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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents

Resident Evil: SE (2002)

"You're all going to die down here."- Holographic Red Queen

Stars: Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Eric Mabius
Other Stars: James Purefoy, Martin Crewes, Colin Salmon
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson

Manufacturer: DVDL
MPAA Rating: R for sci-fi/horror violence, language, and brief sexuality/nudity
Run Time: 01h:40m:24s
Release Date: 2002-07-30
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ C+AA- B+


DVD Review

A deadly virus contaminates a secret military facility, and its efficient computer immediately responds and decimates the hundreds of scientists working there. This elaborate underground structure is called The Hive, and it houses an array of ugly genetic creations and illegal substances. Its owner is the Umbrella Corporation—a supreme entity that controls numerous aspects of daily life by creating nearly all of the goods and services available. A team of military experts must now infiltrate The Hive, shut down the Red Queen (the computer), and escape in only a few hours. Expectedly, unforeseen complications ensue that make survival nearly impossible.

Alice (Milla Jovovich) awakes naked on the floor of a shower and remembers nothing from her previous life. Her apparent home is a large, eerie mansion of odd statues and unfamiliar furniture. Without any warning, the silence breaks and the soldiers blast through the windows. They quickly grab Alice and board a train for The Hive with little explanation. What is going on? The answer is much more horrifying than some dead scientists and an overprotective computer.

Resident Evil faithfully brings the immensely popular video game series to the big screen with considerable style and plenty of gore. I feel negligent for not playing the game before screening the film, but I am basically familiar with its contents. A score of gruesome undead inhabitants lie ready to terrorize anyone who invades The Hive. Similar to the heroes in the video game, Alice and the soldiers must battle the monstrous former scientists through diverse environments to reach the ultimate goal. Once they shut down the Red Queen, the doors open and give the undead freedom to attack and "feed" on the heroes.

In terms of stylish action, this tale resonates nicely and barely takes a breath during the last hour. However, the characters hardly garner much sympathy due to a lack of depth. Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez (Girlfight) both make a hearty effort, but their effectiveness is limited by the confines of the script. Rodriguez’s character (Rain) has the worst of it, and her believability is solely related to the actor’s strong persona. The other primary individuals are One (Colin Salmon), the stern and talented leader; Spence (James Purefoy), Alice's supposed husband from her past life; and Matt (Eric Mabius), a cop who knows more than he's telling everyone. While these figures are mostly one-dimensional, they do at least create enough substance to make their actions believable.

Writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson has delved into horror territory before with Event Horizon, a mundane science-fiction piece that is notable solely for containing some extremely disturbing imagery. He also directed Mortal Kombat, which may not be a masterpiece, but it does retain the fun elements of the video game. That connection also rings true with this film—an awkward, muddled creation that remains entertaining mostly through kinetic direction. During one of Alice's flashbacks, she witnesses the daily work of the scientists as if it's taking place right in front of her. This impressive effect nicely translates a fairly simple scene into something memorable. Another nice sequence involves the swift defense mechanism used by the Red Queen. Several unfortunate soldiers become trapped within a corridor armed with deadly lasers. The beams slice through anything they touch and even change direction to fool their victims. One agile member does deftly avoid the weapon, but its next response is completely unexpected and ingenious.

Resident Evil should ultimately please fans of the genre and alienate nearly everyone else. Viewers who dislike bloody horror pictures will not change their minds because of this picture. Fans of the video game and of sci-fi/horror films will probably enjoy the rampant energy and slightly inventive premise. I could not see myself repeatedly watching the story, but I do admit to mostly enjoying it. It is difficult not to appreciate a movie that places Milla Jovovich in a short red dress and lets her kick some undead butt. While that element will obviously not appeal to every viewer, it definitely generates an audience.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Resident Evil appears in an excellent 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that ranks among the best that I've seen in recent months. Paul W.S. Anderson's chaotic direction springs nicely from the screen and reveals a nearly reference-quality picture. Milla's striking red dress and The Hive's inventive sets feature blazing colors that lose little in the translation to the small screen. Also, the nasty makeup of the zombies remains as grisly as ever. The only drawbacks are a few moments where the edges get sketchy, but they are barely noticeable on this attractive transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: A

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: The sounds of Marilyn Manson and Marco Beltrami's hard-hitting score blast powerfully from this 5.1-channel Dolby Digital transfer. The key word to describe this track is LOUD, which increases the film's frenetic atmosphere. Luckily, the volume remains fairly balanced and does not require quick uses of the remote to save your ears. The dialogue takes a back seat to the action, but it is also clear and understandable when delivered. This transfer does not match with the best DTS tracks, but it does present the carnage in all its original force.

