Reviews

Resident Evil: Deluxe Edition (2002)

Cynthia Fuchs

Resident Evil opens at a moment that might be best described as mid-psychosis, that is, the titular evil is overtaking the 'residence'.


Resident Evil: Deluxe Edition

Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Eric Mabius, James Purefoy, Colin Salmon
MPAA rating: R
Studio: Screen Gems
First date: 2002
US DVD Release Date: 2004-09-07
This guy can really dislocate his foot, which is why that looks so good. It shouldn't be like that. It's not natural.
-- Paul Anderson, commentary track, Resident Evil: Deluxe Edition

When Milla kicks the dog, that's called a "dog on a stick." There's a man standing there in that scene, with a stick attached to the dog, holding it in place for Milla to kick.
-- Richard Yuricich, commentary track, Resident Evil: Deluxe Edition

Just in time for the sequel's theatrical release, Columbia is releasing the excellent "Deluxe Edition" DVD of Resident Evil. "Zombies are only scary if they're in tight, confined spaces," muses Paul Anderson during his commentary track with visual effects supervisor Richard Yuricich. "That's something you learn from Romero's movies, is that when they're in the open, these things are easy to move around, they're easy to push over, and they become jokey, they become funny... With this movie, we didn't want that, we wanted the zombies to remain scary. Which is why we limited the amount of screen time, and whenever you see them, there's a lot of them, and it's always in a tight, confined space, so there's no getting away from them."

In addition to the essential pleasures of watching Alice (Milla Jovovich) in full-on kickass mode, the DVD includes numerous extras: the previous "Special Edition"'s entertaining commentary by Anderson, producer Jeremy Bolt, and stars Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez, as well as the second by Anderson and Yuricich, whose previous credits include Anderson's Event Horizon and Kubrich's 2001. The DVD also offers a preview of the new, non-Anderson film ("My name is Alice, and I remember everything!"), an alternate ending (with Anderson explaining why he decided against it, namely, he preferred the "bleak ending," inspired by '70s films)); "Resident Evil: Apocalypse Fangoria Clip Compilation" and "Resident Evil from Game to Screen," and a series of featurettes (some repeated from the "Special Edition" DVD), on storyboarding, scoring, costume and set designing, and making the creatures, the elevator scene (this with Yuricich's helpful observations), the laser, the zombie dogs and zombies (this involved attending "zombie boot camp," to ensure that they wouldn't end up looking like they were on the set of "Thriller").

Resident Evil, derived from the beloved video game franchise, is more than one more movie about killing zombies, featuring a fabulous chick hero with a short skirt and a big gun. It's a morass of narrative fractures, provocative, strange, and incoherent in ways that speak to current identity and community anxieties.

The plot is full of the kinds of obstacles and tests that take up time in video games, and the flesh-eating zombies business looks more unoriginal splatter-mongering than cunning homage to George Romero's Night of the Living Dead. (Here, they're called the Undead.) The ultimate monster-thingy, called the Licker, doesn't get enough screen time to exercise its repeatedly mutating threat to the fullest extent possible. And granted again, this has to do with time and money expenses -- according to Anderson on the DVD commentary track with his actors, the digitization process took forever, some 48 hours to render one frame for the Licker, keeping in mind that each second of film requires 24 frames.

The German-British co-production, is a remarkably self-aware and tricky movie, acknowledging upfront that its lack of linear sense is the precisely point of emotional and moral departure for Alice. This intricacy comes courtesy of Anderson's perverse genius; his dark predilections for constructing Terrible Places and fragmenting the heck out of narratives (here, in particular, Alice in Wonderland-style) made the SF-horror flick Event Horizon alarming and smart, if not entirely successful, and bestowed a notably grim-and-arty look on the recent AVP.

Such predilections serve Resident Evil well. It opens at a moment that might be best described as mid-psychosis, that is, the titular evil is overtaking the residence, a research facility owned by the ominously named Umbrella Corporation (which owns and/or exploits essentially everything on earth) and called, again ominously, the Hive. This facility exists beneath Raccoon City, whose citizens depend on the Umbrella Corporation for food and air. Here, Umbrella develops such consumables, along with military technologies, bioengineering, and viral weapons.

