“Resident Evil” review: “Welcome to Raccoon City” does not restart correctly
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With six films to its credit, the “Resident Evil” franchise is restarting with “Welcome to Raccoon City”. It also seems on the nose (decaying) to call video game writer-director Johannes Roberts in 2021 a zombified version of its predecessor, but when a movie is at this brain dead end, the metaphor is won. “Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City” may reward longtime video game fans by going back to the series’ origins, but others will want to leave town, just like the characters in the film.
After decades of supporting Raccoon City, the pharmaceutical company Umbrella Corporation abandoned the city, turning it into a sparsely populated wasteland. Only the cops and those too poor to escape are left, and the latter group is starting to show alarming symptoms. Soon the police station is attacked by a horde of zombies, and the remaining humans desperately seek to escape Raccoon City as the Umbrella Corporation intends to destroy the entire city to cover up its crimes.
Deep characterization is rarely a feature of regular horror movies or video game adaptations, but “Welcome to Raccoon City” still manages to squeeze under that bar in the basement. There is not much to distinguish the cops in the film from each other as humans; There’s the sniper (Hannah John-Kamen), the crappy rookie (Avan Jogia), the one with the triceps (Tom Hopper), the irascible boss (Donal Logue) and, uh, the others.
The Redfield siblings have a bit more time, but there’s still not much to grab hold of, especially with Robbie Amell’s kind cop Chris Redfield. Kaya Scodelario rebel Claire Redfield continues to depend on the franchise for strong female roles after the previous incarnation found its strength in Milla Jovovich’s Alice. But while Scodelario deftly carried the terror of “Crawl”, she doesn’t have much to work on here – and we don’t have much reason to put down roots.
With a police station as one of its central locations, “Welcome to Raccoon City” leans into the “Assault on Precinct 13” vibes but falls short of the 2005 remake, to say nothing of the genius of the original. by John Carpenter. There isn’t much of a sense of place, whether we’re talking about the station or the city as a whole, which is particularly infuriating given that Raccoon City is meant to be a central part of that mythology.
“Welcome to Raccoon City” is set in 1998, and even if you miss the title card with the date (September 30, to be exact), the film hammers its era with specific references to the era (Blockbuster! CD ! PalmPilot!). If the nostalgic winks don’t make you feel old, the movie’s main approach to making things spooky – an assault volume level – will.
The film never successfully replicates the fear that characterizes video games, and its loose gore approach is as imaginative as a child plucking a scab. A single cool scene – a single one lit by mouth flashes – shows the stylistic promise displayed in Roberts’ previous film “The Strangers: Prey at Night,” but the film is otherwise visually unremarkable, complete with ridiculously bad CGI mutants.
The lead director of the first six films, Paul WS Anderson, gets a lot of reviews, but at least he’s shown he knows how to make a horror movie. I never thought I would dream of Anderson’s directing talents, but “Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City” made me miss the good old days of the show.
‘Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City’
Rated: R, for strong violence and gore, and language throughout
Duration of operation: 1 hour 47 minutes
Playing: Starts November 24 in general release