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March 18, 2002 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2002-03-18

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8A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, March 18, 2002

ARTS

I

Derivative 'Resident Evil' borrows
much from predecessors, returns little

I

By Lyle Henretty
Daily Arts Editor
In 1978, John Carpenter under-
stood that his rough cut of slasher-
film granddaddy "Halloween" was
not scary enough. Already running
out of money, Carpen-
ter wrote a soundtrack
specifically intended
to make the audience
jump during the film's RESID
scarier scenes. At the
time, it was an ingen- At Shov
ious way to turn a low- Qua
budget horror flick Para
into the (at the time)
highest grossing independent
movie ever.
Carpenter's use of loud noises to
scare audiences was the only way
he could save his breakthrough film
from celluloid oblivion. Now, a
quarter of a century later, big-budg-
et zombie-fest "Resident Evil"
spends too much time over-utilizing
the technique. Hong Kong action
directors will be embarrassed by
the sound air makes (and a bevy of
other inanimate objects) as it sim-
ply moves. It's a telling sign that
director Paul Anderson cannot
squeeze enough suspense from his

claustrophobic, genetic-zombie-
monster-corporate-conspiracy
thriller that he must resort to turn-
ing up the THX sound to the ear-
bleed setting.
"Resident Evil" is not the worst
horror film to come out in the past

k*

NT EVIL
wcase and
lity 16.
mount
sters. What

few years, but it is a
case study in what's
wrong with the genre
as a whole. The creepy
atmosphere so preva-
lent in films from
"Psycho" to "The
Exorcist" has been
replaced by clever
quips and CGI mon-
made films like "Hal-

released on Earth since 1968, "Res-
ident Evil" borrows liberally from
George Romero's "Night of the
Living Dead" and its superior
sequel "Dawn of the Dead"
("Resident" even goes so
far as to swipe aspects
from the least of Romero's
efforts,
1985's
of the
D ead").
The recent-
ly dead rise,
devoid of all per-
sonality and only
interested in feeding
on the blood of the
living, who invari-
ably turn into zom-
bies after attack.
While it vainly
attempts to, "Resi-
dent" does not cap-
ture the sense of
reality and despera-
tion Romero achieved
by shooting his films
in quasi-documen-
tary style. The loud,
pulsating energy of
the new film does not Courtesy of Colun

loween" work was the feeling of
entrapment. "Resident Evil" has
plenty of enclosed places, and
they're even racing the clock, yet
the audience never fears for the
characters, or even cares whether
they live or die. True horror only
comes when the audience identifies
with the characters on the screen,
and it's hard to identify with trash-
talking post-comic-book characters
that retain their good looks and
sharp wits even after being chewed
on by skinless demon-dogs.
Like every other zombie film

make up for its complete lack of
social conscience.
No, it is not imperative that zom-
bie films speak to the ills of socie-
ty, but a movie that goes to great
length to describe how an evil
corporation can nearly take
over the world, it abandons its
own premise rather quickly.
The plot is wholly dis-
posable and involves THE
mega-corporation of the
21st century, The Umbrella
Corporation. The arro-
gance in naming a compa-
ny The Umbrella
Corporation has apparently
paid off, as, a brief prologue
helpfully points out, 90 per-
cent of U.S. homes now
contain items produced by
Umbrella. Despite this
fruitful vice-grip on the
American populous, the
very same prologue
explains that the bread and
butter of Umbrella comes
from secret government
genetic testing at a gigan-
tor underground laborato-
ry. Now, seriously, what
secret government genetic
ia Pictures testing underground labora-
tory wouldn't have some sort of
serum or pill or something that
turns people into zombies?
There are a handful of characters
in this film, though I'm really not
sure what their names are, and no
A look at the
underside of U of M
i.
www.universitysecrets.com

Courtesy of Columbia Pictues
A bunch of people that are wholly forgettable.

11. TM l

one ever calls anyone the same
thing twice (or, if they do, they're
one of those stock "good looking"
cookie-cutter straight-to-video
action types that all look the same).
Milla Jovovich ("The Fifth Ele-
ment, "The Messenger") plays a
woman who wakes up naked in a
bathtub with no memory. Then a
cop shows up and a bunch of Navy
Seal types fly through the windows,
"Brazil" style. They explain that
Jovovich works with them, she is a
security specialist posing as the
female half of a married couple liv-
ing in a mansion that is just an
aboveground front for the central
laboratories called "The Hive."
Huh? Just as "What the hell is
going on here" crosses the mind, it
becomes clear that none of this
matters. The security folks (not
really sure what their job titles are,
exactly) including Michelle
Rodriguez ("Girlfight," "The Fast
and the Furious") and Eric Mabius
("The Crow: Salvation"), and the
whole merry group goes down into
the Hive, finds everyone is dead yet
still walking around. They can, of
course, kill the zombies by shoot-
ing them in the head. If you get
confused on what, exactly is going
on, Anderson is nice enough to help
you along by playing scary music
when things get intense, so you can
prepare yourself for the loud noise.

I
I

Jovovich and Rodriguez are
attractive in their roles, and they
even bring a certain lesbian subtext
to the film. Why, exactly, is not
clear, but judging from the amount
of 14 year-old boys at the movies
on a Saturday night, the slight addi-
tion (and slight nudity)' probably
won't hurt ticket sales. One hopes
Rodriguez will get out of her cur-
rent slump of action filler and capi-
talize on some of the potential and
raw emotion she showed in her first
film, "Girlfight."
Though it is based on a video
game, the flick is not a complete
wash. The special effects and brain-
less nature throughout make it a
painless Saturday night popcorn
schlock. "Resident Evil" fits firmly
into the derivative genre movie
pantheon simply for is unabashed,
unbiased and shameless pillaging
of the great films of horror history
that preceded it.

I

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