Three Thoughts About Film Theory And Writing Fiction

A couple of days before I wrote this article, I found myself absolutely fascinated by videos about film theory/analysis on Youtube. Surprisingly, these videos made me think about writing fiction – of all things. But, why?

Well, here are a few thoughts on the matter.

1) Thinking about the subtle things: One of the interesting things about watching videos that analyse films by famous directors is that almost every decision seems to be a conscious one. For example, how each shot is laid out, the speed of each cut, the use of different types of lighting etc… In the best films, pretty much everything is there to subtly evoke a mood or a theme or to emphasise something.

But, what does this have to do with writing? A lot, to be precise.

Although prose fiction isn’t a visual medium, a writer has even more control over their story than a film director does. After all, a writer can control things like sentence length, chapter length, the structure of the story, themes/motifs, pacing, the narrative style/perspective, what is and isn’t described, the emotional tone of the story etc…

So, watching videos about film theory can be really interesting if you’re a writer for the simple reason that it shows you lots of subtle ways that filmmakers improve the story they are telling through things that the audience might not even consciously notice. In other words, it makes you think a little bit like a director and pay more attention to the subtle stuff.

2) It reminds you of all of the things writers can do (that director’s can’t): One of the most famous pieces of writing advice is “show, don’t tell” and there are certainly merits to this advice. When followed well, it results in dramatic storytelling that can almost be… cinematic. After all, film directors can quite literally only “show” things.

Yet, a lot of the things that make prose fiction a deeper and more immersive storytelling medium than film go completely against this advice. These are things like descriptions of a character’s thoughts and feelings, intriguing pieces of backstory added to the narrative, the distinctive personality of first-person narration etc… All of these things usually involve “telling” the reader things that cannot be represented visually. And fiction is all the better for it.

It’s also an example of one of the things that film really can’t do that well. And, seeing videos about how directors have to get around these limitations can remind you of all of the advantages that writers have over film-makers (eg: a story has no budget restrictions, time can pass at any speed in a story etc..), which can be a great source of motivation, given how cinema often seems to be a more famous and celebrated creative medium than writing these days.

3) Referencing and community: One of the interesting things about watching videos about film theory is that they sometimes mention ways that directors subtly reference and/or are influenced by the style of other directors. This is the sort of obscure stuff that is often only really noticeable to people who have studied a lot of films and understand the medium. But, from a writing perspective, it’s really interesting to see.

One of the cool things that I noticed when I got back into reading regularly is how often books will reference other books or include segments about the value of books, stories etc.. And I suddenly realised that this is basically the same thing as what I was seeing in the videos. But, why is it important? In addition to the fact that pretty much every writer has been influenced by other writers (it’s an essential part of the learning process), it’s also about creating a sense of community.

Unlike films, which are a mass medium that is experienced in the same way by large audiences, books are a more obscure medium these days. As such, it’s easily possible to find a modern book and then never meet anyone who has even heard of it, let alone read it.

So, references to other authors/books and references to books in general are a way of creating a feeling of community in what is essentially a rather solitary medium (not that this is a bad thing though, seriously, it’s one of the most awesome things about books. Even so, it can be annoying at times).

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

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Working Out What To Show The Audience – A Ramble

Well, the day before I wrote this article, I happened to see something fascinating that made me think about something which anyone who is telling a story, making a piece of art etc… has to grapple with. Namely the decision of what to show the audience.

Anyway, the thing that made me think about this topic were a few videos from a fascinating Youtube series called “Boundary Break” where, using various tools, someone manipulates the “camera” in videogames to show you what you normally wouldn’t see whilst playing the game. And it is fascinating.

This is mostly because, in order to save memory and processing power, videogames will often only display the absolute minimum needed to make everything look convincing. For example, if a game displays a fenced-off road or passageway, the only things behind it will be what the player can actually see through gaps in the fence. After all, the emphasis is on making sure that the game looks convincing, whilst also finding sneaky ways to show the minimum amount of detail possible.

And, well, the same thing is true in almost every other creative medium too.

