A well-used $25 million budget does the film a service, allowing it to really live up to its premise. There’s no shying away from violence, oftentimes cartoonish and absurdly fun: zombies munching on eyeballs, hell-hounds leaping through car windows and flaming truck drivers are some of the film’s many offerings. Not all of it has to make sense, but it brings with it a certain sense of self-awareness that we’ve been seeing a lot of in the horror genre recently. I don’t mind it — I actually think it improves Raccoon City — but I think this element of modern horror film should start to take a backseat in favor of more original ideas. And from what I hear, Raccoon City doesn’t have too many of those.
One thing I was initially confused about was the genre of what I was watching. The trailers couldn’t seem to decide — was Welcome to Raccoon City an action movie, or was it a straight horror? The opening scene, taking place at the city’s creepy orphanage at night, makes that decision for you. Coupled with a perfectly creepy score from Mark Korven that maintains the tension and spook factor throughout the film, Welcome to Raccoon City is a horror movie through and through, despite what the helicopter crashes and action shootouts might tell you. Sure, the ending strays into a ridiculous(ly exciting) chase sequence with a massive CGI final boss, but would it really be a video game adaptation if it didn’t?
I can’t compare it to the rest of the franchise, but Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City succeeds in what it set out to do. It’s a B-horror movie with the budget of a small blockbuster — I found myself constantly impressed with its effects (both visual and practical), and most of the jump scares really land. Call it a cheap horror trick all you like, it’s effective, and sometimes genuinely terrifying.
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City — kind of a mouthful. The movie isn’t as memorable, though…mostly forgettable, but a good time in the moment. I didn’t expect it to be anything more. [Grade: B-]
Director/Writer: Johannes Roberts
Starring: Kaya Scodelario, Robbie Amell, Tom Hopper, Hannah John-Kamen
Rated: R for strong violence and gore, and language throughout