With Halloween fast approaching, it’s time to think about what films you’ll be watching on Halloween night. Are you the kind of person who likes a more family friendly scare? Perhaps super gore is more your taste? Or an zombie-filled action franchise to marathon? This post is all about the latter as I will be reviewing and ranking the films in Paul W. S. Anderson’s Resident Evil series. Taking inspiration from the hugely popular video games, the Resident Evil films follows the spread of the T-virus which kills people and turns them into zombies. Engineered by the evil Umbrella Corporation, protagonist Project Alice travels around the world to put a stop to the company’s experiments.
The films are not critically well received by any means and I don’t think they’ll be competing for Oscars anytime soon but they are entertaining to watch and hugely popular with audiences. With the first film released in 2002 and the latest having been released in 2016, Resident Evil may not be among the most impactful horror franchises of all time but it is a fun little watch. Of course if you’re going to watch them then it makes sense to watch them in chronological order but I thought I would do my usual reviews and ranking. Bear in mind that this will only include the live-action films directed by Paul W. S. Anderson only so the animated films are not going to be discussed in this list.
Here are my reviews for the Resident Evil films:
Resident Evil (2002)
Resident Evil opens in the iconic mansion from the first game and follows the initial T-virus being leaked within Umbrella Corporation’s headquarters, The Hive. Following this we are introduced to protagonist Alice, who has passed out in the shower struggling with short-term memory loss. The basic plot is that Alice and policeman, Matthew, are forced to go underground to The Hive with agents to shutdown the Red Queen and retrieve the antivirus. There they are faced with death at the hands of mutated zombies and monsters. To coincide with Alice’s memory loss, the audience doesn’t learn the specific details of the leak until Alice figures it out for herself. The first installment of the franchise was met with negative critical reviews and amazing box office success which would become the regular trend for the Resident Evil films. It also features one of the most iconic sequences in the franchise with the laser corridor scene that sees the death of several agents. Also, for all of its flaws, Resident Evil proves to be an entertaining horror and has great concluding scenes when Alice is captured by Umbrella.
Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)
The second film shows the growth of the infection which has spread to Raccoon City, the place directly above The Hive. Also bringing game favourite Jill Valentine into the films, Resident Evil: Apocalypse is another fun inclusion to the franchise, turning up the campness and adding in Nemesis as the main villain. As well as including more features and characters from the game, Resident Evil: Apocalypse attempts to go more creative with its deaths. Sadly, it doesn’t have the same impact as its predecessor as it feels as if Anderson was trying to one-up the first film but it feels a bit too busy and a lot going on with the introduction of numerous key characters. Whereas the first film thrived from its simplicity, it feels as though Anderson has put too much on his plate with this segment. That being said, I do like that there is more faithfulness to the games in this one. Also, Jared Harris is always a welcome presence in any film and I enjoyed his performance as Dr. Charles Ashford.
Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
The T-virus has now spread across America and shows Alice teaming up with more survivors and venturing across the Mojave Desert to reach Alaska where it is claimed there is safety. Resident Evil: Extinction sees the inclusion of zombie crows as well as Claire Redfield, Albert Wesker and the super villain Tyrant. Anderson decided to rein in the camp vibes from the previous installment and reflecting the desert setting, gives the film a grittiness and seriousness. Whereas Apocalypse felt like too much was going on, Extinction has been pared back the characters who are introduced do not overwhelm the storyline too much. Ali Larter gives a brilliant performance as Claire, a favourite character from the games and Iain Glen is also fantastic in his role as Dr. Alexander Isaacs, a scientist who created the Nemesis program and Project Alice. What makes this installment even more terrifying is that most of the action takes place during the day which is almost unheard in zombie films. It shows that there really is no stopping the zombies’ hunger and the affect this has on the remaining survivors.
Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)
Resident Evil: Afterlife follows Alice’s ruin upon the Umbrella Corporation’s headquarters in Tokyo and her subsequent search for Arcadia, a safe haven for survivors. As expected, her plan goes awry and she is faced with crowds of zombies and monsters. I have a soft spot for this film because I went to see it in the cinema in 3D and it was a brilliant experience. Usually 3D films aren’t worth the money, particularly when they were being released 10 years ago, but this was fantastic. As Alice teams up with a group of survivors including Claire in a bid to get to Arcadia, they are trapped in a building surrounded by hoards of zombies as well as a giant monster called Axeman. Taking inspiration from the Resident Evil 5 villain The Executioner, the Axeman is one of the best monsters in the whole franchise and the fight between him and Alice and Claire is among the best choreographed. I know this is one of the worst reviewed of the franchise (which is saying a lot since they are all received pretty negatively) but the fun experience I had seeing it in 3D at the cinema leaves it higher than expected on my list. I find it thrilling and entertaining and think it is definitely a crowd pleaser.
Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)
Directly following the conclusion of the fourth film, Resident Evil: Retribution shows Alice’s capture and escape from Umbrella Corporation through their simulators which have various sets and clones of old and new characters alike. We are also introduced to the last bunch of game characters that haven’t been put into the films with Leon S. Kennedy, Ada Wong and Barry Burton entering the film franchise. Showing Umbrella’s elaborate simulations as well as vigorous torture techniques on Alice, Umbrella shows no signs of slowing down. The T-virus has become a valuable asset on the market as countries purchase it to use it on their enemies to spread the outbreak. Showing the outbreak on a global level, Alice now has to fight alongside Ada and Leon and venture to the Deep North to put an end to their testing facility. On top of this, Alice must find a way to stop Jill who has been brainwashed by Umbrella. The film brings in more aspects of the game and Anderson has shot the film to resemble the videogames. Bringing back some much-loved characters including Michelle Rodriguez as Rain, Resident Evil: Retribution feels like a great combination of what fans love about the series.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016)
The final installment of Anderson’s Resident Evil films follows Alice’s last stand against the Umbrella Corporation once and for all. It takes them back to the ruins of Raccoon City and into The Hive. Teaming up with the Red Queen to stop Wesker and Dr. Isaacs from wiping out humanity, Alice has to journey from Washington to the Hive within 48 hours before Umbrella destroys all human settlements. The series feels like it has come full circle in that the Hive is where it began and ends but equally, the virus’ affect on humanity has been catastrophic. Down to the last 4,000 humans, Alice is captured by Dr. Isaacs and has to escape and meet up with fellow survivors who are living within a guarded compound in Raccoon City. Rounding off the series in style, Anderson brings back plenty of old faces that we have missed as well as some new bad guys to wince at. One cannot help but also notice Alice’s growth from the first film. Milla Jovovich’s portrayal has matured during the franchises 14 year tenure and it’s nice that Anderson and Jovovich were able to give the series the ending they wanted.
So with all the reviews done and dusted, I do think it is a franchise that gets better and more faithful to the games as it goes on. Needless to say, regardless of whether they are good films critically or not, they do a great job at entertaining the audience. Anderson’s films may have their flaws but his passion for bringing videogames to life have helped propel this series to an iconic status among videogame adaptations. They’re among the first horror films I watched and I’ll always have a soft spot for them. Even though there are horrors that I think are better, they introduced me to a genre that has become one of my favourites over the years.
Here is my ranking of the Resident Evil series:
1) Resident Evil (2002)
2) Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016)
3) Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)
4) Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)
5) Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
6) Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)
What do you think of my ranking? Which Resident Evil film is your favourite? Let me know in the comments below!