Review : Resident Evil : Welcome to Racoon City

A faithful re-telling or a false restart?

by Pat Clifford

Welcome to Raccoon City was touted as a re-boot to the Milla Jovovich lead Resident Evil film franchise, but this time around, we are promised to get something a lot closer to the Resident Evil game series from Capcom.
Written and directed by Johannes Roberts, its story has been adapted from the first two games, primarily Resident Evil 2, in the Capcom franchise. You can tell Johannes is a fan. He has created the atmosphere, personality traits of individual characters, set-piece locations and overall feel with Welcome to Racoon City as though it was pulled direct from the games themselves. “RE” fans will instantly feel connected to the movie.

We are introduced early on to our protagonist Claire Redfield (Kaya Scodelario) and brother, Chris (Robbie Amell), in their formative years at Raccoon City Orphanage in the late 80s. The opening sets the tone for the whole movie, from the creepy disfigured Jill Trevor to the malevolent William Birkin (Neal McDonough) who runs the orphanage.
Flash forward to 1998/ Umbrella Corp has pulled out of Racoon City and left it in ruin with only a small amount of people still living in the town as they move to another facility. Claire returns home to see her brother via a hitched truck ride after being contacted about a possible cover-up with the townsfolk falling ill. The relationship between Claire and Chris is frosty at best. Claire ran away when younger, and they haven’t kept in touch; this works with the awkward meeting between the two.

Chris now works for the Racoon City Police Department (RPD) alongside fellow officers Jill Valentine (Hannah John-Kamen), Albert Wesker (Tom Hopper) and Leon S. Kennedy (Avan Jogia). Fans of the video games know these characters well.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a Resident Evil or even horror movie without the classic split up, but I have to say this one is actually done well. Half head up to Spencer Mansion, the setting for the first game, and the rest are at the RPD headquarters, which has been re-created perfectly from the second.

Ultimately the fan service doesn’t help Welcome to Racoon City live up to its predecessors, whether movie or game form. The feeling of tension and dread felt in-game is hard to replicate, and it is there but fails to be capitalised on with bad camera movements or constant switching of viewpoint. Too often, we see flashes of light to light up a zombie’s face at a time or in a position that breaks the continuity of the scene, and the characters feel a little lost in the environment. The RPD Headquarters had the classic bad guys outside, good guys inside setup, but it was all over way too quickly.

Practical effects are done really well, with everyone suitably zombified and gory for all their up-close shots. There isn’t any skimping on the blood splatter either; after all, it is a Resident Evil. I have to take aim at the special effects though. I know the games were made in the ’90s. The movie is set in 98, but did the visual effects also have to be from that era? I am sorry, but they were terrible. It is almost as though someone forgot they were making these for a live-action movie and didn’t render them correctly. The Licker is hard to master, but it has been done better in the past, and I won’t dive into the other, but it is laughable. It was enough for me to openly shake my head as it could have made the movie a whole lot better.

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City falls short on the opportunity to re-boot a franchise. While its locals and characters provide plenty of fan service, it rushes itself to a predictable and poorly crafted ending that isn’t doing itself any favours. The characters we all know and love are all too hollow, and I feel that if you don’t know the games, none of what is going on will resonate with you. There are some positives. The soundtrack is on point, and the story is there to grow on if they have done enough to warrant a sequel. The cast does a decent job with what they are given though they need to tone down the F-bombs to many, most of them forced.

Resident Evil: Welcome to Racoon City is available now to purchase or rent on Amazon Prime. Wait for it to come to Prime Video free.

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