For example, many studio-based film and television sets will only actually contain what appears on camera (eg: the classic example being a set in a sitcom where one wall is missing in order to allow the cameras to film what is happening). Films can also take this a step further by giving the illusion of a large set through background details whilst only actually showing a few smaller locations.

The classic example of this is the 1982 film “Blade Runner“. This is a sci-fi film set within a giant futuristic mega-city. Yet, if you look closely at the film itself, the only actual locations in it that are shown in any real level of detail are several interior locations and a few streets. But, thanks to things like distant background details (created via things like paintings, scale models etc..) etc.. the audience feels like they’re seeing a much larger setting than they actually are.

Likewise, many pieces of visual art (especially in things like comics) will often focus more heavily on adding detail to more prominent parts of the picture, with the background detail often being left slightly vague or impressionistic. There are several practical reasons for this, such as time reasons and the fact that (unless you’re making a very large piece of art) it can be difficult to cram lots of detail into small background areas.

The same is true for prose fiction too. After all, if you have to describe literally every detail of a story’s setting, character backstories etc… you will end up with a very long, very slow-paced and very boring story. As such, you have to be very selective about only describing the most important, evocative and/or interesting details in each scene of your story.

For example, if you’re writing a “film noir”-style scene set inside a detective’s office, you might describe a few key details like the light filtering through the blinds, a cigarette smouldering in an ashtray and a rusty old filing cabinet. This gives the audience a quick impression of the scene, whilst avoiding the slow-paced boredom that would come from describing literally every detail of the room.

So, yes, working out what not to show is actually quite an important part of making any creative work. And the best way to learn how to do this is simply to see the thing you’re creating from your audience’s perspective. In other words, you need to think about how your audience will see the things you create, what they will find interesting and, most importantly of all, what their attention will be drawn to.

Once you know what grabs your audience’s attention, then focus most of your time, effort, words etc… on that.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

Three Reasons Why Books Are Better Than Film And TV

Although I’m sure that I’ve written these types of articles before, I felt like writing another one.

This was mostly because, ever since I got back into reading regularly a few months ago, I’ve sometimes found myself missing all of the films and TV shows that I used to watch back when I didn’t read regularly (but don’t really have time for these days, due to reading books).

So, I thought that I’d list three of the many reasons why books are better than film and TV.

1) More freedom: One of the great things about novels is that they have more creative freedom than films and TV shows do. In other words, they’re usually only written by one person, they only use words and they don’t have to pass a censor before they are published. This lends novels a sense of individuality and creativity that films and TV shows can often lack.

Only having one author means that a novel isn’t really “designed by committee” in the way that many TV shows and films are. In other words, a novel is usually the creative vision of one person – they get to shape the story’s world, how the reader “sees” the world etc… in a way that isn’t really practical in film and television. Likewise, because novels don’t cost millions to make, there’s less of a need to appeal to the most mainstream audience possible for financial reasons (which, for example, can lead to films becoming more generic).

Plus, since novels only use words, they aren’t constrained by the practical problems that films/TV shows have. In other words, if a writer wants to write about somewhere spectacular or something spectacular, they can just write about it. They don’t have to build elaborate sets or worry about the special effects budget. As such, there’s a sense that literally anything can happen in a novel. That even the most “low budget” of novels can do things that even mid-budget films or TV shows could only dream of.

Not only that, unlike film and television, novels don’t have to pass a censor. For example, although film/TV censorship in the UK is less strict than it used to be, the censors have been known to enforce bizarre or over-protective rules in the past (eg: they pretty much banned the depiction of various martial arts weapons in films between about 1979-1999).

Likewise, many US TV shows sometimes have to follow absurdly strict censorship rules (eg: even in a “gritty” TV show like “24”, the main character cannot utter any profanity stronger than “damn”).

But, thanks to both the Lady Chatterley trial in the UK and the American first amendment, readers and writers do not have to suffer any of these patronising restrictions. In other words, books are one of the few artforms that respects both the author and the audience enough to let them make up their own mind about everything – free from the controlling influence of a censor.

2) It’s like a boxset, but better: One interesting thing I noticed about the ancient Egypt-themed novel I’m reading at the moment (“Nefertiti” by Michelle Moran) is that, even though it started rather slowly, it eventually started to remind me of when I’d watched a DVD boxset of HBO’s “Rome” TV series about five years ago. It had the same vivid historical immersion, depth and gripping drama.

