The Walking Dead

Turning computer games into movieshas never looked like such a bad idea before.

Inspired by the hit video game series of the same name, "Resident Evil" tries to re-enact the terror and tumult born of detention and experimentation, but pixilated penalties of this kind score more in animated 3D than they do in the flesh.

The Hive is a subterranean research centre belonging to a powerful conglomerate called Umbrella Corporation, that deals, among other things, in genetic experimentation. The outbreak of a virus kills all the employees of this underground closet, and the supercomputer, Red Queen, that operates the maze, seals all exits to contain contamination. Umbrella Corp. sends a military group to investigate the event, and, picking up a couple of casualties on the way, including Alice (Milla Jovovich), the bunch boards the subway train that takes them into the Hive. Once there, they encounter several stymies set up by the Red Queen, primarily in the form of hundreds of zombies.

Infected by the virus, these are former employees resurrected with a single urge - hunger. With each member of their band felled by increasingly ugly circumstances, the group has to find the antivirus within an allotted time slot and escape before it too gets mauled to death or is permanently confined to the building.

Though Paul Anderson decided to script and direct this zombie carnival, he does not spur the same wide-eyed fear as the popular game does. The celebrated morbidity may be the sole attraction to some, but this is not a thriller than builds rationally to a decisive ending.

Now, while the plot could have done well with some logical fine-tuning, it wouldn’t have been all that bad if the actors had attempted to...ummm, act? The people who play the zombie workforce did a better job than the star cast. Milla Jovocich couldn't get more desensitized if she had been infected with the virus herself, and Michelle Rodriquez takes her role so seriously, she wears the same snarl throughout like a tired old mask. With performances that are either caricatured or callous, the only members worthy of comment are the zombies, whose mechanical motions and provocative bearing instigate the only dread capable of exhibition. For the rest of it, the crew has carried on well with sound sets and imaginative photography, but the film still falls short of a spine-chilling thriller.

Maybe that’s because the film itself has one very weak spine.

This article was first published on 22 Nov 2002.