Resident Evil (2002 – Paul W. S. Anderson)

I’ve never owned a games console.  And really, apart from some vague memories of Vice City and multi-player Halo from my first year at university, I can’t really remember a time when computer games had any kind of impact upon my life.  It’s not that I don’t find them appealing.  If anything, I find them too appealing, and I am just self-aware enough to realise that if I bought a MegaDrive or whatever, entire evenings would be wasted in front of it. (This logic does not extend to watching black and white Italian movies.)

Which is to say that there are aspects of this film – boss-level baddies, relentless hordes of zombies to mow down – that I recognise, but have no affection for.  Like videogames, there is an ease with which these films employ gunfire; there is rare consideration given to the number of bullets than can be held in a clip.  At one point, a computer within the narrative demands murder, and that seems to be the point of these movies – that at a certain point, the level of unreality we are exposed to dehumanises ourselves.

It’s been acknowledged that the anger we feel towards other drivers largely stems from the fact that we can’t recognise apologetic facial expressions in our fellow drivers.  Whilst we know that another human being is driving the vehicle, we don’t always appreciate this.  Similarly, the bile that is spewed on the internet seems to derive from an inability to recognise avatars and handles as aspects of humanity.  Much of the modern world, with its endless stream of misinformation, seems designed to prevent us from recognising the common decency in others.

Resident Evil plays upon this symptom of modern, interactive life.  Computer games allow us to find murder easy.  I have a friend who trains armed police officers – when he is sent on training exercises he says they feel like heightened rounds of Quasar.  They seem designed to prevent us recognising that the figure at the end of the barrel is another soul, as equal to our own.  There are studies (that are somewhat disputed) that talk about how soldiers would often fire above their enemies’ heads in earlier conflicts, such as WWII, such that it was that they recognised their enemy as another human.  It is a feature that is disappearing in modern warfare, and whilst this may be due to the difference between conscripted and enlisted warriors, perhaps the ubiquity of computer games allow us to pull that trigger easier.

Zombies represent the ultimate fantasy of this trigger-happy approach to warfare.  There can be no guilt, no shame, in murdering a zombie.  They have only the appearance of humanity.  It is only a superficial masquerade; they are driven by an insatiable appetite.  They are all-consuming.  All they great monsters represent our most potent sins; vampires are lust, Godzilla is wrath and zombies are gluttony.  At this point, Anderson is not dwelling on driving that point home.  His use of zombies represent no great metaphor in the way that George Romero employed them.  There is no consideration that they were once a human, or that they may be an entirely new species, one that unfortunately feeds om human flesh.  But as a representation of some of our basest instincts, the wilful destruction of them is an act of self-loathing.  It is a destruction of the mirror that we avoid looking in; our furious, selfish appetite for meat.

  • There is some fairly cheap CGI employed within the film. It’s an easy thing to mock, but it’s at the point now where we have to forgive the limits of this technology in the way we forgive matte paintings and model shots.  At least here, the CGI is used to present images that could not be completed in any other medium.
  • Anderson employs every trick in the book to get the scares out of the audience. There are false scares where animals jump out and clanging noises in the background employed on several occasions.
  • The film very much operates on a puzzle logic – at times it feels like those irritating side-puzzles in a computer game where you have to unlock a door or something. It is a film where they aim is to escape, rather than survive.
  • The highlight of the film is undoubtedly Michelle Rodriguez’ performance – a terrifyingly compelling actress who I adore in every film I see her in… and who, because of the vagrancies of her work, I have absolutely no desire to explore her back catalogue.

Resident Evil rankings:


  1. Resident Evil

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