If anyone asked me to create an amusement park based on something in pop culture, I would recreate the spooky Spencer Mansion and Raccoon Police Department of the Resident Evil games. If you’ve pulling me right now, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is definitely the movie for you. If you do not know what I’m talking about, it certainly is not.
The film – which hitand lands in the UK on December 3rd and Australia on December 8th – is written and directed by 47 Meters Downs Johannes Roberts, and delivers an adaptation that is pretty true to the source material. He wisely restarts the films and rejects the complex continuity of the film Resident Evil excursions that hardly resembled the games.
In doing so, Roberts has made a film that will delight fans looking for a fun ride filled with Easter eggs through the first two games ofsurvival horror series. But the film may leave the wider audience a bit confused and dissatisfied.
Back to the 90s
The film starts promisingly with a flashback to siblings Claire and Chris Redfield as young people living in a spooky orphanage. Like most of Raccoon City, this place is run by Umbrella Corporation (an orphanage run by a drug company will definitely raise some red flags?) And has an intense “unethical experimental” vibe.
We jump to 1998, when Umbrella left town to establish a new place. The Redfields are all adults and have gone their separate ways, but Claire (Maze Runner’s Kaya Scodelario) returns with some intense conspiracy theories about Umbrella’s experiments on the population. But Chris (Robbie Amell from), who is now a member of the city’s police force and feels in debt to the company, has none of it, and his sister’s suspicion falls on deaf ears.
Zombies soon start tumbling through the streets and taking bites of people, suggesting that Claire might just be right. When Raccoon City falls into chaos, she goes to the police station to find Chris again, and along the way she teams up with the clumsy rookie cop Leon S. Kennedy (Avan Jogia from) and slimy chief Brian Irons (Donal Logue of ).
Meanwhile, Chris and his elite team, which includes series icons Jill Valentine (‘s Hannah John-Kamen) and Albert Wesker (Tom Hopper from ), are sent to the abandoned mansion on the outskirts of the city to locate their missing countrymen and discover more hungry undead.
Fans of the long-running game series will recognize these separate plot threads once the stories of the first two contributions are masked together, so the film has a huge amount to cover in its lively 107-minute playing time. And it ties in pretty well, and pays homage to the games’ sloppy dialogue and B-movie inspiration along the way.
Meet the Redfields
Scodelario gives Claire a sympathetic intensity, even though she’s nowhere near as hot a character as she is in the games. She and Amell jump off each other nicely, giving a sense that there is plenty of love between these siblings despite their differences.
The rest of the characters feel secondary to the Redfields, but all the actors manage to make them memorable. Logue chews scenery while his hectic police chief delivers a mediating dialogue in a breathlessly comic way, Jogias Leon stumbles over his own feet (his incompetence is likely to annoy game fans), and Hopper infuses the traditionally icy Wesker with a fascinating inner conflict.
We also get Neal McDonough (from) as William Birkin hammering it up as he slips from a loving father to a manic scientist. Despite their prominent place in the games, the film does not dive deep into the Birkin family enough to make them memorable.
It makes sense to push these characters into the background, but John-Kamen feels criminally underutilized. In contrast toJill from the games, the movie version is a bit unobtrusive and unpredictable. John-Kamen obviously has fun in this role and is a pleasure to watch, but you feel like spending more time with her.
City of the Dead
As fans of the games know, Resident Evil’s location is as important as its characters. The film’s versions are both heavily influenced by their game counterparts, but the large mansion feels a bit cramped, and the background of the police station’s main hall has a CGI tinge of unreality (makes it look strange, but also charmingly resembles one of the old games pre-rendered backgrounds). Apart from these spaces, the film does not stay long enough in other places to give us a feeling that they have been ripped from the games.
Zombie makeup is super spooky and visually distinctive across the board, while the CGI monsters blend convincingly with the practical elements and stay true to their game counterparts.
Encounters with the undead are engaging and intense, with the quick cuts and disturbing perspectives paying homage to the early camera angles of the early games. The most memorable encounter is seeing Chris fight a zombie horde lit only by the glare of his pistol and brighter – it will give you the same kind of adrenaline rush that you got from the most exciting moments of the games.
The specifics of some visual elements are likely to alienate people who have not played the games – a scene where Claire stops to watch a projected film will blow many years of fans away, but it will feel like a non-sequitur for more relaxed viewers.
Survival horror spirit
The surprising use of 90s pop songs (and a killer 80s tune) offsets some of the film’s darker moments, adds a touch of surrealism and reminds us that filmmakers do not take themselves too seriously. In contrast, the score is by Mark Korven (who has previously shown his horror chops on The Witch and) adds a layer of fear as our heroes struggle to survive in this doomed city.
The film leans harder into the games’ appearance, action, and irreverent peculiarity than it does at their terrifying moments, so those hoping for big scares are likely to be disappointed. One of the games’ really scary-but-tragic enemies may be a little too humanized, reducing the level of threat, while anotheris completely absent.
Still, Johannes Roberts’ love for Resident Evil is evident in every moment of Welcome to Raccoon City, despite the lack of scares, minor adjustments to the game’s story, and overall stupidity. With a flurry of Easter eggs – make sure to stay in the sequence in the middle of credits – and fascinating versions of classic characters, the film is a joyous trip back to Spencer Mansion and the Raccoon Police Department aimed directly at fans.
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