But, I don’t have to read it in fixed one-hour instalments. The story moves as fast as I can read it. I have the freedom to allow my imagination to work out what all of the interesting locations look like. I can quite literally see what the main character is thinking and feeling. The characters are characters, rather than famous actors. I don’t have to sit through an annoying unskippable copyright warning every time I open the book. I can experience the author’s unique narrative voice. I could probably go on for a while….

I also suddenly realised that one of the reasons why I watched so many DVD boxsets during the 3-4 years that I didn’t read regularly was because they offered an experience that is a little bit like reading a book. However, it comes with all sorts of limitations that books don’t have. So, yes, books are like boxsets – but better. Plus, of course, even second-hand, books are often cheaper than DVD boxsets too πŸ™‚

3) They stand the test of time: One of the cool things I noticed when I got back into reading regularly is that I could occasionally read books (like “The Maltese Falcon) that were written when film was still a developing medium and television was a lot less popular. And the stories are just as vivid as a modern novel. Now, compare this to, say, a grainy old B&W film that could only use whatever limited effects etc.. were available at the time.

Plus, when I’ve bought old second-hand copies of horror novels that were printed during the 1970s/80s, they’re still just as readable today as they were when they were first published.

On the other hand, if I found an old VHS tape that was from the 1980s, I’d have nothing to play it on (so, I’d have to see if it was available on DVD) and, even if my VCR still worked, then the tape would have degraded over time. Whereas, an old book is still just as readable now as it was when it was first printed. And it’s kind of cool to enjoy something that was entertaining people 30-40 years ago and not only still exists but still functions perfectly too!

In other words, books have a timelessness about them that film and television really don’t have. They have more of a sense of history. They run on very reliable technology (eg: paper) that can easily withstand years of use or disuse. Plus, of course, the underlying “mechanics” of books (eg: letters, words, sentences etc..) have remained relatively unchanged for years – compared to the constant changes in technology surrounding film, TV etc…

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

Three Tips For Enjoying “Boring” Films, TV Shows, Games etc..

One of the interesting things that I’ve noticed over the past decade or two is that I’ve gradually become more interested in creative works that I would have considered “boring” when I was younger.

Whether it’s the deliberately slow pacing of modern films/TV shows like “Blade Runner 2049” and the 2017 “Twin Peaks” TV series (which I got on DVD as a Christmas present last year), whether it’s slower-paced games in the “point and click” genre etc… I’ve found that things I’d once have considered “boring” are much more interesting than they might initially seem.

But, how can you learn to enjoy creative works like this? Here are a few tips.

1) Work out why it is “boring”: Simply put, good “boring” creative works are slow-paced or uneventful for a good reason.

This is either because it gives the audience time to think about what is happening or because it gives the audience time to appreciate things like the atmosphere, visual elements, the characters etc..

A “boring” slow pace could also be there for the sake of emotional contrast, suspense or something like that. Kind of like how music sounds more dramatic because it also contains silence as well as noise.

Likewise, boredom can be used to add a sense of realism to a creative work. After all, everyday life is a boring, humdrum thing most of the time.

Artists, writers, directors, game developers etc… will sometimes include some of this boredom in order to show that their story is a more realistic (and immersive) one. Once you see it this way, then “boring” scenes can be a lot more understandable.

But, whatever the reason, there is probably a good reason for why a creative work is “boring”. If you can remember this, then you’ll enjoy these things more.

2) Read more: Although I don’t read nearly as much as I used to [Edit: No prizes for guessing what I rediscovered a week or so after preparing this article. Expect regular book reviews to start later this month], one of the things that changed my attitude towards “boring” creative works was reading a lot when I was a teenager.

But, why does reading matter? Simply put, reading gently gets you used to stories being told at a slightly slower pace.