Audio Transfer Grade: A- 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, XXX, Men in Black II, Spider-Man, Formula 51
Production Notes
1 Documentaries
4 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Paul W.S. Anderson, producer Jeremy Bolt, Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Music video for Slipknot's "My Plague (New Abuse Mix)"
Extras Review: This special edition of Resident Evil does not have the abundant number of features available on certain releases, but the extras that are included are almost all worthwhile. It contains the requisite commentary track from director Paul W.S. Anderson, producer Jeremy Bolt, and lead actors Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez. The group may not inject much fascinating material, but they do have plenty of fun talking about the production. Jovovich seems to find it impossible to take anything seriously, and constantly interrupts the others with silly tidbits and exclamations. She talks about doing the movie because the game is "super cool" and how her little brother reveres her now because of it. Anderson and Boyle do try to divert the conversation to a more informative level, but that only lasts for a short time. I actually prefer this type of unrehearsed, silly commentary for a movie of this genre. It allows you to discover a bit of the speakers' real personalities, and avoids the boring "I just loved working with . . " type of statements. Jovovich and Rodriguez both seem like fun-loving girls, and Boyle and Anderson don't take themselves too seriously either. This track really presents everyone's enjoyment of the video game, which ultimately lead to a more faithful adaptation. At several points, Anderson mentions a second commentary from production designer Richard Bridgland, but it strangely does not appear anywhere.

The disc also contains an impressive collection of five featurettes that tackle various sides of creating the film. The Making of Resident Evil/ is a 27-minute documentary that mostly consists of promotional interviews with the cast and crew. The notable actors introduces their characters in short segments that reveal little beyond the obvious elements. The piece also contains numerous shots from the film, which add little in the context of a DVD release. There are some nice segments, including a conversation with the production designer about designing the eerie sets. On an overall level, however, this feature is a disappointment and provides less insights than you would expect. Scoring Resident Evil presents comments from Marco Beltrami (Scream) and controversial rocker Marilyn Manson, who composed the film's score. This featurette is surprisingly interesting and gives both speakers considerable time to discuss the process. Manson is not one of my favorite artists, but he is remarkably open and down-to-earth in this 11-minute piece.

Costumes (three minutes) takes a quick and simple look at the outfits worn, and Set Design (four minutes) covers the primary locations utilized during the picture. Finally, Zombie Make-up Tests (one minute) showcases the nasty faces of the varying undead creatures. Shot in extreme close-ups, this short feature thankfully only presents a limited amount of disgusting images.

The remaining supplements include a large collection of theatrical trailers and Slipknot's music video My Plague (New Abuse Mix). The song is heavy and not very appealing, but they do present a crazy stage show that matches Resident Evil's creepy atmosphere. A 30-second commercial for the original soundtrack follows the video. All of the previews appear in excellent 1.85:1 widescreen transfers with 5.1-channel Dolby Digital audio. Especially notable from the group are the stunning animation of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, and Formula 51—a Samuel Jackson action/comedy that I had not heard about before this trailer.

Extras Grade: B+

Final Comments

Paul W.S. Anderson is an admirer older horror films by directors like John Carpenter (Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween) that did not immediately reveal everything to the viewer. Resident Evil does follow this trend for a while, but it eventually succumbs to intense action and quick thrills. The end result offers plenty of energy, but it does grow tiresome near its conclusion. The overall effort is worthy, but it still falls short of the heralded classics. Not surprisingly, Anderson will get another shot when Resident Evil: Nemesis opens next year.

Dan Heaton 2002-08-07