Julien Neaves, Editor
Plot: The film follows troubled loner Claire Redfield (Kaya Scodelario) who returns to her hometown of Raccoon City to reconnect with her strait laced cop brother Chris Redfield (CW’s Robbie Amell). But her planned reunion turns into a nightmare when the city is overrun by a zombie virus and other horrible monsters are unleashed.
Context: Long-running survival horror video game franchise Resident Evil has been experiencing a Renaissance of late with the latest entries Part VII and Village both receiving acclaim along with the Resident Evil 2 remake (the Part 3 remake, not so much). I am fan of the franchise myself though the last one I played was Part IV (#feelshame). While the video games have been delivering quality the same cannot be said for its recent entries on the small and big screen. In July we had the hugely disappointing Netflix anime series Infinite Darkness and recently the middling franchise reboot Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City.
Now the Milla Jovovich-led six film franchise was never in danger of winning any awards (other than Razzies) and were not always faithful to the source material but there was a somewhat campy charm to them. While WTRC is relatively faithful to the games it is something of a charmless, mediocre experience. With a Titan-sized SPOILER ALERT let’s take a trip to Raccoon City!
Review: Let’s start with the stuff that works. The tone of the film leans more towards horror than action which I thought was a smart move as the previous films got way too action heavy. Now it’s not the scariest film and it relies way too much on jump scares but I will give them points for effort. The movie is also clearly made for fans of the games as there are multiple characters, references (yes, there is a “Jill Sandwich”), puzzle solving, locations, creatures and even scenes pulled right from the source material. Some of the practical effects work is well done, especially with the extremely creepy Lisa Trevor character. There is also some okay zombie/monster killing action with Lisa giving a Licker some free plastic surgery being a highlight.
That’s where the positives end though. Other than Chris the other characters (all whose names are said in their entirety repeatedly, just in case you missed it) are barely recognisable. Claire is way too angsty. Hannah John-Kamen (Killjoys, Ant-Man and The Wasp) is okay as Jill Valentine but a little too quippy. And where’s her trademark red hair? Wesker (played by The Umbrella Academy’s Tom Hopper) is still a traitorous bastard but he is reduced to a common criminal who they try to make sympathetic. Where’s the Machiavellian big bad? Not here.
On the flipside they make scientist William Birkin (Neal McDonough, who was in another not-so-great video game adaptation Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li) less sympathetic, more evil and much more generic. But the biggest offender is Avan Jogia’s Leon S. Kennedy. Now they probably didn’t want to go with the blonde-haired version of Leon from the games to add some diversity, but there was no need to make him a bumbling idiot. You don’t do that to one of the most popular characters in the entire franchise. You just don’t. And it seemed they made him dumber to make Claire look more capable. I hate it when movies do that. On the positive side, though, Donal Logue (Blade, Gotham) was fun as Chief Irons though.
The film also combines story elements from the first two games with a hint of the third thrown in at the end with the destruction of Raccoon City (we’ll chat more about that later). And for a movie of just an hour and 40 minutes it is way too much plot. Neither the mansion nor the police station setups are given much time to breathe. It’s just kill zombies, characters die, move on to the scene chop chop! Despite the name of the film we spend little time with the heroes battling the undead in the city, which was one of the best aspects of Resident Evil 2 (both the game and the film). And for some inexplicable reason they decided to add this lame orphanage backstory with Chris and Claire to try and make the final encounter with G-Virus-mutated Birkin more resonant. Yeah, it doesn’t work at all and just feels forced and contrived. And speaking of monster Birkin his first form actually looked decent but the second form is a CGI mess and not scary in the slightest. The CGI effects on the zombie dog was also quite awful but the Licker did look decent.
So while there are some things for video game and casual horror fans to like here the final product is a resounding meh. Let’s hope Netflix’s live action RE series bucks the trend of average adaptations. And if not, there’s always the games.
Editor Jules’s Score: 5.5 out of 10
So what did you think of Welcome to Raccoon City? And you can check out more zombified content below:
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.