Even the most fast-paced thriller novel still needs to take the time to introduce the characters and the premise. It’ll tell a more complex story than the average movie. It’ll be something that will demand that you spend 4-6 hours reading it. And, you’ll probably enjoy it. So, reading more (even in more fast-paced genres) is a great way to get used to slower-paced films, games etc…

3) Remember, it’s about the journey: One important thing to remember about “boring” creative works is that the most important part often isn’t the story, but everything else. I’m talking about things like the atmosphere, the narrative voice, the visual style, the underlying ideas etc…

In other words, these things are more about the journey than the destination.

A good cinematic example is probably the first “Blade Runner” film. The basic story of this film is just a simple detective thriller story. But that isn’t what makes it a brilliant film.

It’s a brilliant film because of the fact that it takes place in an intriguingly mysterious futuristic world which also looks stunningly beautiful too. It’s a brilliant film because of the fact that you notice something new about it every time you see it. It’s a brilliant film because of all of the thematic/philosophical/moral complexity hiding behind the simple story. I could go on for hours, but it’s a brilliant film because of everything other than the basic story.

In short, if you find a creative work to be “boring”, then try focusing on something other than the story. The story the creative work is telling might not be the main reason why it was made.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

Review: “Blood Simple” (Film)

Well, after reading various things on the internet about a film called “Blood Simple”, I just had to watch it. After all, it had been likened to a film noir, a dark comedy and even an old horror comic. These are three of my favourite genres πŸ™‚

So, after taking a look online, I found a reasonably cheap second-hand DVD of the film. However, I should probably point out that I got the “ordinary” version of the film, rather than the more recent director’s cut version.

I should probably also warn you that this review will contain some SPOILERS.

So, let’s take a look at “Blood Simple”:

“Blood Simple” is a crime thriller movie from 1984 that was directed by the Coen brothers (and, surprisingly, is the first Coen brothers film I’ve seen).

The film focuses on a sleazy nightclub owner in Texas called Marty who suspects that his wife Abby is having an affair with one of his employees called Ray. After hiring a rather dodgy private investigator to follow them, his suspicions are confirmed.

Well, I’m sure he’ll contact a lawyer and resolve the situation peacef… oh, wait, this is a film noir with “blood” in the title.

After a violent confrontation with Abby and Ray, Marty returns to the private investigator and offers him $10,000 to kill both of them. The investigator agrees, but quickly realises that it would be easier to cheat Marty out of the money, shoot him and frame Abby for the murder. It seems like the perfect crime. However, things don’t quite go according to plan….

One of the first things that I will say about this film is that it is nervously suspenseful, oppressively intense and nightmarishly bleak (in a good way). It is one of the most complex, atmospheric and well-plotted films I’ve seen in a while. I’ve never seen a film quite like this one.

Although the film has a lean and efficient running time of 95 minutes, the film’s deliberately slow and suspenseful pacing makes it feel considerably longer. This slowness helps to gradually increase the suspense and to give the audience time for the emotional impact of the film’s events to sink in. This is also emphasised by the fact that the film’s dialogue is often peppered with silences and things left unsaid, with almost all of the characters also speaking in a slow Texan drawl.

With the possible exception of “Blade Runner 2049”, you really don’t see this type of pacing in more modern movies.

One of the most distinctive things about this film is how it handles the topic of violence. Unlike a lot of slick thriller movies that trivialise violence, this film takes a grimly realistic approach to violence. Whenever something violent happens, it has painful physical and/or emotional consequences that reverberate throughout the entire film.

Yes, this isn’t exactly a “feel good” film, but it has one of the most dramatic and mature approaches to fictional violence that I’ve seen in a while.

This emphasis on the consequences of violence drives many of the events of the film’s complex story (which plays out like an intricately-plotted, but very grim, farce), whilst also giving the film a vividly nightmarish quality that draws the audience firmly into the drama. Although this film has relatively few violent moments, each one has a tremendous emotional impact because of the film’s focus on the consequences.

This is a dark, bleak, shocking film which will probably leave you speechless for a few moments when the credits roll. Yet, it is also a compellingly watchable film. It’s like watching the events of a nightmare unfold slowly. Yes, the film has a few light-hearted moments, but these just serve to make the rest of the film even more bleak by contrast.

It’s such a film noir that even the taxidermy statues smoke.

