The Resident Evil games are virtually films in themselves. Masterclasses in slow-build fear and packed with skewed camera work, they’ve been amongst the most cinematic games around for the last three console generations. Plus they have zombies. Lots of zombies. Moody, arty horror with a lot of splatter? How could it fail?
What we got
Paul W.S. Anderson. That’s how it could fail. Once the man behind previous videogame movie cheese-fest Mortal Kombat (Don’t argue. Just watch it now you're older and try not to laugh) got his hands on Resi it was doomed. Replacing the game series’ tension and layered plotting with a thumping industrial soundtrack and lots of staggeringly cheap and badly edited bullet-time kung fu, the whole film had the feel of a low-budget Matrix trapped in the body of a music video. What was anyone involved thinking? Hell, was anyone involved thinking?
If they’d followed the rules
What in a Resident Evil game wouldn’t make a good movie if done properly? They have zombies, brilliant monster design, grittiness, and an ever-escalating storyline, and if shot with their same bleakness, the movie would have all the right ingredients for a horror classic.
Game’s strengths tapped
See above basically. The Resident Evil games have always thrived on creating just the right balance of desolate, hopeless lonliness and massive jump scares. They also contain some amazingly iconic, unforgettable monsters and wisely keep the player feeling in danger at all times. For all the zombie shooting, these games aren’t a gung-ho, Army Of Darkness experience. If a movie followed the games’ template, it would be incredibly unsettling.
The right cast
It has to be about acting, not action in a Resident Evil movie. The ideal cast would be emotive, likeable, and able to create empathy as their situation becomes ever more terrifying. Their journey has to mirror the escalating sense of forboding the player goes through during the course of a Resident Evil game, so sneering one-note performances need not apply (Yes, I’m looking at you, Ms. Jovavich and Ms. Rodriguez). In short, to really sell what the movie should be about, we need warm, human actors capable of creating real characters who we’ll worry about. A young Julianne Moore would have made a brilliant Jill.
The right direction
George Romero. End of discussion. With his original 1968 Night Of The Living Dead, Romero arguably invented the modern zombie genre. That film and its sequels are some of the best and most intelligent zombie movies ever made and without them, Resident Evil would not exist.
Ironically, Romero was originally slated to make the first Resi movie, and even got as far as writing the script before Capcom decided they didn’t like what he was doing and fired him in favour of Anderson. We can only assume there was a big crack party at head office that day, and we’ve sobbed at the thought of what might have been ever since. George also shot a couple of brief Japanese commercials for Resident Evil 2, which you can find on Youtube.
He’s a master of tension, a master of intelligent character development, and a master of inventive gore (Tell us the flip-top zombie in Land Of The Dead didn’t make you whoop with glee. Go on. Just try it.). We need a reboot of the Resident Evil movies and we need him to take control of it.