Rental Review – Resident Evil: Degeneration

Resident Evil: Degeneration is an animated film that takes place within the timeline of the game franchise, and it probably would have worked as a game, but unfortunately it comes up lacking as a film.

Picking a new hub for a zombie outbreak, RE Degeneration takes on a whole new level of failed security and terrorist attacks at an airport.  For starters, a random zombie makes his way through the terminal, making his first meal out of a security guard.  Within seconds people are being turned left and right, and just when things seem to be as bad as they can be, a plane crashes into the side of the building, with even more zombies that were turned by one passenger pouring out of the planes door (how they got it open is still open for debate).  After a rescue mission is set into motion to save a few survivors trapped in one of the lounges in the terminal, it becomes clear that this incident is just an indication of what is to come.

As far as the RE franchise goes I know far more about the live action movies than the game series.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against the games because I have heard nothing but great things about them, and I am more than willing to sit and watch someone else play them.  And I am sure that if you put me in a bright room with tons of friends and/or armed guards around me then I might be okay to sit down and play them (because playing them alone is not an option.  I might pee my pants).  But lets face it; I don’t have that many friends who would be willing to watch me play these games.  And I definitely don’t have bodyguards.  So to sum up, horror films = awesome.  Horror games = wet pants.

What I am trying to say with that constant stream of ramble is that because of this lack of fangirl mentality going in to the film I feel like it wasn’t made for me, but is rather made for those who will geek out on the similarities to the game structure.  Take the overall story arc of the game.  Once the initial outbreak occurs one might expect throngs of zombies to attack and up the terror.  But no, instead there is actually an awkward lack of flesh eaters, with a few popping out of dark corners for slight frights.  (And where are the zombie dogs?  Everything I have ever witnessed about RE throws in zombie dogs!)  And then once the film moves away from the airport all hope for scares is lost, and instead is replaced by a mediocre ode to a boss battle.

Then there are the characters.  Both Claire Redfield and Leon S. Kennedy play intricate roles at some point during the game series, but this movie doesn’t really fill in the backstory of who they are or how they know each other (which I am assuming was pretty important at one point because they had some awkwardly long eye contact moments during the film).  Leon makes a pretty cool character in the film, so I will forgive the lack of explanation for him due to his awesome action sequences, but I expected more from Claire.  There are a few indications of the potential she has in a situation like this with her willingness to fight off the masses with an umbrella and her ability to slow mo catch a gun, but in all honesty I am surprised she made it out of whatever game she was in alive.  But it’s cool; I will just replace the memory of her in this with that of Ali Larter in Resident Evil: Extinction.  Other than these two the new characters being introduced are not any better, ranging from the people who won’t believe they are in a zombie movie until someone is gnawing on their appendages to those you just hope are there as cannon fodder.

Another problem with this film is that in its attempt to mimic a video game it tends to really slack on other key aspects of good movie making.  Everyone knows that a basic mistake in horror films is to split the characters up, but seeing as it happens all the time it can be forgiven.  What I cannot forgive is the fact that they never really explain why they are breaking apart.  This isn’t a single campaign game mode and I cannot pull up an objective screen to remind myself where characters are going, what they are doing and why they are doing it.  So please, try to explain their actions a little bit, and make them legit.  As mentioned before, the structure of the movie is pretty weak, with a story that isn’t any better and full of even worse dialog.  A game can still be great if the gameplay makes up for these lesser elements, but films don’t have this luxury.  So though the action scenes in this film are pretty great, there is far too little to mask everything else that is not up to par.

The animation style of this film works fine for the cutscenes of a game, but it is just another thing that comes up lacking in this movie.  The environments and use of darkness and shadows are pretty great, and there are some moments when everything just comes together in a “whoa” moment, but for the most part it becomes a hindrance.  For starters, the character animation is hit and miss.  The moments of action are by far the highlight of the film, but it is when we are supposed to sit and stare at the characters that the flaws become really obvious.  For the most part it is really hard to understand what the characters are thinking because their emotions do not come across at all in their facial expressions, so all that remains are just awkwardly long shots of their faces where all we can do is gawk at how unnaturally smooth their blank faces are.

If you have not played the games of the Resident Evil series then, like me, you are probably going to feel like you are out of the loop while watching Resident Evil: Degeneration.  The story and dialog are both incredibly weak, with far too little exposition to fill in the questions I had while watching.  Though the animation style presents some pretty cool moments, this film would probably work better as a live action movie because let’s face it, animated can do creepy (see Coraline and 9), but animation horror just doesn’t quite have the strength of live action horror unless done perfectly.

Final Grade: D+

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