Interestingly, for a film that revolves around the consequences of crime and violence, the police are nowhere to be seen. The characters go to great lengths to cover up crimes, and yet there isn’t a single police officer in sight. As well as giving the film a menacingly amoral atmosphere, this lack of police also really helps to crank up the suspense and paranoia too.

The lack of police is also cleverly used to explore and critque American myths about guns and self-defence. One of the central objects in the film is Abby’s small revolver….

Pretty much the entire film revolves around this one little gun.

This gun is only ever loaded with three bullets. It is too far away to be used in one confrontation (where unarmed self-defence is shown to be more effective). It is later stolen and used to commit a murder. When a central character almost trips over it, it accidentally discharges and narrowly misses him. Another character later tries to use the gun for self-defence, but fails because three chambers are empty. Then it causes Ray and Abby’s relationship to break down.

Then, after all of this misery (and another shockingly horrific scene a while later), the film eventually ends with the pistol actually being used for legitimate self-defence…. Only for the person firing it to realise that they’ve shot a different person to the one they thought they had.

This one little “self-defence” gun is the source of most of the misery, chaos and horror in the film. As an extremely dark piece of satire about gun culture in the US, this film works really well. Like with “Blade Runner“, this is one of those truly mature films that manages to be both extremely violent and extremely anti-violence at the same time.

Another interesting connection with “Blade Runner” is that the private investigator is played by the guy who played Bryant in “Blade Runner” too.

The film’s bleak, paranoid and nightmarish atmosphere is helped by some absolutely brilliant lighting design and set design. As you would expect from something in the film noir genre, everywhere is often bathed in ominous shadows. But, in a cool 1980s-style touch (which, again, reminded me a little bit of “Blade Runner”), this darkness is sometimes contrasted with some really beautiful neon lighting.

Neon and darkness – is there anything more beautiful πŸ™‚

Seriously, this film’s use of silhouettes and lighting is sublime πŸ™‚

Plus, the bar/nightclub that a lot of the film revolves around is a really atmospheric location too.

Musically, this film contains a really interesting mixture of ominous music, old pop/disco music and country music. Although it isn’t exactly the type of music that you would traditionally expect to hear in a film noir, it fits in really well with the Texan setting and really helps to add even more atmosphere to the film.

All in all, this is an extremely well-made, intelligent, compelling, unique, mature and atmospheric film. It is also the kind of nightmarishly intense and suspensefully horrific film that will leave you in stunned silence when the credits roll. It has a complex plot, a unique personality and a laser focus on vivid small-scale drama. And, even though this film is over 30 years old, it has aged surprisingly well.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get at least a four.

Review: “Resident Evil: Afterlife” (Film)

Well, after reviewing the first, second and third “Resident Evil” films, I thought that I’d check out the fourth one – “Resident Evil: Afterlife”. Although I have no current plans to review the other two films in the franchise, I’m not ruling anything out in the future.

Surprisingly, I’m not sure if I’ve seen this film before or not. Although some later parts of it looked vaguely familiar, the earlier parts didn’t. So, I’m not sure. Still, it seemed like it would be worth watching, if only to complete the second-hand DVD boxset I’ve been watching.

Needless to say, this review will contain some SPOILERS. Likewise, the film contains some FLICKERING LIGHTS in the background of at least one scene, although they don’t seem to be that intense from what I can remember. Plus, it’s worth watching this film after the previous three films.

So, let’s take a look at “Resident Evil: Afterlife”:

“Resident Evil: Afterlife” is a sci-fi/horror/action movie from 2010 that begins with a rather cool flashback scene, showing the zombie virus beginning to spread through Tokyo. This scene is mysteriously suspenseful, visually brilliant and wonderfully dramatic.

Seriously, the first couple of minutes are like a really cool short horror movie.

A dramatic voice-over from Alice then explains some of the series’ backstory. But, after that, there is a thoroughly silly over-the-top action scene where several of the Alice clones from the end of the previous film blast and slice their way through an underground Umbrella facility in Tokyo.

Well, this is going to be a rather one-sided fight…..

