Posted in Buckners reviews by Neal at 03:21, Dec 03 2021
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City (2021) – feature film review by Andrew Buckner
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City (2021), the seventh live action film and current reboot of the video game-inspired title series, is exceptionally good at establishing and maintaining an ominous atmosphere of anything-can-happen dread in its opening forty-five minutes. Writer-director Johannes Roberts, the auteur behind the criminally underrated sequel The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018), immediately sets this latest installment in the franchise apart from director Paul W.S. Anderson’s six prior satisfying but never stellar Resident Evil features (2002-2016). This is in the immersive atmospheric style, foreboding set design, and creepy use of music utilized in the endeavor. Moreover, Raccoon City just as swiftly announces itself as a full-fledged, visceral horror show with a commencing segment set in an orphanage that is remarkably effective.
It’s a shame that this unique and tonally faithful to its source material path is shattered shortly before the midway point. This is when much of what transpires morphs into a formulaic collection of zombie/monster attacks and narrow escapes. Most of which also, predictably, end in gun violence. While these later sections are still frequently entertaining, and Roberts does an admirable job throughout the remaining running time balancing these occasionally impressive action-heavy bits with the no-nonsense terror that came beforehand, it is hard not to compare these moments to Anderson’s contributions to this cinematic canon. The lingering sense of déjà vu that hangs over the proceedings upon this realization dampens what is otherwise a top-tier entry in the succession.
The plot is also about what we have come to expect from the Resident Evil ventures. It revolves around the residents of Raccoon City, which was once the turf of the notorious pharmaceutical company Umbrella Corp., banding together to fight a sinister menace that has suddenly been unleashed upon the area. This is all occurs on the day Claire Redfield (Kaya Scodelario) returns to her hometown.
From a narrative perspective, the story is a thin springboard for its well-done and quite gory effects. It is also an excuse to showcase a variety of grotesque, yet nicely rendered, creatures running amok. In this sense, the one-hundred-and-seven-minute exercise knows how to elicit its fair share of terrifying fun. There is also a commendably mounted buildup in the first half hour of the attempt as the ensuing chaos begins to escalate.
But the effort fails in developing its often rote, unappealing lead characterizations (many of whom are staples from the video games that brought forth these pictures). The undertaking also flops in the equally off-putting, standard service dialogue the central figures are given. This is especially evident in the banter meant to develop these on-screen personas in the first act of the production. Continually, the performances behind these individuals are fair, but not particularly memorable. This is outside of the engaging turns from Hannah John-Kamen as Jill Valentine and Lily Gail Reid as Young Claire. There skillful enactments are a highlight.
Raccoon City does demonstrate strong cinematography from Maxime Alexandre. This radiant quality matches Roberts’ tense, claustrophobic behind the lens work with accomplished bravura. The editing from Dev Singh is just as deft. Yet, these elements are constantly undone by the ear-splitting use of sound in the construction, which makes every screech from the undead akin to a shotgun blast to the eardrums. It’s simply too much unnecessary noise in an otherwise technically proficient outing.
Having only fleeting memories of playing the Resident Evil games, I can’t state outright how Roberts’ trek through this territory fares as an adaptation. Regardless, as a genre fanatic, I can say with ease that this is a surprisingly enjoyable B-movie. The plethora of era appropriate references which stem from the 1998 setting of the piece only enhance this attribute. On a related note, Roberts’ placement of a before scene card that announces the date and time of the events taking place gleefully call to mind the immortal masterpiece The Shining (1980) from director Stanley Kubrick. Collectively, these items make for a project, though minor, that is worthy of a rental or a gloomy day matinee.
Rating: ***1/2 out of *****