Review: “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” By Keith R. A. DeCandido (Film Novelisation)

Although I reviewed the film version of “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” about five or six months ago, I thought that it would be kind of fun to see what the film novelisation of it was like.

Since, although I’ve read all of S.D. Perry’s excellent novels based on the original “Resident Evil” videogames, I can only vaguely remember reading Keith R. A. DeCandido’s novelisation of the third film (Resident Evil: Extinction) about a decade or so ago. So, I thought that I’d check out his 2004 novelisation of “Resident Evil: Apocalypse”.

So, let’s take a look at “Resident Evil: Apocalypse”. Needless to say, this review will contain some SPOILERS.

This is the 2004 Pocket Books (US) paperback edition of “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” that I read.

The novel begins by giving us some backstory for Timothy Cain, one of the high-ranking henchmen of the nefarious Umbrella Corporation. A scientific team from the corporation begins to re-open the corporation’s secret underground laboratory (called “The Hive”) after some kind of mysterious accident happened there. Of course, once they open the doors, a horde of zombies pours out…

Soon, the local town is infested with zombies. A suspended police officer called Jill Valentine, who has encountered the zombies before, decides to fight them. Meanwhile, a team of Umbrella mercenaries, led by Carlos Olivera, enters the town. A high-ranking Umbrella scientist realises that his daughter is missing. A character called LJ is arrested and almost bitten by a zombie at the police station. One of the survivors of the Hive disaster, Alice Abernathy, wakes up in hospital. Needless to say, the stage is set for some thrilling drama…

One of the first things that I will say about this novel is that it is a reasonably good adaptation of the film – in other words, it is a gloriously silly, over-the-top action-thriller novel. Or, at least, most of it is. If there is one flaw with this novel, it is that it is a bit slow to start – with many earlier segments of the book being taken up explaining the backstories of various characters and recapping the events of the first “Resident Evil” film.

Even so, when this book hits it’s stride, it is a fun, fast-paced action thriller story that can be read reasonably quickly. However, you’ve probably noticed that – for a novel about zombies- I haven’t mentioned the word “horror” once. This is because this really isn’t as much of a horror novel as I had expected. Sure, there’s lots of death, monsters, suspense and zombies but – like the film – there’s relatively little in the way of horror.

One of the things I loved about reading S. D. Perry’s novelisations of the “Resident Evil” videogames when I was a teenager was that she was able to inject a bit of horror into the stories. Perry’s novelisations were at least three times as gruesome, grotesque and intense as the videogames were.

However, unlike Perry, DeCandido sticks pretty closely to the relatively bloodless action-thriller style of the film in his novelisation of “Resident Evil: Apocalypse”. So, if you’re expecting a bit more horror than you saw in the film, then you’re going to be disappointed.

In terms of how this novelisation relates to the film, it is fairly close. Although there is a lot more characterisation than in the film and there are a couple of very small story differences to what I can remember from the film (eg: Alice finds a zombie-filled Italian restaurant, Alice doesn’t use batons during one of the later fight scenes etc.. ), the most noticeable difference that I found was that Jill and Alice have slightly different outfits in the novel than they do in the film. In other words, Jill wears shorts and Alice keeps her lab coat. Aside from this, the book is extremely close to the film.

This is helped by the novel’s third-person narration, which is written in a very informal style which really fits the “cheesy action movie” atmosphere of the film. Although more prudish readers might not like the sheer number of four-letter words that have been added to the narration, they lend the story a greater degree of intensity whilst also evoking nostalgia for the more immature and “edgy” elements of the early-mid 2000s.

The style and tone of the informal third-person narration also changes slightly depending on the character that is being focused on. For this most part, this works reasonably well and helps to immerse the reader further. However, this can be a bit on the cringe-worthy side of things in a few scenes.

In terms of length and pacing, this novel is ok. At 277 pages, the story’s length is fairly reasonable and it never really outstays it’s welcome. The pacing in most of the book is fairly good too, although the earlier segments of the novel were a little too slow-paced for my liking (especially when compared to the beginning of the film).

Yes, taking the time to set the scene and develop the characters would be admirable in an ordinary novel – but this novel is based on an ultra-fast paced, super-cheesy action movie. So, a bit more action in the earlier parts of the story would have been welcome.

All in all, this novel is a reasonably good adaptation of the source material. And for a novel based on a film based on a videogame, it’s surprisingly good. Yes, there are a few flaws. But, for the most part, it is a very readable, fast-paced novel that can be enjoyed within a small number of hours. Still, if you want to read something “Resident Evil”-related, then I’d probably recommend S.D. Perry’s “Resident Evil” novels over this one.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, then it would get at least three and a half.

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