However, Umbella’s boss Albert Wesker manages to escape using a futuristic cargo plane, before nuking the facility. But, the original Alice has snuck aboard the plane for some much-deserved revenge. During the fight, Wesker injects Alice with some kind of antidote that removes her superhuman abilities. But, before Wesker can shoot her, the plane crashes into a mountain.

Several months later, Alice is flying a plane to Alaska in search of the survivors from the previous film.

And keeping a video diary too, because camcorder batteries are unusually abundent in this post-apocalyptic world…

But, after discovering nothing but a field of abandoned planes and a helicopter that contains the journal from the previous film, Alice is attacked by Claire. After a brief scuffle, Alice notices that there’s some kind of mind control device attached to Claire’s chest. Once she removes it, Claire returns to normal – but she cannot remember who Alice is.

Getting back into the plane, they fly down the American coast towards Los Angeles, where they discover that several survivors are holed up in an abandoned prison that is surrounded by thousands of zombies. After a perilous landing on the roof, one of the survivors points out that there is a cargo ship called the Arcadia off of the coast that seems to be safe. The only problem is, of course, finding a way to get to it…..

And, yes, the film actually includes a logical explanation for why they don’t just use the plane.

One of the first things that I will say about this film is that it is about one-third interesting horror thriller film and about two-thirds utterly silly sci-fi action movie.

Although the mixture of these elements helps to keep the film varied, it also means that the film’s narrative feels a little bit less focused than it should be. In a way, this would have been a much better film if it had focused more on the thrillingly claustrophobic scenes of horror set in the abandoned prison and less on the sci-fi action elements of the film.

Still, the film has a rather interesting three-act structure. The first third of the film focuses on Alice (and is a mixture of silly action movie scenes and more suspenseful slow-paced scenes), the second third is a really cool little horror movie set inside the abandoned prison and the final third is an utterly ludicrous sci-fi action/horror segment set aboard the cargo ship.

What? This isn’t a spaceship?

Seriously? It really isn’t a spaceship?

The middle part of the film is, by far, the best. Not only is there some character-based drama and a decent amount of suspense, but it is also the only part of the film that is actually a proper zombie movie. With the survivors trapped inside a large building, they have to rely on their wits, strength and ingenuity in order to survive. As I said earlier, if the whole film was like this 30 minute segment, it would be an absolutely amazing movie.

Seriously, this is just one-third of the film? Why isn’t it… I don’t know… the entire film?

In terms of the characters, they’re reasonably good. Not only is Alice a more interesting character now that she’s marginally less superhuman, but the survivors in the prison are a reasonably interesting mixture of characters too.

The film finally also introduces Chris Redfield, who is reasonably true to his portrayal in the classic Resident Evil games. Surprisingly though, when we first see him, he’s being held prisoner by the survivors (who think he is a dangerous convict). Plus, since Claire has lost her memory, she doesn’t realise that he is her brother too.

It might just be me, but he also reminds me a bit of Dean from β€œSupernatural” too.

The monster designs in this film are somewhat variable. The best monsters are some really creepy mutant zombies who can burrow underground and who have tentacles that emerge from their mouths. These zombies are genuinely disturbing and they really help to add some horror and tension to the film.

Hello there!

However, there’s a random giant executioner monster whose presence is never really explained (and is less scary as a result). Likewise, the zombie dogs near the end of the film seem to have more in common with the zombie dogs from the “Silent Hill” games than the “Resident Evil” games too (eg: since they use their upper body as a giant mouth, like in “Silent Hill 3”).

Yes, this giant executioner is kind of cool, but there’s no real explanation for why he’s there. He’s more like a level boss in a videogame…

Although the film’s action scenes are ridiculously over-the-top, some of them are actually pretty good.

The best one happens after a giant horde of zombies find a way into the abandoned prison, and the survivors are forced to fight them whilst escaping. This scene is filled with suspense, drama, quick thinking, brilliantly theatrical stunt work and a few cool touches (like a shotgun that fires coins).

Yes, the characters actually have to use their brains as well as their guns in this part of the film.

Conversely, the action scene near the beginning of the film is utterly silly. It literally just consists of a group of Alice clones fighting masked henchmen in a variety of acrobatic ways. Unlike the action scene I mentioned earlier, this one just feels like spectacle for the sake of spectacle. It’s just a few minutes of acrobatic fighting, without any real suspense or tension.

