Resident Evil, Netflix, review: Stinks worse than zombie flesh – iNews

Besides Super Mario and Pokémon, few video games have had the shelf life of Resident Evil. First arriving as a PlayStation game in 1996, the zombie horror franchise has had eight major instalments (most of which have also been remade and re-released), a six-part live action film franchise (plus last year’s reboot, Welcome to Raccoon City), a comic series, several stage plays, some novels, the inevitable merchandise and, as of July 2021, an anime series on Netflix.
As if we weren’t at saturation point, there’s now a new Resident Evil live-action series, also on Netflix and created by Supernatural writer Andrew Dabb. Taking place in both 2022 and 2038, the eight episodes at least tell a new story, with new characters, within the franchise’s universe, which means you don’t need to be clued up on the action so far to enjoy it. You do, however, need a high tolerance for bad television.
It opens in 2036, with a woman studying a group of “zeroes” – zombies, all rotting skin and guttural moans, like every other depiction of the undead in the last five centuries. She is Jade (Ella Balinska), a “survivor” still intent on working out a cure (or at least containing the so-called T-virus more than has been done so far) 14 years after the major breakout in New Raccoon City, South Africa. In the four episodes critics have been allowed to watch, we follow her through a decimated London, avoiding zeroes and gigantic zombified CGI creatures, as well as the shadowy pharmaceutical company The Umbrella Corporation.
Why are they after her? Who knows. There’s very little time for talking among all the chases and fighting. Every time a hint of plot threatens to be revealed, zeroes arrive or bullets rain down from an Umbrella Corps drone. It’s not unlike playing a video game in which you can’t be bothered to listen to the boring dialogue – here it’s skipped for you.
Far more interesting and enlightening are the scenes from 2022, which see a young Jade (Tamara Smart) and her twin sister Billie (Siena Agudong) move to New Raccoon City where their dad (Lance Reddick) works for Umbrella. While the two timelines flip flop at an alarming rate (usually interrupting the most exciting parts), Jade’s time at school moves a lot slower than her than the action-packed adventures she has in adulthood, and is far richer in detail and plot.
Concerned Umbrella are testing on animals, Billie convinces her sister to sneak into the lab with her after hours to take pictures of the rabbits living there. Unfortunately, they accidentally release a ferocious dog carrying the T-virus (a nod to the video games, in which dogs are some of the most irritating villains) which bites Billie on the shoulder. No prizes for guessing what happens next: Billie begins to transform into patient zero. And yes, Covid does get an honourable mention (Billie is worried she’ll have to quarantine before her father ominously tells her the T-virus is “nothing like” Covid) but thankfully no-one lingers on the comparison. We’ve had quite enough of the tenuous, sluggish pandemic allegories on television, thank you very much.
But do we really need another zombie survival show. This is a story we’ve been told countless times, from The Walking Dead to Zombieland to the forthcoming adaptation of another video game, The Last of Us. In some ways, the continued interest in the genre should make another addition to the canon (especially when it’s this pat and predictable) harder to mess up.
That Resident Evil doesn’t take a novel approach and adds nothing new to either zombie culture or the original franchise is not its worst crime – it’s how lazily it goes about it. The writing is shlocky, the performances are unsubtle and the entire show lacks direction.
In the right hands, a live action Resident Evil series could make for masterful television. The involvement of the Umbrella Corps gives way to plenty of intricate and twisting storylines, rather than the simple violent baddies they are here. This slapdash approach doesn’t make use of the franchise’s rich 26-year history, nor does it tell a compelling enough story to make it feel fresh. Much like the putrefied flesh of a grotesque zombie, Resident Evil stinks.
Resident Evil streams on Netflix from Thursday 14 July.
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