Resident Evil is already being considered for a full-on reboot. Initially that seemed like a bad idea, but the more I contemplate, the more I realize it could be a very good idea. Beyond the first two Paul W.S. Anderson films, Resident Evil became a morbid experiment that rarely worked well, and that could be a result of the massive deviations from the games’ storylines as well as introductions to a whole slew of supporting characters that, frankly, not many of us cared about. Hell, even Alice is a cinematically manufactured heroine who doesn’t exactly hold a prominent place in the video game universe.
Anderson forgot about Resident Evil fans and decided to make outrageous science fiction films that – apparently – he himself enjoys. Loyalty to the built in fanbase was clearly disregarded, and the deeper Anderson dug the hole, the fewer true Resident Evil fans cared.
So here we are, trying to make sense of a profoundly strange film franchise. What you’re about to read is a ranking – from worst to first, of the entire Resident Evil franchise. Some decisions may surprise he general masses, but hardcore gamers may very well see this extended debacle as I personally do.
Let’s get into it!
10 – Resident Evil: Afterlife
There was no heart in Resident Evil: Afterlife. Half of the performances felt as though they had been phoned in by drowsy “performers.” The special effects looked noticeably cheaper in this film than the bulk of the other installments. And too many ideas and characters were stuffed into a film that could have potentially dialed back a lot of the minor subplots (while slightly trimming the cast) to give us a stronger and more intimate tale of a war with the undead and some seriously corrupt mother fuckers. What we instead got was a snoozefest with so little zombie action that I forgot I was watching a zombie film before subsequently falling asleep (literally) in the theater when I took my oldest to see it.
In short, Resident Evil: Afterlife was a surprisingly boring affair. My daughter was prepared to exit the theaters about halfway through the film, and I think her instinctual need to escape torture inspired me a little bit. And, well… left me a little fearful: How could anyone release that film.
09 – Resident Evil: Extinction
The third film in the franchise, Resident Evil: Extinction, was damn near as loathsome as Afterlife, and that’s a real bummer. Paul W.S. Anderson had the chance to give us MAD MAX with zombies and a female protagonist that moviegoers believe in. Instead we got a drawn-out trip into the desert, where the crows attack (yep) and the good guys don’t always survive to save the next day.
As was the case with Afterlife the zombies are sparse in the film, which completely sucks. Our heroes don’t even truly get to any significant battle until the third act, and the Resident Evil films have never taken their time in spilling blood and creating interesting ways to slaughtering people. This one is completely different, but this much can be said: The final showdown is epic. It’s so epic, in fact, that it almost saves the film as a whole. Almost.
08 – Biohazard 4D – Executer
I don’t really know the history behind this one too well, but after seeing it for the first time a while back, I immediately respected the picture for what it is. It’s spirited. Hell, it’s downright gnarly. We get warfare of the kind we prefer: soldiers versus giant hulking monsters. And you won’t be disappointed with creature aspect of the film, in the least. I guess the only true complaint I have about the film is that it’s too fucking short.
07 – Resident Evil: Damnation
Resident Evil: Damnation takes all the strong elements of Degeneration and then multiplies them a few times. Despite basically duplicating the conflict (I said basically), the gore is noticeably more gruesome, the death scenes more memorable and that final villain… good lord (keep in mind I don’t play the games, so I don’t know if he has a history within the game franchise) is he a savage, bad ass looking murderous bastard who seems all but indestructible. The picture in general is impressive, but the climax of this film outshines damn near every finale in the franchise.
06 – Resident Evil: Degeneration
Resident Evil: Degeneration could easily be argued as the slowest of all the Resident Evil animation films, and I wouldn’t leap to argue that. Having gotten that out of the way, there are some superb sequences in the picture, and it all starts with a very stimulating scene in an airport. Despite a few lulls in action, by the time the climax arrives we get what we’ve come to expect from any Resident Evil film: chaos, and mean ass (in this case, pretty original and atypical) monsters!
05 – Resident Evil: Retribution
Resident Evil: Retribution goes full-on science fiction (and weird), and while it works well in spots (the artificial surroundings make for pleasant surprises, and a few gratifying action sequences lie in wait), ultimately, Anderson decides that horror can once more sit in the back of the bus, the sci-fi elements occupying all of the cushions in the front of the vehicle… for some reason. It’s a weird adventure. It reunites Alice with a whole slew of her old post-apocalyptic buddies, but the problem is, they’re just about all dead. And the motive behind the return of these (clones? I lost the interest to sort through the details) characters may not be exactly what it seems. The flick starts strong, but the final act takes a strange turn, suddenly looking quite a bit cheaper than the rest of the film. I’m not sure if editing issues hindered the conclusion, if finances were running low, or if it was something entirely different. What I do know is it looks like the final showdown has been pieced together with whatever scraps might have been left available.
04 – Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
A lot of fans weren’t big on Paul W.S. Anderson’s closing chapter to the Resident Evil franchise, but it’s the most entertaining live action piece since the early days of the series. There are all sorts of insane monsters and tons of perfectly over-the-top battle scenes. What’s best about the film is that Anderson apparently listened to fan complaints – the level of horror in this film is significantly ramped up, and compared to the previous three live-action films isn’t even comparable. The science fiction elements do still play a role in the story, but Anderson took – for the most part – his pet project back to its roots, meaning, he finally gave us another horror film, as opposed to a science fiction feature with minimal elements of the genre that the story was originally birthed on.
03 – Resident Evil: Vendetta
For my buck, Resident Evil: Vendetta is far and away the greatest animated Resident Evil film in existence. The story is completely engrossing, and at times we almost feel as though we’re watching a throwback ‘80s flick. The opening is genius, and calls back to Predator while the final showdown itself exceeds expectation. But the real beauty is the fact that the script is so tight the film produces very little in the way downtime. Vendetta is a great film that even those who aren’t too keen on animated works will surely enjoy.
02 – Resident Evil
The film that started it all… The first Resident Evil picture felt loyal to the original video game, and that immediately scores points. Terror in the mansion is great, but what’s even better are the elaborate booby traps and creative kills. The gore is great, the zombies actually serve as a menace in the forefront and we even get to see a few standout personalities get the unexpected axe. It may be the least technically refined film (my opinion) in the franchise, but it’s a safe go-to for those looking for stimulating zombie fare, and we still get a few peeks at solid practical effects.
01 – Resident Evil: Apocalypse
Resident Evil: Apocalypse also sticks close to the source’s horror roots. It’s all out warfare between man and mutated creatures in this film, and when the film’s protagonists aren’t emptying machine guns or running for their lives, they’re giving us subtle suggestions as to the intricacies of their personalities. By the time the flick comes to a close we feel as though we know these characters on a much more personal level. And then Nemesis shows up – still faithful to the earlier games – and gives us the true super-villain we craved so much. Resident Evil: Apocalypse is definitely not without some plot misfires, but, like Vendetta, it has an endearing vintage quality to it that older fans are going to go ape over. It’s just too bad the bulk of the live action series failed to match the intensity of this particular pic.
Editor’s Note: Since the writing of this article, D.C. contributor Matt Molgaard has passed on. It’s an honor for us to share his final insights with you all. He will be sorely missed.