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Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City (2021) – Review: A Refreshingly Straightforward Horror Movie

March 27, 2022

Quick Thoughts – Grade – B – Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is welcomely straightforward and features solid performances from Kaya Scodelario and Hannah John-Kamen. It doesn’t feature any truly standout scenes, and it doesn’t have the personality of Paul W.S. Anderson’s Resident Evil movies (listen to our podcast series about it), but if you’re looking for a breezy zombie film it’s worth a watch. 

The best thing about director Johannes Roberts (Strangers: Prey at Night, 47 Meters Down) take on the Resident Evil franchise is that it’s welcomely straightforward and totally comfortable with not reinventing the wheel. I don’t mean this as a slight, I love movies that embrace straightforward storytelling and feel no need to add bells and whistles to something that doesn’t need bells or whistles. At its core, the original Resident Evil video game was about spooky mansions, surprise attacks and enough dread to make gamers keep the lights on at night. The lore did expand greatly with further installments, but everyone remembers the first time they were ambushed in the mansion, and how the simple “boo” techniques made the game an all-timer. That’s the vibe this film wants to recreate and it’s not always successful, but it’s still fun. The biggest issue I have with it is how it wants everyone to know that it isn’t the Milla Jovovich RE franchise, and in the process leans heavily into fan service and recreating moments when it should’ve tried to forge something new, but still familiar. I smiled every time a character was introduced because the movie put a lot of emphasis on the names to make sure you know it’s sticking close to the game. 

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City focuses on what happens when the wildly dangerous T-Virus is let loose inside a dying town named Raccoon City. The town used to thrive when the Umbrella Company, a massive pharmaceutical conglomerate ran its operations in the city, but when it decided to move to another location the city became a ghost town filled with people too poor to relocate. Staying behind is a small police force made up of Chief Brian Irons (Donal Logue), rookie Leon S. Kennedy (Avan Jogia), and the STARS alpha team composed of Albert Wesker (Tom Hopper), Jill Valentine (Hannah John-Kamen) and Chris Redfield (Robbie Amell). They are joined by Claire Redfield (Kaya Scodelario – watch Crawl now), a leather jacket-wearing badass who rides motorcycles, picks locks, and seems totally comfortable blowing away zombies with any type of weapon. Together they have to battle zombie dogs, zombie birds, zombie humans, and a scientist named William Birkin (Neal McDonough). 

 I really enjoy the eerie tone, which sticks closely to the popular video game, and I think Maxime Alexandre’s (Crawl, Shazam!, The Crazies) cinematography is expectly solid as he makes Raccoon City seem like a place of nightmares. The lack of townsfolk combined with oppressive rain and lots of dark alleys make Raccoon City seem like the worst place on earth, and Alexandre does a fine job of making parking garages, police stations and mansions seem scarier than the caves in The Descent. The actors don’t have much room to create three-dimensional characters, but that’s not the point of the movie. The point is to feature likable actors shooting undead monsters in the head, and the movie succeeds at that. I don’t think there are any standout action set pieces, but the movie has lingered in my memory and I keep thinking about certain shots that I really like. For instance, I loved watching the zombies outside the police station wailing in anger as they tried to push their way through a locked gate, and I enjoyed watching Claire ride a motorcycle through the abandoned city as rain pelts down on her (There’s decent fake rain in this movie, it isn’t on par with It, but it’s not bad).

In the end, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is a lean-and-mean film that excellently stretches its $25 million budget. If you are looking for a straightforward horror film, I recommend you watch it.

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