Some of them even bring swords to a gunfight…. because it looks cool, I guess.

In terms of set design and special effects, they’re reasonably good. There’s a good mixture of grim post-apocalyptic locations and eerily bright sci-fi locations here. Plus, the Tokyo-based scenes at the very beginning of the film look really cool too. The film’s lighting is at it’s best during the scenes set in the abandoned prison.

Seriously, there’s some really cool lighting in this part of the film πŸ™‚

Likewise, although the film relies more heavily on CGI effects, most of them are reasonably good – with the highlights being the spectacular explosion (or is it an implosion?) in an early part of the film, and some of the monster effects.

Even though it’s clearly CGI, this scene still looks brilliantly spectacular.

Musically, the film is reasonably ok. Although there aren’t really any stand-out moments, the background music fits the events of the film fairly well.

All in all, this is a fairly good film that could have been so much better. The middle part of this film is absolutely excellent, and is filled with suspenseful zombie-based horror and post-apocalyptic drama. It’s just a shame that most of the rest of the film is utterly silly. If only the whole film was like the middle part of the film….

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

Review: “Resident Evil: Extinction” (Film)

Well, after reviewing the first and second “Resident Evil” films, I thought that I’d check out the third one – “Resident Evil: Extinction”. However, I’m still not sure how many of these films I’ll review (hopefully, I’ll review the fourth one sometime, but I’m not exactly sure when).

Although I remember reading the novelisation of “Resident Evil: Extinction” when I was about twenty, I can’t remember if I’ve seen the film before. I’m pretty sure that I have, but I can’t be 100% certain, so it seemed like it would be worth taking a look at.

As usual, this review will contain SPOILERS. Likewise, the film itself contains some FLICKERING LIGHTS/IMAGES, although I don’t know if they’re intense or sustained enough to cause issues. Plus, this film is best enjoyed after you’ve seen the previous two films too.

So, let’s take a look at “Resident Evil: Extinction”:

And, yes, I know that there are six films (although this probably explains why this second-hand DVD boxset was so cheap).

“Resident Evil: Extinction” is a sci-fi/horror/action film from 2007. It begins with what appears to be a recap of the events of the first two “Resident Evil” films.

We see Alice awaken in the shower with no memory and begin to explore the mansion. But then she finds herself inside the laser tunnel below the mansion and it quickly becomes apparent that something isn’t quite right. After dodging the lasers and crawling through an air vent, she finds herself inside Racoon City Hospital.

So, this isn’t re-used footage from the previous film!

However, the hospital seems to be filled with random deathtraps. And, after dodging a guillotine blade, Alice is machine-gunned to death by some kind of futuristic landmine. As she dies, several scientists appear and carry her body away.

Well, that was a short film! What? There’s more…

They carry her body out of the building into a desert and throw it on a pile of identical cloned bodies. The camera then zooms out to reveal that all of this has happened inside a desert research facility that is surrounded by hordes of zombies.

A simple fence is enough to keep the zombies out?!?!? They’re strong enough to tear metal grilles off of windows later in the film.

The film then cuts to a voice-over which explains that, several months after the events of the second film, the world succumbed to the zombie virus and has been reduced to a harsh wasteland filled with nothing but survivors, the undead and the remnants of the nefarious Umbrella Corporation.

Meanwhile, the real Alice is exploring the Utah desert in search of survivors, whilst the other survivors from the first film have joined an armoured convoy in Nevada – led by Claire Redfield (Finally! It’s about time she showed up in these films!).

Better late than never, I guess.

Whilst all of this is going on, Dr. Isaacs is talking with Albert Wesker (again, Finally!). Wesker is now the head of the Umbrella Corporation and he allows Isaacs to continue his research into finding a partial cure for the zombie virus, so that the zombies can be used for forced labour. But because Isaacs’ cloning program hasn’t worked out well, he wants to track down the original Alice in order to use the antibodies in her blood…

One of the first things that I will say about this film is that it combines the best elements of the first and second films. Thanks to the good mixture of slower-paced suspenseful horror and thrilling fast-paced action, this is a fun, scary thriller film πŸ™‚

In addition to this, the film’s post-apocalyptic desert setting really helps to make this film a rather distinctive entry in the franchise too.

