When I was a kid, I played a bit of Resident Evil 2. And when I say a bit, I mean I could never get past the first five minutes or so. I was terrible at it, so after a while, I just quit and gave the game to a cousin of mine. So I admittedly don’t know much about the games beyond the general premise of the series, but I was still really excited for Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City. I’m a big fan of zombies, and the trailers gave me hope that this just might be a scary fun time.
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City was directed by Johannes Roberts, and it stars Kaya Scodelario, Hannah John-Kamen, Robbie Amell, Tom Hopper, Avan Jogia, Donal Logue, and Neal McDonough. This is a reboot of the franchise, not a continuation of the Mila Jovovich Resident Evil films, and it serves as a new introduction to this world. It’s about the initial zombie outbreak that kicks off the entire story, and if you stay for the credits, you’ll see that the filmmakers definitely left room for a sequel.
All in all, I’d say that Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is a scary fun time, but that’s all it is. While the horror is surprisingly good, everything else is predictably bad. Let’s start with the negatives. To begin, the plot is pretty much just the premise. There’s not much more to it than the zombie outbreak, so if you’re looking for an engrossing story with twists and turns that will keep you on your toes from start to finish, you’re not going to find it here. This movie is about as straightforward as you can get, so it has to rely on its other elements to make it worthwhile.
What’s more, the characters are also pretty boring. They’re all quite flat, and you never feel like you really get to know them. The film spends so much time on the horror and the action that it forgets to flesh out its characters in any meaningful way, so none of them go through any real arcs. They’re little more than excuses to show off some cool zombies, and while they perform that function well enough, I really wish I could’ve forged some sort of emotional connection with at least one of them. But unfortunately, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City doesn’t allow that, so once again, if you’re looking for anything resembling good storytelling, this is definitely not the movie for you.
Instead, as I said before, the one area this film excels in is horror, and I have to say, I was actually pretty impressed with it. For starters, the zombies look great. Unlike a lot of zombie movies, they’re not just different variations of the same basic design, and I really appreciated that variety. To take just a few examples, some of them look like a late-stage Deborah Logan from The Taking of Deborah Logan, others look like the zombies we got in the Romero classics Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead, and there are even a few that look almost vampiric. But whatever they look like, they’re all really cool. The makeup department did a great job here, and no matter what else was happening on screen, I always enjoyed getting a chance to see these awesome creatures.
Along similar lines, these zombies are also pretty terrifying. While they don’t quite sprint at their victims, the way they go about their business reminded me a lot of Rec and 28 Days Later. They have a similar ferocity to the monsters in those films, and when they go all-out, it’s a thing of brutal beauty.
On top of its awesome zombies, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City also has some really great scares. They’re mainly jump scares, but for the most part, they’re not cheap. Sure, there are a good number of standard scare tactics we’ve all seen a million times before, but I’d say that at least half of them (if not more) are actually really effective. In particular, the movie often gets you to focus on one part of the screen, and then it’ll throw in a scare from somewhere else, catching you completely off guard. There are also a bunch of times when you’re engrossed in the action and a scare comes entirely out of nowhere, and the surprise factor makes it super effective.
But don’t get the wrong idea. This film isn’t just about jump scares, it also has some great atmospheric scenes that are almost haunted house-esque. Even apart from the jump scares they sometimes (but not always!) lead to, they’re genuinely creepy in themselves. Director Johannes Roberts finds an excellent balance between light and darkness in these eerie settings, and he paces the scenes just about perfectly to maximize their scariness.
So all in all, if you’re in the mood for some fun popcorn horror, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is just what you’re looking for. While the characters and the plot are pretty thin, the horror is so good it single-handedly makes this movie worth a watch. It has cool zombies, surprisingly good jump scares, and some really effective atmospheric scenes. So if this sounds like something you’d enjoy, I definitely recommend checking it out.
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is out in theaters right now.