With B-horror movie inflictions and incorporation of its videogame roots, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City delivers some enjoyment for those who have played the games, although not so much for the rest of the crowd. Its direction and writing are wonky in certain moments, but hey, it could have been way worse, and it is still better than the previous installments.
1996 was the year when horror video games changed for good with the release of Resident Evil. Ever since the first installment, over thirty games have been in the franchise’s catalog. In addition, a film franchise with Paul. W. S. Anderson started with Milla Jovovich in the lead role. They were critically bombed, but since the money came in, they kept making more and more, one more ridiculous than the other. One of the main problems with them was Anderson’s lack of directorial talent and that it didn’t emulate the feeling of the games. That’s where director Johannes Roberts comes into play. Out of the blue, a reboot appears with little to no marketing and poor trailers, but don’t be warned, it isn’t terrible. The film is set in Raccoon City, once the home of the pharmaceutical enterprise, the Umbrella Corporation.
The company’s exodus now left the city a complete wasteland with the dead rising back to life due to a particular infection. When this evil is unleashed, it is up to a group of survivors, Claire Redfield (Kaya Scodelario), Leon Kennedy (Avan Jogia), Jill Valentine (Hannah John-Kamen), and Chris Redfield (Robbie Amell), to uncover the truth behind Umbrella and try and survive the night before it is too late. Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City takes inspiration from the first two installments of the video games in its narrative and look, especially the production design. However, there is still the significant difficulty of adapting video games to the big screen; I am against Hollywood doing these projects. Yet, Roberts found how it works well up to a certain point. It has many elements that the games have: the confined corridors, the claustrophobic rooms, running out of ammo with the pressure of a group of zombies trying to have you for dinner, etc.
If you have played a Resident Evil game before, you know what that feels like. Even though those are positives in my point of view, it might not be as such for non-fans, developing a disconnection between the audiences watching. The story isn’t straightforward, and the writing and character development aren’t that sharp either. Yet, the campy Resident Evil-esque dialogue that takes itself too seriously and zombie killings do bring a smile to my face that many other blockbuster films haven’t done this year. In addition to that, a B-horror movie inclination in its tone, cinematography, and special effects made me enjoy it even more. It feels like a combination of Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror (2007) meets Flesheater (1988); both are poorly made films yet very entertaining with their grindhouse tenure. There is also a bit of a small dash of Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2 (or better known as Zombie Flesh Eaters).
Looking at it on paper, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City should have been way worse than it is, albeit it is good popcorn horror-fun. The cast knows precisely what type of film they are in, and Roberts doesn’t try to sell the audience anything that isn’t on the pamphlet. It is both Resident Evil I and II together in cinematic form. It’s not in the best shape nor has enough heft to pull in audiences who aren’t fans of the video games, but it works for what it’s worth. It is a B-movie hidden in a high-profile horror franchise remake, and it is the best RE live-action adaptation we have gotten so far, even though the standards aren’t too high. My central reservation: MORE GORE, MORE SPLATTER.