2002, R, 100 min. Directed by Paul Anderson. Starring Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Eric Mabius, James Purefoy, Colin Salmon, Marison Nichols.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., March 15, 2002
Like your first frantic lay in a nightclub bathroom, Resident Evil feels fantastic while you're in its thrall, but considerably less so after the climax has come and gone. Midway through this wild, senseless, and sexy adaptation of the popular zombie shoot-'em-up video game I caught myself grinning in the dark, gleefully anticipating the next gut-bursting projectile salvo from Milla Jovovich's pouty sexbomb in the crushed velvet mini and the knee-high fuck-me boots, as she squared off against god only knows what awful horror from the pit. Whew. This isn't a movie any more than ramming your car into a highway abutment at 90 miles an hour is “driving,” and to take the metaphor even further, this, too, is an absolute wreck. But what an ambitiously mind-blowing wreck it is, bursting with dazzlingly sordid cinematography that screams “Eurotrash!” and delicious, ridiculous dialogue like this showstopper, spouted in the heat of battle, no less: “When I get outta here, I'm gonna get laid!” Lest I steer anyone wrong here, Resident Evil is, by any critical standard not in league with Fangoria magazine, an absolutely nonsensical film. Jovovich plays a mysterious babe without a memory who's taken hostage by some body-armor-and-heavy-ordinance-wielding types after she wakes up nude and bruised on the shower floor one evening. Pretty soon she's in the “Hive,” a secret underground research facility controlled by a psychotic supercomputer dubbed the Red Queen (who appears in holographic images as a little British girl and tends to have lines such as, “I've been a very naughty girl!”), the existing staff has been turned into zombies, and a deadly mutating virus is on the loose. Now you know as much as I did. It's chase/shoot/die for the next 90 minutes as Jovovich and her fellow mysterians get picked off by various and sundry critters, though the film is noticeably lacking the grue. People get sliced and diced left and right, but there's nary a drop of the spurtin' red in view. What's most fascinating about the film, honestly, is Paul Anderson's flashy, psychotronic direction and the very, very Italianized cinematography from David Johnson (who earlier filmed Hillary and Jackie, little good that does him here). Anderson directed another incomprehensible horror flick that I also went gaga over a couple of years back -- Event Horizon -- and his plotting is no less bewildering or manipulative here. What's wonderful about this film, however, is that it has the look, the feel, the unplaceable accents, the everything of a B-grade Euro splatter flick (it's a UK/German/U.S. co-production). Whole sequences are direct steals from Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, Mario Bava, and Michele Soavi, from the clingy black vinyl outfits that look like updated Planet of the Vampires gear to Jovovich's introductory sequence, which manages to reference both Hitchcock and Argento in the same shot! (I don't have room to go into the film's George Romero swipes.) On top of that, for all its silliness and a draining score from Marilyn Manson, Resident Evil is a relentlessly sexual, almost deviant, piece of work. All that water and blood, leather and lace, purple and blue scrims all over, curvy, gaping ductwork, organic, somehow feminine gun designs, and the constant, breathy moaning and squealing of the dead things -- Resident Evil may be the first truly subversive horror-porn hybrid to make it to the American cineplex (the Roger Corman-produced Galaxy of Terror notwithstanding). It's as though Camille Paglia and Sam Raimi had sat up all night doing speedballs and playing video games. Is this the future of horror or just some bizarre fluke? Don't ask me, I'm having too much fun to care.