Directed by: Johannes Roberts
Premise: Based on the video game. Set in 1998, a woman (Kaya Scodelario) returns to her hometown where the Umbrella Corporation is closing its pharmaceutical research facility. A chemical leak turns the city’s residents into monsters.
What Works: Resident Evil was previously brought to cinema screens in a series of films starring Milla Jovovich. The 2021 picture reboots the series and to its credit this movie offers a distinctively different take on the material. Where the previous Resident Evil series was action oriented, the new film is much more of a horror picture.
What Doesn’t: The Milla Jovovich-starring Resident Evil series was not great cinema but those films more or less made sense (according to their own internal logic) and could be, in the best cases, trashy B-movie entertainment. Welcome to Racoon City does not improve on the earlier version. It is oftentimes much worse. 2021’s Resident Evil is incoherent in both story and screen direction. A chemical spill in the local water supply has turned the citizens of Racoon City into zombie-like monsters but for inexplicable reasons the small group of survivors haven’t been contaminated. The beginning of Resident Evil strings together several sequences, none of which make for an adequate opening. The movie includes flashbacks with a recurring character but nothing comes together in a meaningful or comprehensible way. Scenes feel disconnected from one another and the story spins its wheels. Resident Evil has the kernel of a compelling story; a chemical spill has unleashed monsters and the survivors have to get out of Racoon City before it is destroyed. That premise is utterly botched. There is no sense of purpose or escalation. The characters aren’t following an escape plan. They mostly wander around dimly lit hallways and fight random monsters. Welcome to Racoon City has occasional jump scares, gunfire, and monstrous reveals but none of it signifies anything. The film is neither exciting nor frightening. Some of that is due to inept execution of the set pieces but it’s also attributable to the underwritten characters. No one has a personality or even a distinguishing trait. Everyone is generic and interchangeable. There is no one to invest any kind of emotion in their survival. Matters aren’t helped by the poor special effects. The lousy digital animation may be in keeping with its 1990s setting, but this film consistently looks like a SyFy Channel movie and not in a way that’s any fun.
Bottom Line: Video game adaptations have a lousy track record but Resident Evil: Welcome to Racoon City is among the worst. This is incompetent filmmaking and viewers looking for a nostalgic and scary Resident Evil experience would be better off digging out their old gaming consoles.
Episode: #882 (December 12, 2021)