Within seconds, the Hive's technicians, scientists, and administrative types are under attack by the computer that oversees the facility. And though you won't find this out until later, the computer is called Red Queen, now "gone homicidal." Elevators stop, rooms fill with gas or water, Dobermans jump and bark in their cages. And all the people die. The fact that the Red Queen is behind the murderous rampage is made plain in the appeal that all the victims beseech the surveillance cameras, their red "record" lights ominously on, before the shots cut to point of view images, so you're looking on the desperate victims shouting at you/the camera/the computer, as they scream useful directions such as, "No!"

During this initial devastation and murder, some unknown someone has let loose a bright blue liquid, which you later learn is the T-virus. Alert! Alert! Biohazard alert! This virus is designed to "reanimate" cells. The problem is, it not only heals disease (apparently the initial intent), but also brings the dead back to life, with only one idea on their non-existent minds -- to "feed." Hence, the Living Dead imagery, much of it lifted directly from Romero (as homage, not rip-off). The ghouls throw themselves on appalled living humans' necks, mouths agape, and they're most definitively killable by one very familiar means -- "Shoot 'em in the head." The shooters, that is, the characters based on the video game subject positions, are primarily a SWAT-looking team of government soldiers: One (a.k.a. Team Leader, played by the exquisite Colin Salmon), Rain (Rodriguez), computer-guy Kaplan (Martin Crewes), got-your-back-guy JD (Pasquale Aleardi), and assorted expendables, designated as Commando 1, Commando 2, et. al.

The team arrives in gas masks, black uniforms, outfitted with large weapons and loads of attitude. And their first apparent mission is to rescue Alice, who doesn't know who she is yet. Alice's amnesia (brought on by the computer's "defense mechanism," some nerve gassy business) is Resident Evil's best trick. For, as Alice flashes back in brief blitzy moments, figuring out who she is and how she came to be in this mess, you find out (sort of) where you are too (and frankly, the longer this revelation is put off, the better, for the plot can't seem to help but be simplistic and uninteresting -- not knowing is much better).

Alice first wakes just after the attack on the Hive, and here you see that she lives in a huge mansion. (Her eye pops open in extreme close-up, marking a next chapter, and at the end of the film, the same image implies a sequel, or maybe just the next game in the series.) Come to find out that this mansion hides an entrance to the Hive, by way of underground tunnels, when the SWAT-ish team shows up to get access to the Hive. Also come to find out that Alice is a totally exquisite operative: she kicks and runs up and down walls, and shoots with deadly perfect aim. Her memory returns, one broken-up instant at a time, under bits of dire circumstances. The effect is terrific.

The basic idea here is that the team must journey to the center of the Hive, where it confronts the Red Queen, then has to get back out. They encounter various problems, for instance, the Laser Hallway, where a beam slices through human bodies to produce fall-away parts; it's more conceptual than visual... though the concept is pretty darn nasty. Or, Alice, temporarily separated from the SWAT-ish team, meets up with a herd of Zombie Dogs (the aforementioned Dobermans, transformed into flesh-out creepy-crawlers by the T-virus). They're unarguably nasty bits of work, and she dispatches them efficiently, with deadly panache.

The Red Queen eventually becomes visible as a holographic image, an adorable, British-accented girl (Michaela Dicker), ominously "modeled after the designer's daughter." Her major responsibility is to tell the human protagonists, "You're all going to die down here," which is not a little distressing, coming from this small, red-effected, see-through child (and not a little reminiscent of Event Horizon). Her appearance in the "heart" of the Hive, a magnificently vast chamber housing rows and rows of old-fashioned-seeming computer "banks," dark and menacing as if they've been puked up out of the time-warped environment of Brazil. As a representation of "evil," this chamber does its job.

Running counter to the zombies' havoc, is the film's primary coherent relationship, between Alice and Rain. Once Rain is bitten by one of those Undeads, she turns increasingly grumpy, such that her skin tone turns paler and more ghoulish and her eyes start rolling back in her head. Yet, Alice grows fonder of her new compatriot. And when Rain comes back from what looks to be a for sure goner-snooze, Alice delivers the film's most precious one-liner: "I should kiss you, bitch!" Just then, she's distracted by some monster-action (in particular, monster-tongue action, as the Licker reappears), and the moment is lost. Such is the general rhythm of Resident Evil, a series of good ideas -- the screwed-up narrative, the amnesiac hero -- with too little room to move.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image