Resident Evil

2002, Movie, R, 100 mins

Review

RESIDENT EVIL
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To say that a horror movie based on a hugely popular video game series, Capcom's multipart Resident Evil (which itself owes a major conceptual debt to George Romero's cannibal zombie trilogy), is derivative is a blinding glimpse of the obvious. But what's really remarkable about this claustrophobic frightfest is how closely it resembles a nearly 20-year-old horror film called WARNING SIGN, slicked up with a future-dystopian sheen. In the 1985 movie, an experimental virus contaminates a biotechnology lab with a secret bioweapons research division, killing the employees and locking down the facility. The dead employees later rise as cannibal zombies and terrorize the sole survivor, a security guard, and her husband, a local cop who's infiltrated the facility in hopes of saving her. In the new, bigger and more self-consciously cynical version, set somewhere in the near future, an experimental virus contaminates a biotechnology facility (dubbed the Hive and controlled by a supercomputer called the Red Queen) with a secret bioweapons research division, causing the Red Queen to kill the employees and lock down the facility. The dead employees later rise as cannibal zombies and terrorize the tactical weapons team that's infiltrated the facility in hopes of containing the mess on behalf of the sinister Umbrella Corporation. The main event in both films is the spectacle of shambling, bloody-mouthed zombies in lab coats crowding corridors, erupting out of elevators and pressed up against safety-glass windows, clamoring wetly for the taste of human flesh. The movie's monsters — zombie staff, rotted Dobermans and "the licker," a mutant with a killer tongue — all originated in the game series, though the human characters are original to the screenplay, if original is the word. Some time is devoted to setting up a puzzle: Who are Alice (Milla Jovovich), Matt (Eric Mabius) and Spence (James Purefoy), three apparent civilians dragged along with the corporate SWATs when they're found in the mansion that conceals a secret entrance to the Hive? Matt claims to be a cop, while Alice and Spence are soon revealed as corporate agents suffering near-total amnesia. Could any or all of them have been involved in what happened at the Hive, and if so, how? But such matters take a back seat to the requisite running and screaming from generally unconvincing CGI effects. Handsome and sometimes creepy, but formulaic in the extreme. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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