‘Resident Evil’ review: Netflix sci-fi fluff for the conspiracy crowd

The long-running video game franchise returns to TV with a so-so reboot

A dangerous mind control drug with untested viral side effects escapes from a lab, infecting billions. Behind the virus, an evil, megalomaniacal pharmaceutical company out to make the world’s populations docile and compliant. As the contagion spreads and the masses turn into unthinking zombies, the company becomes an oppressive totalitarian regime. Throughout, the online truthers piecing together the story from grimy videos get it right all along.

If the plot to the new Resident Evil series on Netflix sounds like it came straight off your Uncle Kevin’s lockdown Facebook feed, that’s because it’s essentially an anti-vaxxer’s dystopian dreamworld. With the film franchise freshly rebooted in line with the earliest of the survival horror games on last year’s Resident Evil: Welcome To Raccoon City, the door was wide open to further adapt any of the console outings, right up to the Texas Chainsaw vibe of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard.

Resident Evil
Lance Reddick in ‘Resident Evil’. CREDIT: Netflix

Instead Resident Evil, set some years after bioweapon developers Umbrella Corp. have nuked Raccoon City – ground zero for their first major T-virus outbreak – hones in on the origins of a very timely new pandemic, and goes quite shamelessly for the discredited conspiracist dollar. So closely does the show mirror the concerns of the vaccine and lockdown sceptics of 2020 that producers missed a trick on the casting. We’d have had Julia Hartley-Brewer as ass-kicking, no-bullshit heroine Jade Wesker, Laurence Fox as the cruel hearted Umbrella rep on her tail and Toby Young as Albert Wesker, the science ‘expert’ whose medical insight proves frustratingly inadequate. That said, most of the zombies do bear a striking resemblance to Piers Corbyn, and make noises like Ian Brown trying to sing.


Two series essentially run simultaneously. One, set in the futuristic modern-day community of New Raccoon City, built specifically for Umbrella workers and where nobody thinks to ask what happened to the old Raccoon City, follows the 14-year-old Jade (Tamara Smart) and her twin sister Billie (Siena Agudong) as they break into the Umbrella lab where their father Albert (John Wick‘s Lance Reddick) is trying to make the side-effects of an anti-depression drug called Joy a bit less ‘y’know what, I could bloody murder a pancreas’.

Meanwhile, in 2036, a now 30-year-old Jade (Ella Balinska) is kicking away rancid clawing arms and dodging Umbrella gunfire in a post-apocalyptic Brighton plagued by 50-foot caterpillars (which, to be fair, not even Van Morrison is predicting). Fast-paced and gore-spattered, this is more of your typical RE survival horror fare, although plenty of it could work as a film adaptation of The Last Of Us too. They even steal the idea of a sonar-based zombie mutation called ‘clickers’.

Batting the drama back and forth between timelines, Resident Evil makes for a pretty wild zombie romp but one that, like all other pandemic-related projects, has already been outpaced by real-world events. Focusing so heavily on the start of the outbreak might have felt like cutting edge commentary back in 2020, but today it merely acts as a chilling reminder of the tedium of arguing with anti-lockdown bots throughout the pandemic, at a time when we’d all quite like to forget it ever happened, forgive our mates’ more dumbass theories, get back on the cider and enjoy watching Boris get relegated to Strictly. Having been forced to learn more about virology than this sort of cod-scientific sci-fi fluff expects of us, the apocalyptic half of Resident Evil looks a lot more fun.

‘Resident Evil’ is released on Netflix tomorrow (July 14)


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