October Horrorshow: Resident Evil: Apocalypse

I don’t know why I punish myself with this film series. Maybe it’s a schoolboy crush on Milla Jovovich, because just like every other film in this series, Resident Evil: Apocalypse is a woeful piece of garbage. I’ve sat through it three times, now. I’m making a promise to myself. Never again. I will never watch this awful movie, or any of the others that have been made to this point, ever again. Except for Resident Evil: Afterlife. I need to watch that one more time so I can write a review. But after that, I’m done. Except for when the sixth movie comes out. Then, absolutely for sure, no more Resident Evil films will pass before these eyes of mine.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse is the first sequel to Resident Evil, coming two years after the first movie, in 2004. Paul W.S. Anderson didn’t direct this one, although he did write it. Directorial duties went instead to Alexander Witt. It remains the only film he’s ever helmed on an otherwise lengthy resume. It reminds me of the Peter Principle, the idea that well-performing employees in a company will continue to be rewarded with promotions until they reach a position where they are incompetent. That’s a harsh assessment of Mr. Witt’s work, but it is what I thought of when I saw his IMDb page.

Another reason I believe that’s a harsh assessment is because of all the Resident Evil films, this one is the most coherent. The first was just some loosely connected set pieces, Extinction felt like a bottle episode, Afterlife was pure confusion, and Retribution was nothing more than a collection of fight scenes with some dialogue interspersed here and there. In Apocalypse, there’s actually a story...somewhat.

Following the nonsensical events of the first film, the fictional Raccoon City has been overrun by the T-virus, an artificial plague manufactured by the evil Umbrella Corporation. Upon exposure, it turns people into zombies, making this, against all expectations, largely a standard zombie flick. The first act is spent introducing us to the protagonists, a necessary evil since Anderson killed everyone but Milla Jovovich’s Alice in the first film.

Most importantly, this film introduces us to the character of Jill Valentine, played by Sienna Guillory, a distinguished member of the Missile Test Wet Paper Bag Club, an honor conferred on her for her performance as Jill Valentine in the newest film in the franchise, Retribution. Apocalypse is the movie where she played this immortal character for the first time. Could her performance in Apocalypse approach similar depths? Alas, no. She’s no good, but her performance is no more a standout in futility as any of her other cast mates. No, a performance worthy of admission to the Club has to be truly dreadful, something that makes a person wonder about the validity of acting as a profession. Merely sucking isn’t enough.

For her part, Jovovich shows once again that she is capable of performing stress and confusion as well as anyone. If she ever had a part as a patient in a mental hospital, one could pencil in the Oscar nomination immediately, but it’s when she has to deliver lines that her talents leave her.

Guillory, Jovovich, and a bunch of others not worth mentioning (Scut Farkus? With a Russian accent?!), are trapped in the city after agents of Umbrella seal it off. They only have a few hours to make it out before the entire area is vaporized with a nuke. If zombies and the threat of nuclear annihilation are not enough suspense for a viewer, there’s also the menace of Project Nemesis, a big rubber-suit monster that carries both a minigun and a rocket launcher. This is the closest the series ever got to having a videogame-like boss character, and is yet another reminder of why videogames don’t necessarily transfer well to the big screen.

Nemesis is among the more ridiculous bad guys I’ve ever seen in a movie, not least because real world physics aren’t all that friendly to five-hundred pound muscular behemoths. But, at least the filmmakers didn’t decide to just make it a CGI monster. They tried that for a bunch of the other baddies in the rest of the film, and it looks bad, bad, bad. Had this been made in, say, 1992, bad CGI could be excused. But this was released in 2004. CGI was hardly new then. My favorite moment of computerized chicanery is when Alice comes bursting through the stained glass window of a church riding a motorcycle. This bit harkens back to Kurt Russell surfing a tsunami in Escape from L.A. I loved it.

This movie stinks, but at least I won’t ever have to watch it again. Alien: Resurrection is a better film than Resident Evil: Apocalypse.