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.
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.
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.
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…..
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.