Starring: Kaya Scodelario, Hannah John-Kamen, Robbie Amell, Tom Hopper, Avan Jogia, Neal McDonough
Content warnings: Gore, jump scares, zombies, children in peril, big monsters covered in eyeballs
“Your conspiracy theories weren’t true when we were kids. They’re not true now. Right? Why are you even here? Did you lose your job, do you need cash? You show up here, you break into my house, what… what kind of person can pick a lock like that? It’s kind of impressive but also, what the fuck?” – Chris Redfield, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City
There have now been more Resident Evil films than I’ve had hot dinners (fun fact: I’ve only had six hot dinners in my life).
This one’s different, though. Rather than offering yet another Paul W.S. Anderson film with Milla Jovovich in the lead role again, Welcome to Raccoon City – the seventh live-action Resi film – is actually a complete reboot.
What’s more, it’s a reboot that attempts to stick a lot more closely to the events of the actual video games, rather than just going off on some fucking ridiculous tangent that was practically nothing to do with the games like the previous films did.
Specifically, Welcome to Raccoon City is based on the events of Resident Evil 1 and 2, and follows Chris and Claire Redfield, Jill Valentine and Leon Kennedy as they observe and react to the Umbrella Corporation’s initial T-Virus outbreak.
To be honest, though, the film will probably be more enjoyable if you aren’t intimately familiar with the details of the first two games, because there’s a lot of artistic licensing going on here that ensures the stories aren’t told exactly the same as they were before.
For example, in the Resident Evil 2 game, Leon arrives for his first day on the job as a Raccoon City cop to find the police department abandoned. In the film, however, Leon is a rookie who’s already been a cop for a while, and therefore knows all the other characters – Chris, Jill, Wesker and the like – as his colleagues.
Likewise, Claire’s campaign in Resi 2 involves her heading into Raccoon City to find her brother Chris because he’s gone missing, whereas here they both meet early on in the film.
The most obvious difference, though, is that in this film the events of Resident Evil 1 and 2 are taking place simultaneously, rather than two months apart. This means that as Chris, Jill, Wesker and co (but not Barry Burton, oddly) are exploring the Spencer Mansion, Leon and Claire are fighting zombies and running away from a Licker at the police station.
While such sacrilege will no doubt have some Resident Evil die-hards peeling chunks of their own flesh off at the indignity of this non-canon retelling of a sacred text, I’m perfectly fine with it.
The video games have already fucked around with the storyline in the past – look at the modern Resident Evil 2 and 3 remakes – and if you really want to experience the ‘proper’ plots as they initially took place, the original games aren’t going anywhere.
I’m just happy that this time the thing actually looks like Resident Evil. I’ll be honest, I’ve got a soft spot for the Anderson / Jovovich series but let’s face it: they’re not Resident Evil. By the time you’ve watched all six they may as well be movie adaptations of ToeJam & Earl.
This, on the other hand, is quite clearly a Resi movie. From the perfect recreation of the RCPD building to the brilliant homage to that classic ‘finding the first zombie’ scene from the first game – right down to him looking over his shoulder – there’s clearly a lot of love for the series here.
It does have one thing in common with the original games, however: the acting is fucking atrocious. In the best way, I should stress: it’s not like I was sitting there fuming at how awful the performances were, not when there were moments of gold like this:
It isn’t really that scary either, with the possible exception of the opening scene which takes place at the Raccoon City Orphanage and has a young Claire Redfield being stalked by an unknown creature. That bit’s quite cool, though it does end in a jump scare, so if you aren’t impressed by such cheapness it may not appeal to you so much.
Despite the poor performances and general lack of scares, however, the film does still end up being greater than the sum of its parts. It’s not going to win any Oscars any time soon but the fact it’s so impressively cheesy actually makes it an entertaining watch, especially with friends.
A post-credits scene (no spoilers) teases that there may be a sequel at some point, but nothing has been confirmed yet. Personally I’d be up for it, because I’d like to see this same cast and crew get a second stab at the franchise now that they’ve had their first crack at it.
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is a typical modern zombie movie, in that it combines awful acting with reasonable helpings of gore. As far as video game movies go, it’s actually pretty decent, and while it won’t even come close to threatening anyone’s all-time lists, for me it’s one of the better celluloid takes on Capcom’s series.
How can I see it?
At the time of writing, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is only available to stream digitally in the UK. American streaming will launch on January 18, while physical releases are expected in February, and can be pre-ordered on Amazon UK and Amazon US.