WARNING – SPOILERS!
Director: Paul W. S. Anderson
Year Released: 2002
A secret experiment. A deadly virus. A fatal mistake.’
‘They are driven by the basest of impulses, the most basic of needs…the need to feed…’ Despite receiving mixed reviews, Resident Evil (based on the excellent game series of the same title) was a success as it was the first of several instalments to follow. Although it does not feature any major characters from the games, it does revolve around a mysterious mansion and a secret underground laboratory owned by the Umbrella Corporation – a pharmaceutical giant responsible for the development of the devastating T-Virus – capable of reanimation and cellular mutation.
The introductory sequence shows an unidentified individual who manages to access the Umbrella lab (known as the Hive) located deep beneath the streets below Racoon City, release the T-Virus and make a quick escape. However, the researchers and employees occupying the lab are not so lucky. Upon detection of the T-Virus outbreak, the Hive is locked down and the occupants are exterminated by the Red Queen (the facility’s security system) – in order to prevent the risk of the infection spreading beyond the research facility. Exposure to the T-Virus however does not keep them dead for long…
Meanwhile above ground, we are introduced to the film’s main heroine, Alice (played by Milla Jovovich) who regains consciousness and finds herself alone on the bathroom floor of an eerie mansion with no memory of her past, her current location or even her own identity. Alice is shocked to discover weapons in a bedroom drawer and sees herself in a wedding photo with a man she does not recognise. As she walks through the dark hallways, the silence is broken as she is suddenly grabbed by a police officer called Matt (Eric Mabius) while the mansion is invaded by a team of commandos hired by Umbrella. The group includes Rain (Michelle Rodriguez), J.D. (Pasquale Aleardi), Kaplan (Martin Crewes) and their captain, One (Colin Salmon). One demands Alice to give him her report but soon realises that she is suffering from an episode of amnesia. He then orders his team to bring Matt and Alice with them as they head through a secret entrance to an underground train station which leads to the Hive. Here they are met by Spence (James Purefoy) who is also suffering from memory loss. Together, the group make their way to the Hive.
As the team access the Hive, Alice insists that One explains everything to her. The captain reveals that they share the same employer (the Umbrella Corporation) and that Alice and Spence are security operatives that were placed at the mansion to protect the Hive entrance – they had a fake marriage as part of their cover story. He goes on to explain that the Hive is Umbrella’s top-secret research facility which houses hundreds of technicians and researchers and has various computer-controlled defence mechanisms in place – in order to protect the classified research. The couple’s temporary memory loss is due to the release of a nerve gas by the Red Queen. One explains that hours before their arrival, Red Queen went homicidal and killed all the employees – as such, it is his team’s mission to find out why and to shut down the computer.
As they get deeper and deeper into the hive, Alice slowly regains her memory and the group discover that Umbrella has a great many secrets to hide. The group separate and the captain and several members of his team enter a corridor which leads to the Red Queen’s chamber, however, they suddenly find themselves trapped in the corridor and, in a grisly scene, are killed via a laser-grid defence mechanism when Kaplan fails to disable the computer. Kaplan and Alice manage to reach the Queen’s chamber where Kaplan shuts her down and, by doing so, opens all the doors of the facility, releasing hundreds upon hundreds of zombified researchers, as well as Umbrella test subjects. Meanwhile Rain and J.D., who are oblivious of these events, come across a ‘survivor’ who bites Rain when she tries to assist her. J.D. shoots the crazed survivor multiple times but, to his horror, it has no effect. Rain subsequently shoots the infected individual and the pair are joined by the remaining survivors – Alice, Kaplan, Spence and Matt. Before long, the group are surrounded by zombies, forcing them to separate. J.D. finds an exit, only to be dragged into a room filled with the undead. As he is pulled into the centre of the reanimated crowd, Rain tries to pull him out and receives multiple bite wounds in the process. She is then dragged from her futile attempts to rescue her friend who is left to suffer a gruesome fate.
Separated from the rest of the group, Alice is ambushed by infected dogs but successfully defends herself as she recalls her combat training. She then rescues Matt who was searching the Umbrella offices and was suddenly attacked by a female zombie. When Alice saves him from the zombie, Matt reveals that it was in fact his sister Lisa (Heike Makatsch) who, with help from a contact within the Hive, had planned to bring Umbrella Corporation down by infiltrating the research facility and smuggling out vital evidence of the monstrous experiments being conducted. After a series of vivid flashbacks, Alice soon realises that she was his sister’s contact.
