Resident Evil has spawned more live-action movies than any other video game – six and counting – so this reboot feels inevitable if not quite necessary. Franchise fans will probably miss Milla Jovovich, who brought a badass charisma to the earlier films directed by her husband Paul W. S. Anderson, but Welcome to Raccoon City is no washout. If you’re looking for an old-school horror flick to cleanse your palate after rewatching Love Actually (again) over Christmas, you could do worse.
It begins with Claire Redfield (Kaya Scodelario) returning to her remote hometown, Raccoon City, to reunite with the brother she left behind years earlier. Chris (Robbie Amell), now a local cop, hardly welcomes her with open arms and gives short shrift to the conspiracy theory she’s peddling. When Claire tells him she heard in a chatroom that Raccoon City’s residents are being poisoned by the Umbrella Corporation, a pharmaceutical giant that once provided the town’s lifeblood, he responds incredulously: “What’s a chatroom?” That’s because this film takes place in 1998 before social media and decent mobile reception. So, when those poisoned locals start turning into bloodthirsty zombies and it emerges that the Umbrella Corporation is trying to destroy them all, Raccoon City is effectively cut off from the world. It’s left to the Redfields and Chris’s cop colleagues Jill (Hannah John-Kamen), Leon (Avan Jogia) and Albert (Tom Hopper) to see who and what they can save.
Writer-director Johannes Roberts is a genre stalwart – his previous movies include the fraught underwater thriller 48 Feet Down – and he really delivers eeriness here. With its dingy diner, deserted streets and sad-looking clapboard houses, Raccoon City is almost a parody of a rundown town, but this suits a movie that leans into horror tropes rather than trying to reinvent them. At times, it’s a bit predictable: you’ll spot some of the scares coming a mile off, and even casual horror fans might guess which characters are likely to last the distance. Thankfully, Scodelario’s quietly intense performance elevates her character’s rather clichéd backstory, which unfolds in creepy flashbacks set at the Raccoon City orphanage.
In a way, it’s a shame Roberts doesn’t fully embrace the campiness of the ’90s setting. A scene in which a zombie stomps into the police station to the incongruously jolly sounds of Jennifer Paige’s ‘Crush’ is a lot of fun, but belongs in a film that takes itself less seriously. Still, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City succeeds on its own modest terms. Your nerves won’t ever be shredded, but you’ll leave having gasped and jumped enough to justify the ticket price.
- Director: Johannes Roberts
- Starring: Kaya Scodelario, Hannah John-Kamen, Robbie Amell
- Release date: December 3 (in UK cinemas)