Remember the days before Alien vs. Predator (2004) premiered in theaters? You know, the days when it was not a requirement to hate Paul W.S. Anderson; but rather, a life choice similar in gravity to deciding one’s career, underwear preference and toilet paper roll position. Once again, we here at the Cavalcade of Schlock ask you to journey with us back to simpler times when all we knew from Anderson was the terrifying Event Horizon (1997) and the greatest Enter the Dragon (1973) remake, Mortal Kombat (1996) and take a look at the first installment of the Resident Evil series.
Milla Jovovich stars as the aptly unnamed, amnesiac protagonist, an employee of the evil Umbrella Corporation (Traveler’s Insurance, I’m looking at you!), the world’s leading developer for all things technological, pharmaceutical and Frankensteinian. Jovovich is a security operative stuck dealing with hordes of zombies after a botched theft of Umbrella’s T-Virus and an artificial intelligence-controlled security system kill everyone in Umbrella’s underground lab. Luckily, Jovovich is not alone. Joining her amidst an assortment of cookie-cutter paramilitary types are the always-annoying Michelle Rodriguez and the always under-used Colin Salmon.
Anderson does an excellent job of getting the action started early and maintaining that momentum throughout the course of the film. (Also, starting with a semi-nude Jovovich doesn’t hurt.) However, Anderson is hindered by a low-budget. Get ready for a lot of shots that either look like the interior of every office building in which you have ever worked or else some unidentifiable void. What should be atmospheric and/or a creepy technological installation comes across at best Syfy Saturday fodder and at worst an Uwe Boll film. Compare this with Return of the Living Dead 4: Necropolis (2005) and tell me if there’s much of a difference.
While the action is fairly non-stop, the bulk of the action is based around classics of video game logic: the “go here to get something over there working,” the “find the artifact,” and the old standby “OHMYGOD WHY WON’T YOU DIE?” Adding to the video-game-en-scène are a heavily techno-inspired Marilyn Manson soundtrack, awkward/fixed camera angles, random piano blares, and frequent looks at the “map screen.” While these may seem like detractors, I found these homages enriched the film if only because Anderson did not randomly inject actual screen shots of the game into the film like other German-directed video game films (House of the Dead (2003))
My only real complaint is that 90% of the film is not scary. If you have seen any zombie movie before, you’ve seen all the scares, jumps, and pop outs in this film.
[SPOILER] However, the ending sequence from the exit of the Hive to the final shot are truly scary. If only because the sequence pops out of nowhere and tonally feels like nothing else in the film. [END SPOILER]
But, if you’re looking for a soild horror/action film, you could do worse than join the world's skinniest action star for 90 minutes of zombie ass-kicking. That and the end shot is absolute gold.