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"Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City" (2021) - Review

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Video game fanatics have been yearning for a truly good Resident Evil film adaptation for years. Ever since the first film adaptation starring Mila Jovovich came out in 2002, fans have been mumbling under their breath while calling that entire franchise dumpster fire. Curiously enough, though…I’m a rare breed of humans that likes both the video games and that original franchise, which I often consider a guilty pleasure series. I purchased it on Blu-ray years ago. Yet, like everyone else, a part of me still wanted to see them make a Resident Evil film that leaned much more heavily into the horror genre, and if nothing else, that’s exactly what Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City does.

Once the booming home of pharmaceutical giant Umbrella Corporation, Raccoon City is now a dying Midwestern town. The company’s exodus left the city a wasteland with great evil brewing below the surface. When that evil is unleashed, the townspeople are forever changed, and a small group of survivors must work together to uncover the truth behind Umbrella and make it through the night.

IMDb

Whether or not you fell in love with the video games or not, I think most film fans can appreciate the much more deserving approach that this film takes as a horror flick. There are some really spooky moments here and there that I honestly thought made zombies scary again after years of zombies being the background characters of an action film, or heck, the butt of a joke. They’re not even scary in The Walking Dead anymore. They need the humans to be the monsters in that instead. To see the undead be an actual threat again is a nice change of pace. There are definitely a few moments here and there where our group of survivors are surrounded by zombies and everywhere they turn, another zombie pops up in a very dark and claustrophobic fashion, not unlike the first game—which I remember playing as a kid.

Now, if you did play the games, specifically the first one, you’ll immediately recognize the iconic mansion, which they sort of played tribute to in the other series, but this one is more special because they used the actual blueprints of the game to recreate it in real life. By doing that, they were also able to recreate a few iconic shots of that first game as well, and I’ll tell you what…there’s not a lot that scares me, but I will always think back to a few things that did, and one of them is the hallway scene of that first Resident Evil game, and they replicated it to a T in this movie, and that was so satisfying to watch. I, however, never played the second game, so the stuff at the police station, which I also understand was replicated, didn’t affect me whatsoever. Maybe it will for you if you played those games.

So, the setting and the atmosphere of the film is spot on, as was the general idea that they used the characters of the games. That doesn’t mean they matched the video game characters at all, but it’s cool that they used them in general, but to tell you the truth, I had some issues with the film, specifically when it came down to some technical aspects. First of all, narratively, I didn’t really understand some of the actions taken here. A lot of the why’s were lost on me as to…why Claire was there in the first place. If I had to guess, it had something to do with getting Chris out of the city because of some conspiracy theories she’s been hearing about the town. That’s fine, but I also didn’t really understand why everyone ended up at the mansion in the first place. It’s very cool to see the mansion and everything that happens inside, but the buildup to get there was a bit confusing.

Another complaint I have about the film is just the mere fact that a lot of the characters blend in together. When you watch a lot of team-up films, you’re usually aware of what role everyone plays and how they individually contribute to what’s going on. In Resident Evil, I noticed we have a lot of characters that seem to be doing the same thing more or less. Nobody seems to have a special skillset or ability or disability…none of them stand out in any way, shape, or form. The problem with that is that doesn’t allow you to pick a favorite character…in fact, the only thing it does is make it easier not to care when someone dies. I could care less if they got the characters right based off of their video game variations. I just want a good collection of diverse characters that stand on their own two legs, and I don’t think we got that here. The only person that really stood out here was Leon Kennedy for being a little wuss. He sort of grows on you, but not a ton.

Finally, the only other issue I have with the film is maybe on the visuals. The look of certain creatures doesn’t always look as good as they did in the other series, and after so many years…they should have looked exponentially better. Well…funny enough, that didn’t bother me as much because this film did remind me of the first video game, for which I have a ton of nostalgia with. That first game, likewise, didn’t have the best graphics either, so it wasn’t the end of the world for me, but I could definitely see people complaining about it, anyway.

Here’s a random takeaway…a lot of this movie might remind you of another horror video game adaptation, Silent Hill. There are a few moments of the film that utilize things like ash, certain vehicles, and just the ambience all around that seems to be taking some cues from Silent Hill. Now, I often think the two video game worlds are already similar as-is, so again…it’s not the end of the world. Just an interesting takeaway.

Unbiased Score:

The biggest issue this film runs into is just the fact that a lot of the technical aspects aren’t as good as they could be, especially with the narrative. As I understand it, they crammed storylines from the first two games into one, when really, they should have just focused on the first game and left it at that. Unfortunately, that means it affects the unbiased score rather low because of that. So, the lack of individual importance from the characters and confusing plot lines knocked this score down to 62%.

Biased Score:

Now, I’ll be honest. I actually had fun with this movie. I thought the ambience of the horror worked really well, the recreation of the mansion was a breath of fresh air and nostalgia. The claustrophobic moments where zombies come from every corner of the house was thrilling. It may not be the best story with the best graphics, but I did have fun with it. So, my biased score is 88%.

When we combine those two scores together, we come to the final rating:

75%

© 2021 Dave Gilleand