Monday 16 August 2010

Evil Tetralogy Minus One!

Resident Evil 2002 US
Directed by Paul W. S. Anderson
Screen Gems DVD Region 1
Resident Evil: Apocalypse 2004 US
Directed by Alexander Witt
Columbia DVD Region 2
Resident Evil: Extinction 2007 US
Directed by Russel Mulcahy
Sony DVD Region 2

It’s been a couple of years since I bothered taking up screentime to rewatch the Resident Evil movies. I’ve been telling a friend of mine to watch these since the first one came out being as, you know, he appreciates a well put together zombie movie but he’s always had some excuse or another for not getting down to it... with the approaching fourth movie in the tetralogy on our screens soon in 3D however, the time seemed right to him to do this... so I found myself carting the trilogy to a bizarre destination out of the other side of London so he could get acquainted with the trilogy for the first time.

I’ve always had fairly mixed reactions to these movies as a whole and my rewatching of the first three on DVD has done nothing to get me to really re-evaluate my feelings towards them. For the most part these are fairly decent zombie movies in the modern sense of the term (no voodoo in sight and no real scares but plenty of body count action) with some problems in the second movie and some slight inconsistencies with the third.

The Resident Evil movies are movies “inspired” by the popular Playstation series of games (called, more appropriately, Biohazard in its native Japan... as are the movies) which means they are a series of zombie movies based on games which, in themselves, were inspired by George A. Romero’s classic zombie movies... so the first problem the original director (who has produced the other movies in the series which all star his wife Mila Jovovich in the lead role of Alice) had was to not seem like a cheap rip off of Romero. Well, to be fair to him, the comparisons are inevitable but the first movie is very mysterious for the first half an hour or so and keeps both the audience and the characters guessing as to just what the heck is going on... the zombies being left for dessert rather than the main meal.

Another way of distracting us from unfair comparison is to make us compare it to every other genre favourite out there. There’s the scene straight out of Vince Natali’s Cube for example... I remember getting really annoyed about this when I was at the cinema but since the director admits as much in the commentary track (well he says it’s an “homage” to Cube anyway) then perhaps we can let him off. Even my friend was pointing out the various scenes from genre films “remade” as the initial trilogy played out.

Oh, by the way, I don’t know if it’s still on there these days but the original US release of Resident Evil had/has one of the worst, self-indulgent, gals making inappropriate jokes and giggling too much commentary tracks ever... it will annoy you... listen at your peril!

The nice thing about the first three movies is that the locations and situations won’t bore you with their familiarity. Each movie has a different kind of feel. The first one is a “get-out-of-the-underground-lair-before-time-is-up-and-we’re-trapped-and-we’ll-all-die” kind of movie. The second movie is set within a sealed off, zombied up city and is essentially a remake of Escape From New York. And the third movie is the “lets-all-ride-on-bikes-and-in-trucks-and-wander-a-post-apocalyptic-zombie-filled-planet-earth-in-search-of-a-new-zombieless-home” movie.

Another nice thing is that each successive movie doesn’t start where you think it might. During the first 10 minutes of the first movie we are treated to the sight of a passed-out-in-the-shower Mila Jovovich who wakes up with amnesia (which she and some of the other characters conveniently have for most of the first movie), gets dressed (in a rather fetching red dress) and gets spooked in the hallway of a mansion before... something happens. This first movie ends with her waking up and tearing herself from some tubes she’s hooked up to in a deserted hospital and going out into Racoon City (now overrun with zombies of course), arming herself with a shotgun and then striking a pose.

The second movie starts a little while before this outbreak of enthusiastic undeadery has had a chance to take hold and takes a good quarter of an hour to catch up to this scene from the last film. And when it does replay it the character drops out of the action again for another quarter of an hour or so before making an impressive but vaguely nonsensical entrance bursting through the windows of a church on her motorbike. This movie finishes with the main villain of the third movie introduced and letting her escape and “activating” the evil technology that is resident in her body so she basically becomes the villainess for the next movie (all of which is explained away in the next movie because the production company were presumably not brave enough to turn the main heroine into a villain for the third feature... this is the one truly weak part of the third movie... that and the bad CGI monster Alice has to fight at the end). Unfortunately I can't in any way, shape or form take the second movie seriously since the appearance halfway through of a really terribly made, man in suit, less than an old BBC Blake's Seven budget, bargain bucket monster who is supposed to be the all-powerful Nemesis. This monster is really rubbish!

Again, the third movie takes the audience by surprise by replaying the scene of Alice awakening in the shower from the first movie. At first the audience assumes we are being treated to a flashback until the events go down a different path to the scenes in the first Resident Evil (eliciting exclamations of stifled astonishment from the audience) before an explanation is given as to what the heck is going on in this first sequence.

All in all though, the movies are quite fast paced, bristling with action and too loud music and has a fair few (fairly shaky and not thought through) Alice in Wonderland references to boot. An enjoyable, switch your brain off for 4 - 5 hours moviegoing experience which I would actually go and see at a cinema as a triple bill just for the atmosphere if some bright spark were to put them on as a screening. Right... I have to stop blogging now and see if there’s a screening of the whole tetralogy sometime soon when the fourth movie gets released. Goodbye for now, undead readers!

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