Star Rating:

Resident Evil Welcome To Raccoon City

Director: Johannes Robert

Actors: Kaya Scodelario, Robbie Amell

Release Date: Friday 3rd December 2021

Genre(s): Action, Horror, Thriller

Running time: 107 minutes

Claire Redfield (Kaya Scodelario) arrives in Raccoon City in 1998, just as Umbrella Corporation is about to pull out of the city following a virus outbreak. Her brother, Chris (Robbie Amell), and members of his STARS team (Hannah John-Kamen, Tom Hopper) are sent to investigate the disappearance of their colleagues at a mansion outside the city. All while this happens, the city begins to become infested with ravenous zombies, all of them heading for the police station as Claire and a lone police officer barricade themselves inside...

'Resident Evil' has always had better fortunes as a gaming franchise than a movie franchise. Paul WS Anderson's grip over it began in 2002 and stayed tight over it all the way up to 2017. Crucially, Anderson's take on 'Resident Evil' deliberately eschewed horror in favour of action and keeping his wife Milla Jovovich in work. Despite the dismal reviews from critics, Anderson's take on the franchise found an audience who regularly turned up for a slice of ridiculous action-horror and lead to a combined box office of $1.24 billion over the course of six movies.

'Resident Evil: Welcome To Raccoon City' resets the franchise back to 1998, recasts the entire thing, and in doing so, it tries to shed some of the baggage that accumulated over the years. The problem is that 'Resident Evil' is nothing but baggage. As a gaming franchise, 'Resident Evil' excelled at the idea of players piecing together a vast, tangled conspiracy involving evil corporations, hidden messages, searching endlessly through desks and broken buildings, and of course zombies. It was able to bleed in atmosphere and make players jump out of their skin even with clunky dialogue permeating every moment of it. While it has always had a cinematic edge to it, translating that to an actual cinematic experience has been tricky.

This time around, director Johannes Roberts liberally borrows / homages / steals from the horror works of John Carpenter. From the fonts in the opening credits to the stabby synths, 'Welcome To Raccoon City' seeks to evoke the grit and grime of JC's greatest hits like 'Assault on Precinct 13', 'The Fog', and of course, 'The Thing'. As far as creative theft goes, those are the best movies to steal from. As well as this, Roberts folds in some scenes pulled straight from the original game and the results do tend to work more than often than not. The cast is reliable enough, made up of beefcake-types to replicate the game's characters like Leon S. Kennedy and Chris Redfield, but it's the utter clangers of dialogue that drives 'Welcome To Raccoon City' down into the ground. Injecting a curse word every five or ten seconds may seem like it's adding realism, but all it's doing is providing ample proof that the actual script had nothing going for it.

The plodding nature of the screenplay is such that you feel the weight of exposition at every moment, breaking in through the windows and doors like the zombies that pepper the movie itself. While it might work in a game, in a movie, it's got to be handled with a bit more deftness than a video rattling off half the plot. Not only that, 'Welcome To Raccoon City' repeatedly draws attention to its period setting for some bizarre reason, even dropping in clunky technology like a PalmPilot as a major plot point.

For all this, there's a charm to 'Welcome To Raccoon City' that manages to steer it away from being truly terrible and guide it towards being enjoyably crap. Indeed, you get the sense that there's a vague sense of self-awareness to it. It's a shame that it's being fired into cinemas now, just as awards season is ramping up when it would fare much better in the January horror season. If you find yourself ravenous for zombie horror, 'Resident Evil: Welcome To Raccoon City' has just enough meat on the bones to tide you over.