RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION

RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION

Alice (Milla Jovovich) awakes naked in a bathtub, seemingly not quite sure where she is. She stumbles to her feet, makes her way to a bedroom and puts on the red dress that is waiting for her on the bed. She continues to wander through the building, finding her way to a booby trap-filled corridor where she is shot in the stomach by a robotic gun.

As she lies dying on the floor, three Umbrella officials wearing protective masks approach her. The middle one - the dastardly Dr Isaacs (Iain Glen) - instructs the other two to take a sample of Alice's blood then dispose of her body.

When the two Umbrella henchmen take Alice's body outside and dump it onto a pile of identical corpses (clones of Alice, it transpires), we see that Umbrella's clinical laboratory is now based in the middle of the Nevada desert - and is surrounded by zombies.

Alice's voiceover explains to us that it is the end of the world. The dreaded T-virus has wiped out most of America's population, as well as killing off things like plants and lakes. The virus has spread throughout the world and what little survivors remain must struggle to scavenge for supplies and gas in a barren, desolate world.

We first meet Alice (the real Alice, that is) as she answers a distress call from some survivors holed up in a Salt Lake City radio station. Unfortunately their transmission was a hoax and they lure Alice in to rape her then feed her to three zombie dogs. But Alice soon turns the tables on these redneck cronies and turns them into dog food.

Next we meet Claire (Ali Larter), who leads a convoy of trucks across the deserted American plains in search of shelter and supplies ... and cigarettes! Among her band of survivors are Alice's former colleague Carlos (Oded Fehr), the cool L.J. (Mike Epps), the young K-Mart (Spencer Locke), Otto (Joe Hursley), Betty (singer Ashanti), computer nerd Mikey (Christopher Egan) and Chase (Linden Ashby).

We first get to see the team in action when they raid an abandoned motel for supplies, taking out a few pesky zombies in the process. Mikey spends most of his time away from the frontline shenanigans, boxed in the back of a truck trying to transmit messages to fellow survivors on his radio.

Meanwhile, in another part of the desert, Alice survives alone on her motorcycle. She hears Mikey's messages but chooses to ignore them. She appears to be getting along fine by herself, until one night when she suffers flashbacks of the time she was imprisoned and experimented upon by Isaacs and his Umbrella stooges. The dream unsettles Alice's emotions, causing her special psychic (or "psionic") powers to throw her motorcycle into the air, effectively trashing it.

It is fortuitous, then, when Alice stumbles across Claire's convoy the following day, just in time to save them from a horde of flesh-eating crows. Claire is initially suspicious of Alice and reluctant to let her join her team. But Carlos, who can vouch for Alice from his past, persuades Claire to let Alice stay.

Alice produces a diary she's kept of all transmissions she's heard over the months since the world "ended", and suggests that Alaska appears to be the only place left that may not be infected. The convoy vote in favour of embarking on a long slog to Alaska - but first they need fuel and supplies which, Claire informs them, means venturing into the dangerously zombie-infested streets of Las Vegas

All of which sounds like a mammoth undertaking in itself. But little do they know that Isaacs has traced Alice's whereabouts via his satellite, and wants to bring her in to experiment on creating a serum to reverse the T-virus and domesticate the zombies for Umbrella's own gains

I'm new to the RESIDENT EVIL films. Heathen that I am, I'm not even overly familiar with the games. So I went into this totally blind, which is both an advantage and a disadvantage. It's a disadvantage obviously because it took me a while to understand what was going on. But, on the plus side, I got to watch the film with no preconceptions and can now judge it on it's own merit, rather than drawing comparisons with it's predecessors.

The film, directed by HIGHLANDER helmer Russell Mulcahy, is beautifully shot. The widescreen compositions of open desert landscapes are frequently breathtaking. Mulcahy's camera rarely sits still, preferring instead to roam and rove over the spacious sun-kissed exteriors.

In terms of acting, no-one is required to stretch themselves and consequently no-one stands out as being particularly engaging or noticeably bad. Isaacs relishes his role as the baddy, delivering an enjoyably hammy turn that may alienate viewers looking for serious horror.

But in a film like RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION, it's the action and gore that are ultimately the stars of the show. The action feels strangely muted at times, never quite hitting home with the impact you'd expect from a glossy mainstream action/horror crossover. While it's competently staged and aesthetically staged, a lot of the zombie attacks and shoot-outs simply aren't thrilling.

As for the gore, there's not an awful lot on offer. We get some very good zombie make effects and some quick-edit gunshots-to-the-head but precious little else. Although fans of the game will be pleased to hear that the Tyrant makes an appearance towards the end.

While the make-up effects are excellent, there are a couple of CGI effects which fail miserably (most noticeably during the ridiculous crow attacks).

Overall I was pleasantly surprised by RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION. It's not high art, but it's also not as dumb or as cheesy as I thought. Okay, its plot clearly steals from MAD MAX 2 and DAY OF THE DEAD, but as far as contemporary zombie films go, this is a solid effort. The open ending is a worry though - although writer Paul WS Anderson does hint a couple of times in the extras that this is the final part of a trilogy

The film is presented in a gorgeous anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer. It's pin-sharp, with superb contrast and colour control. A sterling presentation.

The English 5.1 audio is a solid, well-balanced mix adding some bite to the occasionally insipid action sequences. 5.1 mixes are also available in Hindi and Italian. Optional subtitles are available for the main feature in 10 different languages, including English and English Hard of Hearing.

A scene-selection menu allows access to the main feature via 28 chapters.

The first of some very interesting extra features is an engaging commentary track from Anderson, Mulcahy and producer Jeremy Bolt. It's a fluent chat, with Anderson dominating the conversation. He's been on the RESIDENT EVIL film franchise since day one, and he wants you to know that!

"Beyond Raccoon City: Unearthing Resident Evil: Extinction" is a gathering of four featurettes which look into aspects of the film's making, such as pre-production, the actual shooting, and the FX preparation. You can choose to watch these featurettes individually, but I found they flowed better by selecting "Play All" and watching them as one 31-minute documentary. Again, Anderson seems more involved here than Mulcahy, which is odd. It's good to see Anderson namecheck Fulci and Romero as childhood influences, but he may be overstepping the mark when he credits the first RESIDENT EVIL film as kickstarting this last decade's zombie film boom!

But this is a very well produced extra with slick editing, and worthy interviews with cast and crew members sandwiched between behind-the-scenes footage and clips from the finished film.

6 deleted scenes follow, all in non-anamorphic 2.35:1. Some of these are without sound. They last a total of 9 minutes.

There's a 1-minute "sneak peek" at a new CG-animated film entitled RESIDENT EVIL: DEGENERATION.

Finally, we get trailers for the films GABRIEL and VANTAGE POINT, and for games RESIDENT EVIL 4 and RESIDENT EVIL 5.

There is a certain amount of snobbery that exists in certain factions of the horror fan community and it's unhealthy. RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION is not particularly scary or gory, and doesn't exactly tread new ground, but if people give it a go I feel they may well be pleasantly surprised.

Review by Stu Willis


 
Released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review
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