Resident Evil: Afterlife

15 Sep

Before I even begin, I love the Resident Evil series. I know they get a lot of stick from fans of the game and movie goers alike but I really enjoyed them. However, I’ve never played more than ten minutes of the games before suffering mild anxiety attacks, so I’m no authority on what they’ve changed or left out.  The first was the best by far, the second left me a little cold while the third instalment managed to reboot the franchise. It would have been perfectly acceptable to just leave it at that. As much as I like watching them and become excited at the prospect of sequels, I can survive without any more coming to a cinema near me. I have the DVDs and that will do me just fine. That said, the latest in Alice’s search for some peace in a world gone to hell is anything but a Resident Evil movie in my eyes.

This time around, Alice (Milla Jojovich) is continuing her quest to find Arcadia, a supposed haven free from infection. Naturally, she joins up with a group who are on the same mission. That’s as much of the story you need to know going in, the usual zombie movie plot.

Despite the interesting and tension building opening, I couldn’t help but mentally cringe for the ten minutes or so that followed. The first action scene does little to get the heart racing and the 3D effects take more than they add. But we do get to see what became of all the Alices from the end of RE: Extinction. Unfortunately, they would have been better left unused. In this scene we’re also introduced to the big baddie of the piece, Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts). Oh, boy. If there is ever an award for the most ridiculous villain, this guy is a shoe-in! I’d forgotten his appearance in the previous film – and for a good reason too. He looks every ounce your typical bad guy and just wait until you see his acting skills. He graduated from the evil smirk school of villainy. In fact, I think he must have been valedictorian. He was over the top in a way that didn’t seem at all intentional. I’m not overly familiar with his acting ability but his filmography does read like this role wasn’t a major stretch for him. The man likes his bad horror flicks.

That’s the baddie covered, now for the heroes. Milla is back in great form but, dear oh dear, her throat has been afflicted with the same problem as Christian Bale’s Batman or Jensen Ackles’ Dean Winchester. Apparently, raspy voices are the way to win a battle – and to sound inappropriately intense while saying everyday things. As much as part of me likes this voice, I do worry what will happen to her ever-fading, scratchy tone in the expected sequels.

Ali Larter also returns as Claire Redfield – minus one memory. Then there’s her brother, Chris (Wentworth Miller), who was one of the best things about the movie but underused. Of course, the rag-tag group of survivors is a who’s who of every zombie movie’s usual suspects. How many clichés can we count? The cheeky yet loveable tough guy (Boris Kodjoe). One. A young woman, also doubling as ‘the one that happens to have trained in something that will prove useful’ (Kacey Barnfeld). Two, three. The total A-hole who was a big shot before the infection broke out (Kim Coates). Four. The cute little guy you just know is gonna die (Norman Yeung). Five. And another nice tough guy (Sergio Peris-Mencheta), because you can’t have too many around, as well as a guy who didn’t really get to do much of anything except some light perving (Fulvio Cecere). The acting was pretty dreadful overall. Larter and Miller delivered as best they could with what they were given. Kodjoe was likeable and Coates played the role of annoying jerk to a T.

As with every movie, and the games, the zombies aren’t the same from one to the next. They were you’re run of the mill undead in Resident Evil, the Lickers jumped into Apocalypse and Extinction had pumped up super zombies and also saw the virus take to the air with regenerated crows. For the fourth, evolution has dictated zombies now go all out with octopus face-splitting fun. There’s no mention of the change, so I assume they took the genetic mutation at, um, face value. The juicy Dobermans are back too! Also, there’s always a big – no, massive –  hulk of a creature. We’ve seen the first appearance of Lickers, Nemesis, Tyrant and, most recently, the terrifying Axeman (or ‘Executioner’ in the games). This guy is beyond creepy in his own right but the fact that he reminded me so much of Silent Hill’s Pyramid Head definitely added to the ‘aah’ factor. Even so, he was pretty awesome! I knew he would die because he kind of has to, I just wish he could have hung around a bit longer. I’m not saying I’d fancy running into him again, dark alleyway or no.

Like I said before, I didn’t see this as a Resident Evil movie. It came across more like a regular old zombipocalypse flick, full of tried and tested clichés. And nothing really happened. It was like the Sex and the City 2 of the horror world – a sequel for the sake of it. I expected so much more given it’s track record and Paul W.S. Anderson taking his place back in the director’s chair. He has penned all four but hasn’t been behind the camera since the franchise’s debut. Anderson is already discussing the fifth instalment and looking for fan’s input. I can only hope this will be the series’ lowest point.

3D has effectively ruined the movies of late, meaning their effects have ruined them. I wouldn’t have minded if they just took advantage of the fourth wall for throwing things towards the audience or the odd zombie brain splatter – which was done nicely – but I was driven mad by the constant freeze frame-360-slow motion-speed up scenes. It wasn’t necessary and it didn’t add to anything but my growing dislike for the 3D experience. The best use was during the underground scene. It made the atmosphere claustrophobic and put you right in it with the characters.

I can’t recommend it as wholeheartedly as I’d like to. If you’re a fan, it’s worth a watch. You may like it, this is just one person’s opinion – to each their own – I don’t see its place in the Resident Evil world, save to keep the franchise stumbling on. There’s a few jumps and some fair action sequences. The fight scenes weren’t all they could have been, too focused on high flying antics and less on the actual action. The best of the bunch came courtesy of Alice, Claire Redfield and the looming Axeman. Alice’s ‘hobby’ adds a nice touch but I couldn’t help but think of Scott Pilgrim. Overall, it’s an average horror-action film by today’s standards, which is sadly lowering all the time. All the flaws aside, It will entertain – more so if you don’t mind the effects and are looking for a no brainer.

_________

My verdict:
2 nommy brains out of 5.

Resident Evil: Afterlife is now out everywhere.

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