Resident Evil Afterlife 3DRed lightIt says something about the quality of the Resident Evil movies that I can recall virtually nothing about them save for a few scattered visions: the lithe figure of Milla Jovovich air diving and body-contorting; the two shiny zombie slaying swords hung on her back; her character’s unwavering ability to transform bleach-white corridors of high security complexes into something resembling a Jackson Pollock painting.

Her name is Alice and I feared for her vocational prospects should the zombie apocalypse eventually be neutered.

“What does a zombie slaying extraordinaire do in a world with no zombies?” I thought in the car on the war home. Then I remembered that Teppanyaki restaurants are quite popular. Alice’s amply demonstrated ability to slice and dice clumps of  flesh and hurl them hither and thither could be put to good use if only she could refine her customer services skills so that no – or very few – difficult clients suffered the shame of having their heads cleanly separated from their bodies before they could properly digest their sizzling cuts of barbecued meats and sashimi slices.

Alice is back literally carving up the scenery in writer/director Paul W. S. Anderson’s Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D, which, as its title succinctly suggests, is available in 3D. Or at least what Hollywood presents as a 3D experience these days, which is actually closer to 4D – the fourth dimension being the one where they reach out and snag a couple of extra dollars per ticket from your wallet.

The big surprise is that Anderson utilizes the 3D format better than anybody since James Camerson’s game-changing Avatar. Anderson demonstrates a level of understanding of the technology that ought to shame directors such as M. Night Shyamalamalamb and Tim Burton, who both opted to tack 3D on afterwards (on The Last Airbender and Alice in Wonderland respectively) as if it were as simple as pinning a postcard to a notice board.

Anderson decided somewhere along the line that going hard on slow motion editing and Matrix-esque freeze frame spinning camera manoeuvrings was a thoroughly excellent way of going about it. He was (un)dead right.

If you’re interested in the story of Resident Evil: Afterlife you probably – sorry, fan boys – should go out more often and spend less time watching anime and playing WOW in pizza box strewn hovels where you flex your wrists and pat your gut and imagine a life that doesn’t so closely resemble yours. But, OK: Alice is still intent on taking down the evil Umbrella Corporation – which by the by has nothing to do with manufacturing endurable apparatus to protect one from the rain – and finds a group of survivors who long to escape their zombie surrounded hideout and locate the apparently green-ish – or at least monster free – haven, Arcania, situated somewhere in the middle of somewhereorother.

There are internal group dynamics (read: conflict) of the kind that have been a staple of the genre since George Romero paved the way for the modern zombie in his brilliant social/political allegory Night of the Living Dead (1968).

The first 15 minutes or so of Resident Evil: Afterlife are spectacularly well shot and edited. They play like a clap of post apocalyptic thunder that seemingly sends a clear message to the audience: we’re gonna be in for one wicked ride through the mine shafts of slaughterhouse cinematics. Then Anderson betrays us as if we were freshly turned zombies – the horror, the horror – when the pace slows down to broken down gopher speed, the special effects hide until they are called upon, which is rarely, the story – well, let’s not even go there, sister – and the experience becomes as interesting as a feature length documentary about Tony Windsor and Kerri-Anne Kennerley playing Twister with Kevin Rudd sipping Tang and answering his own questions on the sidelines. At least, however, that would have been genuine horror.

Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D’s Australian theatrical release date: October 14, 2010.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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