intense feel to the film. Something wasn’t right, we knew that, but the characters didn’t for a very long portion of the film. If the entire film was as tense as the first half an hour then we would have been ready for a genuine treat.
Plot in a film like this is always simple. Alice (played by Milla Jovovich) wakes up naked in a shower with literally no memory of what is happening. I jokingly thought she had just slipped and knocked her head, ironically that was exactly what happened. All of a sudden the Umbrella Corps crash through her window and it’s up to them to investigate what’s going on in “The Hive”. There we see a mesh of gruesome deaths, appealing lighting and above all, crummy dialogue. We’ll get to those later though, because for now we have a bigger task at hand.
As far as films go, this is one of the strangest I’ve watched in a very long while. It opens with good intentions, building up the pace, exploring the mansion. All of a sudden, boom, some soldiers crash through the windows and arrest Alice and co. At that point I know exactly what type of film I’m in for. Not a suspenseful horror, merely a cheap action flick that’s going to rely on references to the video games. Because it’s an action film, the tense feeling is gone and replaced by the scummiest plot point of any horror film. Jump-scares. Even me, a man who is scared of ducks, is not scared of jump scares.
A scene in the film where a zombie opens its eyes and moves its hands wasn’t scary because, well, we’d been shown this scene at the start of the film. I knew there was someone in there, and the zoom in on the face was predictable.
Lighting is a very important aspect of film. Music and lighting, the two greatest components of film, are quite honestly brilliantly utilised in this film for the most part. While the music makes you hear a tense feeling, the lighting shows you a tense feeling. Throughout the film and The Hive, everything is very clean and clinical, a look that sat extremely well with me. That didn’t distract me from not knowing who the clear villain is though. It’s not The Red Queen, mainly because she’s not really there for the entire film.
Hell, you could argue it’s not the zombies either, especially considering they don’t show up for the first forty five minutes of the film. It could be Spence though. He may honestly be the best character in this film. Sure, he’s a dick head, but he’s the most cool headed person in the case of a crisis and that’s great.
Acting is something impossibly problematic in this film. Some actors did their roles well, mainly Jovovich and the guy that played Spence. As for the rest of the cast they deliver their lines as brokenly and robotic as they can possibly manage. What I noted was that, because of this, the film fails to actually give us a clear plot. You can give us all the tense moments you like, if you haven’t told the viewer what you’re doing then I’m not giving in.
Leading on from this problem was that the characters themselves were not fully developed. At one point in the film four people die without so much as a blink of the eye. I had no idea they had names until I looked up the Wikipedia page for them. On top of that, the four characters that were killed off could have easily lived had they not been shit at their jobs.
I will give credit to the appearance of the first zombie. Obviously it’s an overdone trope now that people think zombies are just a bit crazy in the head at first. The appearance of this zombie and the genuine indestructible nature of it surprised me. Of course they do cock it up by shooting it a few times and making it literally fly off its feet and backwards a good ten feet.
Still, at least the feeling of genuine thrill was there, even though it was a very brief feeling. There were times when the action just became completely ridiculous. Push aside the “zombie flying ten feet backwards because of a pistol and a machine gun” for a moment. You’ll also see a zombie spin kicked to death and the use of parkour to crack a dog round the head. The combat was flashy and frequent. Let’s be honest, it’s definitely not the worst part about this film.
Because this film came out in 2002, there is a lot of CGI. You don’t understand how happy I am to say that the CGI in this film is genuinely terrible. Honestly it is quite awful. I know it was 2002, but you know, I can tell these things aren’t real. The Licker enemy which features predominantly towards the end of the film is basically a mesh of CGI. You can tell where the budget went, and it’s probably why the film looks so simple and clinical. Slow motion shots of bullets were well done because that’s something so intrinsically simple it would take a moron to cock it up.
You do actually learn the cause of the outbreak which I think is great. Poor ventilation is a killer, folks, and this building most certainly had that problem. I’m assuming it’s the T-Virus, but it gets shattered right next to a vent, wafts through the building and from there it spreads like wildfire. Who cares though. By an hour into the film I was bored.
The film had used up its jump scare tactics and replaced the tense vibes with some mediocre action sequences. From there it was proving very difficult to capture my attention. That didn’t stop the film from trying though, scenes where we knew the zombie was there but didn’t know when it would appear still happened. On top of that a hilariously odd scene where a buzzer is used to try and increase the fear, but just becomes more annoying than anything.
There was a bit towards the start of this film where a woman tries to squeeze through a tiny gap in an elevator shaft. Now I’ve seen a couple of films that have this exact same scene. Hell, I even go through the same experience when I try and put jeans on. What I’m trying to say is that the scene in which a woman crawls through an elevator and then dies but before that happens it cuts to black, sums up this film well. You’re not expecting much, there’s a certain tense feeling. All of a sudden you’re thrown into an hour of action and then it cuts to black. The end, now piss off.
Actually, no, there’s a better example. Towards the end of the film, Spence picks up a gun, threatens everyone and tells them to remain calm. That’s how this film made me feel. They had me hooked, the gun was ready to be fired and my impressions would have been strongly positive. Then the remain calm bit happened, and from then I just couldn’t take the film seriously anymore. That was my experience with the first Resident Evil film. It was bad, crummy, poorly acted and above all had something going for itself but ruined it. Maybe I was a bit harsh, but I’m a critic. That’s what I’m supposed to do.