It's been a very, very long time since I saw a zombie movie done well. Not since the 2nd installment of Romero's "Dead" series, in fact, and that came out in the 70's. That's an awfully long time to wait. Fortunately, it was worth it... sort of. It was good but it was just too... too Hollywood and not enough Zombie? Yes, I think that's it. Curious? Read on.
Resident Evil is based on the best-selling survival-horror video game franchise, starting on the Playstation, then continuing onto other platforms. There are four "episodes" in existence, and another on the way for the Gamecube, and they are all fabulous, my favorite games to date (next to my MUD, of course), and take the zombie genre into new and interesting areas. And, as games go, they are startling, suspenseful, scary and gory as all get-out. Sounds like a great premise for a movie, eh?
The story follows Alice (Milla Jovovich), a young woman with amnesia who is thrust into a nightmarish exploration of an underground laboratory after being swept up in the actions of a private mercenary army. As they enter into the secret biological-warfare laboratory of the Umbrella corporation, they find it infested with all manner of creatures, including (of course) zombies.
The rest of the characters in the film, with the possible exception of Matt (Eric Mabius), are all action-horror stereotypes, and not really worth talking about. What is worth talking about, however, is the atmosphere of the film, the feeling it engenders. There are some colossal shocks in this film, one that made me just about jump out of my skin (which I enjoyed whole-heartedly).
Visually, the film is stark and unfriendly, making the audience uncomfortable, which is just what it was supposed to do. The music compliments the atmosphere nicely, but was nothing exceptional. The creatures are the true stars of this film. The make-up effects are fantastic, and what little animatronics/CGI are used are blended seamlessly with the live-action. Mostly, this film ends up being about zombies, lots and lots of zombies, and about the group's attempts to make it back up out of the research facility alive, and before the failsafe lockdown seals them in.
My one complaint with this film is odd, but valid: It wasn't gory enough. George Romero took his audiences through more visual shock gore in black and white with Night of the Living Dead, almost twice over, than we saw in Resident Evil. Not to say that there wasn't any, there was, but in keeping with the game, there should have almost been enough gore to qualify this film as an honorary Hammer offering (the wonderfully tacky 1960's and 70's British horror series starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee). The filmmakers, however, apparently decided to tone down the gore, even though the film did end up with an 'R' rating, and thusly, make what could have been a deathly-frightening film into a moderately scary one.
Overall, I give this film a B+. I would recommend seeing it if you like action films or horror films, but it is a mandatory 'in-theatre' see if you, like me, are fascinated by the walking undead who moan and eat people. If you're one of those, first off... welcome to the club, and secondly... see this movie.