Whilst I completely understand wanting to re-visit a fruitful series such as Resident Evil, one that pulled in significant coin despite being critically slaughtered, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City hardly makes such a trip worthwhile.
For starters, Milla Jovovich, patron saint of these entirely disposable films, hasn’t been brought back. Yes, it being a prequel to the 2002 original essentially wipes out her involvement, but her spunk is admittedly missed when her (for lack of a better word) replacement – here in the form of Kaya Scodelario – has none of the presence needed to carry a film that’s severely lacking.
Director Johannes Roberts, no stranger to atmospheric material, having helmed such neat, simplistic thrillers as 47 Metres Down and The Strangers: Prey at Night, relies heavy on the jump-scare method of horror, hoping a dark pallet (this film is almost laughable in how indistinguishable it looks) and tested genre cliches will translate to acceptable scares. Spoiler: They don’t!
Though we all know where the Resident Evil films ultimately travel – well, assuming those watching this are familiar with the series – Raccoon City tries, and fails, to inject any care or interest into its backstory. We know something terrible is about to happen, and that’s precisely why Scodelario’s Claire Redfield has returned to the doomed city to warn her brother, police detective Chris Redfield (Robbie Amell), about said terrible thing. What that terrible thing is actually unknown to Claire herself, but she’s convinced there’s evil in them there underground city walls and that the Umbrella Corporation is behind it all.
She’s absolutely right – the T-virus that transformed so many characters across the series into flesh-eating zombies is once again at play here – and, because Raccoon City crosses every T and dots every I in its stock movements, her warnings go unnoticed before it’s – wait for it – too late. Despite a running time of 107 minutes and packing the film with a slew of admittedly enjoyable characters, there’s barely any exposition laid out for us to care about proceedings, and though such a film doesn’t warrant any emotional or intellectual investment, the fact that it attempts to do so but utterly fails makes it all the worse. This is a film that needed to embrace the trashy, cheesy nature of its genre and ride it all the way to a gory, filthy conclusion. If only we were so lucky.
Any emotional weight placed on whether or not Claire and Chris will reconcile is all for naught, the kick-ass temperament teased with Jill Valentine (Hannah John-Kamen) is wasted through her character being absent for large chunks of the story, and the supposed “big bad” of the piece (a scenery-chewing Neil McDonough) is the epitome of an anti-climactic presence. All in all, Raccoon City deserves to be eradicated for being so damn lazy!
Whilst the film has its occasional moments of unexpected brilliance – the visual design behind a particularly tragic zombified character is quite striking, Donal Logue‘s police chief is entertainingly wild (the actor seemingly the only one in on the fact this film is trash), and there’s a genius use of Jennifer Paige’s 1998 monster pop tune “Crush” – Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City ironically spells the end of the series in its attempt to take it back to its monstrous beginnings.
ONE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is screening in Australian theatres from December 9th, 2021.