Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City – movie review

The zombie apocalypse is alive and well in director Johannes Roberts’ horror-schlocker Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City.

The film starts with a young orphan girl, Claire Redfield, plagued by visions of a presence. Her slightly older brother, Chris looks after her as best he can. Both live in the Raccoon City Orphanage. They were left alone when their parents died in a car accident when Claire was just eight. Then we cut to 1998 and Claire (Kaya Scodelario) is hitching a ride back to Raccoon City with a slimy trucker (Pat Thornton). It’s night and rain is bucketing down. Taking his eyes off the road, the trucker ploughs into a woman, seemingly killing her. But the next moment she’s disappeared.

It turns out that Claire escaped from the orphanage and she hasn’t seen her brother (Robbie Amell) for five years. Chris is now an officer with the Raccoon City Police Department. Raccoon City itself has been largely abandoned. For years it was the mainstay of pharmaceutical giant Umbrella Corporation, but it has relocated and now few people remain. The place is now a dying mid-western wasteland. When Claire arrives on her brother’s doorstep, she immediately spots a couple of bizarre looking people acting strangely. She’s convinced there’s a lot more going on than her brother knows.

The Resident Evil series, based on a Japanese video game, kicked off in 2002. Over the next 14 years a further five films were made in the franchise. Welcome to Raccoon City is an origin story and marks a reboot of the Resident Evil films. I found the set-up – involving the orphanage and Claire’s unwelcome return as an adult – intriguing. Many of the threads are deliberately loose, so audience members new to the franchise won’t really understand what’s going down until later in the piece. As a theatrical device, that succeeds in maintaining interest.

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City plays primarily to a familiar audience that appreciates this genre. The film’s air of dread through visuals and audio is palpable. The filmmakers deliver shocks and the tropes of the horror genre are prominent throughout. I became concerned however with the entrance of the local police chief who wildly overacts. That certainly isn’t cool … and stood out like a sore thumb. Whether that was deliberate or not, the damage is done. Then, as is – unfortunately – too often the case, the plot devolves into totally far-fetched nonsense.

As far as actors are concerned, Kaya Scodelario (Maze Runner: The Death Cure) comes out of this well as the calm and composed Claire.

If you’re prepared to suspend any sense of credibility and accept the chilling ride for what it is – lowbrow popcorn escapism – you can still get something out of Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City.

Alex First

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