You’d think it would be a simple matter to break down the potential audience for Resident Evil: Extinction. There are, after all, those not likely to respond to a movie involving zombie crows and those who are likely to respond to such a film. I kind of like the idea of zombie crows myself, even though I admit I prefer my reviewing comrade Justin Souther’s notion of zombie giraffes, and what I’d really want to see are zombie kangaroos. Consider that last: Not only would zombie kangaroos allow me to work the word “marsupial” into the review, think of the challenge it would present to the filmmakers! Is it even possible to make a creature, whose basic manner of locomotion is hopping, move in that shambling zombie-shuffle gait? But enough daydreaming about what might have been and back to the central issue of zombie crows. Despite finding the prospect of legions of undead ornithological specimens appealing, the sad fact is that they’re not very well done, and they’re housed in a movie that’s even worse.
OK, so no one expects much out of these Resident Evil flicks. Adapted from a series of video games, they’re pretty much just a series of gory action set pieces involving a scantily clad woman named Alice (Milla Jovovich) battling hordes of zombies. According to the story, the zombies came into being when something called the T-virus got loose in a subterranean research facility owned by an evil outfit called the Umbrella Corporation. The appeal lies entirely in watching Jovovich kick zombie ass for an hour and a half, while fans live in hope that she will display her private parts as she did in the original Resident Evil (2002). (For the record, she does not.)
The big deal this time—apart from the zombified birds—lies in the film taking place in a post-zombie-apocalypse Las Vegas, which, for reasons I don’t understand, is mostly buried in sand. The problem is only a very small part of the movie actually takes place in this novel locale, and that part doesn’t exactly make brilliant use of the location. In fact, the only real use that’s made of Vegas is a bit where one of the good guys climbs up the city’s bogus Eiffel Tower. Otherwise, this latest installment is just business as usual—albeit awfully budget-conscious business, especially in scenes that resort to computer imagery depicting the labyrinthian underground Umbrella establishments (“this is what we would show you if we had the money”).
The film’s amassed silliness—not to mention its über-cheesy CGI bloodletting—is mildly diverting if you like that sort of thing, while the unintentional laughs also help (Mike Epps’ slow zombification is hysterically melodramatic). However, the most that fun horror fans are apt to have lies in spotting the veritable cornucopia of rip-offs from other sources. Just this once I wish I had taken notes while watching the movie, because I’m sure I’ve forgotten a number of “borrowings.” However, I do remember that there are bits of Stephen King’s novel The Stand, wholesale liftings from George A. Romero’s 1985 Day of the Dead (as well as all his other zombie pictures), Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Alien: Resurrection (1997), Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963), George Miller’s The Road Warrior (1981)—and I could list more.
The primary “influence” seems to be Day of the Dead, with its concept of “training” or “conditioning” the zombies—only here, the idea is taken to incomprehensible extremes. The mad medico Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen, veteran of the first sequel) seems to think that zombies can be turned into a low-cost work force, which actually takes the idea back to the Halperin Brothers’ White Zombie (1932) where Bela Lugosi ran an all-zombie sugar mill. OK, so there’s a problem of supply and demand with this concept. Even if you could get zombies to run an assembly line, there really wouldn’t be anyone around to buy whatever it is they’d be producing. Oh, those zany mad scientists! That said, the idea is a lot more fun to contemplate than the fact that this supposedly final film in the series is left wide open for a sequel. Resident Evil: Zombie Factory Workers on Strike maybe? Rated R for strong horror violence throughout and some nudity.