Eventually, the survivors are reunited in the Queen’s chamber where they have no choice but to power the Red Queen back on in order to find a way out of the facility. Kaplan disables the circuit breaker so that next time the computer is shut down, it’ll be destroyed. The group then attempt to make their way back to the train via a network of maintenance tunnels, only to be ambushed by hundreds of zombies. Kaplan is separated from the rest of the group who assume that he is dead and have no choice but to keep moving. Rain’s condition gradually worsens as the viral infection begins to take hold.
When they reach the labs, Alice has another flashback and she remembers that an anti-virus was developed and she reassures Rain that she’ll be cured. However, when they access the lab they find that the anti-virus is gone and it is at this point that Spence realises that he was responsible for releasing the T-virus and that he was planning to sell it on the open market. He had stashed the antivirus near the train but had failed to succeed with his plan as he didn’t realise the Red Queen had defence mechanisms outside the Hive. Having fully regained his memory, Spence turns his weapon on the other survivors. He asks Alice to join him but she refuses and fails to inform Spence about the zombified researcher advancing towards him. Spence is subsequently bitten and makes for the anti-virus, locking the others in the flooded lab. When he reaches the train he is greeted by the Licker – (whose entry resembles that of a cutscene in the Resident Evil 2 game). The Licker is the result of direct injection of the T-virus into living tissue and when it feeds on fresh DNA, it mutates into a stronger, faster hunter. The creature kills Spence and then tries to break into the lab occupied by the remaining survivors. To the group’s surprise, Kaplan arrives just in time and releases the group by shutting down Red Queen.
Together, the four survivors reach the train. Alice kills the reanimated Spence and grabs the anti-virus. With Kaplan driving the train, they set off back to the mansion while Alice administers the anti-virus to the dying Rain but she is too far-gone for it to have any effect. To make matters worse, the Licker is also on board and literally rips Kaplan out of the train. The Licker then tears into the side of the train, slashing Matt’s arm on the process. Alice deals with the Licker while Matt takes out the reanimated Rain. Matt and Alice, as the only two survivors, finally reach the mansion. As Matt tries to comfort Alice who feels responsible for the rest of the team, he is overcome with unbearable pain in his injured arm which begins to visually mutate. Before Alice has time to give him the anti-virus, they are seized by Umbrella scientists. Despite Alice’s efforts, Matt is taken from her by scientists who declare that he is to be part of the ‘Nemesis Program’. Alice attempts to fend off the scientists but is soon overpowered while they plan to re-open the Hive to find out what really happened.
Once more, Alice awakes alone in unfamiliar surroundings. She regains consciousness in a locked observation room of the Racoon City Hospital. As she peers through the one-way glass, a zombie silhouette can be seen walking past. Alice manages to escape from the hospital only to find that the city is in total ruin – car crashes, fires and further devastation stretch as far as the eye can see. She grabs a shotgun from a nearby police car and stands in the derelict street, ready to face the horrors ahead…
As an avid fan of the Resident Evil games, I did find this adaption a little disappointing as it lacked any of the major game characters and veered too far from the original story. Though, to make a film that lives up to the legendary game series is a very difficult task – game to film adaptations that satisfy gamers are notoriously difficult to master (In my opinion, Silent Hill is the best example so far). I think that if they had stuck with the plot from the original Resident Evil game – the S.T.A.R.S. members entering the mansion etc, they may have been on to a winner. Interestingly, George Romero had submitted his own Resident Evil script which did include major protagonists from the original game such as Jill, Barry and Wesker. However, for one reason or another, it was not taken any further – it would have been interesting to see his take on this survival-horror classic.
Nevertheless, this version is still an entertaining watch and does have its moments – the fight scenes are impressive, as well as the laser-trap scene. In addition, the opening theme track (‘Resident Evil Main Title Theme’ – created by Marilyn Manson) is outstanding – it fits the subject matter perfectly and really captures the cold, metallic atmosphere of the Umbrella labs.
©2002 Constantin Film Production GmbH/New Legacy Film Ltd. All Rights Reserved.