It’s hard to overstate how exciting the Resident Evil game was when it first appeared on home consoles. For years developers had been wedded to the idea of creating an ‘interactive movie’, which in practice meant shoddy, low resolution FMV sections padding out a medicore game. Capcom went one better, using cinematic language and our shared experience of growing up in the ’80s, the age of the Video Nasty. With Resident Evil they created the interactive B-Movie…
With the release of Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City (available to Download & Keep on January 31st, to Rent on Digital, on 4K Ultra HD™, Blu-ray™ and DVD on February 7th) we’re taking a look at a film series which has come full circle. From the wildly propulsive 2002 original to the reboot of last year, here are some of the iconic moments between the gunfights and the brain matter splatter which give this series its identity. And maybe, they’ll explain why, once its first cinematic iteration ran dry, the reboot, the return to the place it all began, was the obvious next step.
Resident Evil & Resident Evil The Final Chapter
For a film spawned from a ‘90s video game there are few ‘puzzles’ in the film series. This makes sense, as watching people solve something is far less satisfying than doing it yourself. Nevertheless, in deference to its roots the first Resident Evil film had one ghoulish obstacle befitting of its origins. The Laser Room is one of those scenes that instantly stamps its authority and identity onto a film. The laser grid corridor would be at home in a Quick-Time Event halfway through a game level as it is on the big screen. It made a mess of things (diced Salmon anyone?), and it was one of the most memorable scenes of the film.
It makes sense then that, some years and (mostly less successful) sequles later, the Final Chapter sought to return to the well. Or, a horizontal well. With lasers… You get the picture.
Unfortunately, while it was mildly diverting to see the film come knowingly full circle, the Laser Room scene in The Final Chapter is so frenzied, so choppily edited and geographically inane that it falls flat. It’s like an encore with the band playing their most well known song at twice the speed, with the sound cutting out. And the instruments broken. Just watch…
Few moments are dearer to ‘90s gamers than the initial exploration of the East wing of the Spencer mansion. The use of cinematic camera angles made up for the tank-like movement mechanic, and nowhere in the first game was this more evident than the moment when zombies dogs smash through the corridor windows, startling the novice player who was just looking around for some green herbs.
While we didn’t have a window-smashing dog, nor a Spencer mansion of note in the early films, there are some gruesome looking hounds in the films.
We had skinless dogs growling, dogs with splitting headaches – everything for the horror-hungry cynophobic. And while violence against animals is often cited as the biggest audience no-no, there was a sigh of relief when their zombie canine faces met with the steel-toe capped boots of Milla Jovivich’s Alice.
Resident Evil Afterlife
Before the latest Resident Evil film welcomed us back to Raccoon City, six of the Anderson/Jovovich RE films were made. The film’s protagonist Alice suffered Apocalypse, Extinction, Afterlife and Retribution before closing things off with a Final Chapter. Sadly the law of diminishing returns was felt keenly by the series, with each new chapter replaying similar set pieces while leaning on the elements they thought the audience wanted.
However, there are moments when attempts were made to one-up previous instalments. Occasionally even, there were sequences that sought to bring something new to solve the problem of how to kill zombies for two hours straight.
In Resident Evil Afterlife (post-Apocalypse, Extinction and pre-Retribution) our plucky band of Never-Dies are trapped on a rooftop with rabid hordes of gnashers all around. With Matrixesque believability Jovivich’s Alice stages a death-defying bungee jump off the roof while hundreds of brainless zombs cascade after her like an undead waterfall. She lands (via a curiously unlikely tuck-and-roll at 100mph), shotguns to hand and continues picking off zombies, to fight another day.
It’s a fun scene, or it would be if it were not for the comically childish way it was shot. Mid scene slo-mo in time with the banging soundtrack, unutterably ridiculous shoehorning of “it’ll look great in 3-D” shot composition and CG of the most henious Shareware Windows Movie Maker add-on ever. Just watch.
But, help (and more zombies obviously) was another the corner.
The First Zombie
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City
At a crucial point in Johannes Roberts’ freshly packed reboot of the Resident Evil movie series, members of the investigating STARS team happen upon a mansion deep in Raccoon City. The mansion appears deserted, but we know better…
The team cautiously scout the ground floor and hear something nasty in a far corner. Guns and torches raised they get closer and see this…
It’s a perfect call back to the original 1996 Resident Evil game. It was a sign that those now in charge of the big screen Resi film grew up on the games, and wanted to celebrate it.
Here’s how it looked in the first game:
The moment played heavily in the promotion for the film, and with little wonder. It remains a defining moment in the game series, and in gaming history – take that ‘oafish use of FMV for little purpose’ game developers!
Where the film series will go now is uncertain. The first and second games have been well used in WTRC, and while the main game series has travelled the world reinventing itself, remasters of the original games are being eaten up by a new audience.
It’s clear that zombies are here to stay and, fittingly for a series inspired by the works of George A. Romero, have become shorthand for undead bullet hellscapes. The name Resident Evil will long evoke feelings of dread and pant-troubling fear, let us hope that the movie outings bearing the name have similar powers of evolution as the T-Virus.
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is available to Download & Keep on January 31st, to Rent on Digital, on 4K Ultra HD™, Blu-ray™ and DVD on February 7th. Enter our competition to win a copy right here.