Yay! Post-apocalyptic wasteland!

The horror elements of this film work surprisingly well. In addition to the usual zombie-based horror and some more suspenseful scenes, this film also includes things like a genuinely creepy scene involving a group of deranged survivors, a few well-placed jump scares and a cool little homage to George A. Romero’s “Day Of The Dead” (when some scientists attempt to train a zombie). There’s also a greater emphasis on gory horror too, with this film being somewhat more gruesome than the previous two films.

Yay! It’s a homage to “Day Of The Dead” πŸ™‚

The thriller elements of this film work really well, with the survivors often having to fight or evade both groups of zombies and infected crows too. There are also enhanced zombies and a large monster too.

Like in the previous film in the series, the action scenes are all really well-choreographed. However, this film also tones down the “silliness” of the action scenes very slightly- with the combat seeming very slightly more suspenseful and realistic. Plus, since these action scenes occur less often than in the previous film, they are often more thrilling (since they’re contrasted with slower-paced scenes).

Unlike in “Resident Evil: Apocalypse”, the whole film doesn’t consist of scenes like this.

But there’s still the occasional enjoyably silly moment too.

One thing that really helps is that there’s more character-based drama. Although you shouldn’t expect massive amounts of characterisation, the film focuses more on the lives of the survivors as they try to find more fuel, stay alive and work out where they can hide from the zombies.

Likewise, the film’s villains also receive a certain amount of characterisation too, with the charmingly sociopathic Dr. Isaacs being an absolutely brilliant villain. Wesker, on the other hand, really doesn’t get enough screen time or characterisation.

Seriously, Wesker only appear in about three scenes. Three!

Carlos and LJ seem less like the cartoon characters they were in “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” and more like tough, but realistic, characters. Although Claire Redfield is nothing like the videogame character she’s based on – she comes across as a reasonably realistic and well-written/acted character, who reminded me a little bit of Sarah Connor from “Terminator 2”.

Yes, this isn’t even vaguely accurate to the games. But, this scene is still pretty cool nonetheless.

Likewise, Alice is still the same badass action heroine that we all know and love. However, her psychic powers have increased slightly since the ending of the second film, which have led to her being somewhat of a loner since she fears what they might do to those close to her.

The film’s supporting characters also include a few other interesting characters, such as a teenage girl called “K-Mart” who is Claire’s protege, a character called Betty who seems to be LJ’s girlfriend and a cowboy-like guy who, for some bizarre reason, has a British army rifle (that he uses as a sniper rifle).

Seriously, how does he even have this gun?

These supporting characters help to ensure that the film isn’t just about a few main characters – which helps to add some suspense and depth to the story. The fact that the survivors also have to protect a group of kids too helps to add some suspense to the film.

In terms of the film’s special effects, set design and lighting – they’re really good. The film uses a combination of practical and CGI effects, both of which seem to work reasonably well. Likewise, the film’s bleakly bright desert settings are contrasted wonderfully with some rather gloomy chiaroscuro lighting too. The film’s desert setting also allow it to include lots of intriguingly creepy abandoned buildings too, which helps to add some atmosphere.

Such as this creepy abandoned radio station.

Or this ominously disused petrol station.

In terms of the music, the film is reasonably good – with the highlight being a piece of music (that sounds eerily futuristic and distinctively “Resident Evil”) that repeats during several establishing shots. Likewise, when the survivors’ convoy is first introduced, the scene is set to Iron Butterfly’s “Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida”. Somehow, this piece of 1960s music works really well in context, and sounds suitably epic.

Although “Convoy” by C. W. McCall would have been hilarious in this scene!

All in all, this film is a brilliant mixture of the suspenseful horror of “Resident Evil” and the thrilling action of “Resident Evil: Apocalypse”. It is ninety minutes of pure post-apocalyptic sci-fi/horror fun. And it is probably the best film in the series that I’ve seen so far.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get somewhere between four and four-and-a-half.