As someone who never made it all the way through the original, most basic video game Sonic the Hedgehog, I’m not in the best position to comment on just how successfully the film version of Resident Evil captures its source video game. As someone who has sampled all manner of cinematic cheese, however, I’d give it moderately high marks on Velveetameter. Resident Evil is basically a generic horror movie thrill ride — fast, violent, bloody and virtually plotless once you get past its basic premise. When something called the “T virus” is accidentally unleashed in the super-secret underground research facility — called the “Hive” — of the Umbrella Corporation, an elite team of corporate soldiers are sent to see what went wrong. They discover that the facility’s computer, the “Red Queen,” has killed the entire workforce of 500 to prevent the virus from being carried into the upper world. There are two inherent problems in this: The Red Queen doesn’t intend on letting them out, either. And there’s a nasty side-effect to the virus in that it reanimates the dead into George Romero flesh-chomping zombies. (The movie owes a huge debt to the final film in Romero’s zombie trilogy, Day of the Dead.) So the story concerns the efforts of the elite team to get out of the Hive without becoming a free lunch for the lurching dead. Much like a video game, the entire film consists of our heroes maneuvering past a series of obstacles impeding their progress — lasers; the lethal computer; zombies various and sundry (including some genuinely nasty-looking zombified Dobermans); and a slimy, mutant CGI-effect monster. This isn’t a deep-dish movie. We’re not talking Ingmar Bergman or Stanley Kubrick here. Hell, we’re not even talking Tobe Hooper or Wes Craven. We’re talking Milla Jovovich (Zoolander) in an improbably skimpy red dress unleashing maximum firepower on an unending procession of hunger-crazed zombies. The movie’s whole intent is to make the viewer jump as often as possible — and for about three quarters of its length, it doesn’t do a bad job within that limited range. In fact, one of its shock scenes deserves inclusion in anyone’s pantheon of such moments. The problem with this kind of thing is that it ultimately wears out its welcome, so that by the film’s final act, it’s not much more than a mechanical exercise. In Resident Evil it’s actually a little worse, since the film has a tendency to confuse loud with scary (there’s not a single shock effect that isn’t accompanied by an ear-shattering blast of Marco Beltrami’s score or a generic heavy-metal eruption from Marilyn Manson). The premise works for a while; then it becomes giggle-inducing. Taken as a dumb shock-machine horror flick with above-average production values, Resident Evil is an OK time-killer with a handful of genuinely effective moments that raise it a notch or two above the average, but it’s nothing special.
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