It’s a sign of the times that Hollywood’s best known pandemic franchise now has covid wranglers listed in the credits.

For a Resident Evil there’s obviously a gaping void in the form of a distinct lack of Milla “My name is Alice” Jovovich.  Having successfully fronted six of these video game spin offs, her absence was always going to be hard to overcome.  But I actually thought maybe Kaya Scodelario could do it.  I loved her in Crawl (2019) where she battles in a one-woman fight with alligator hordes in the crawl space under a house during a hurricane.  Now that’s some tight horror.

But there is no Alice, and Kaya’s character isn’t there to stride around as the kick-arse super-cool action hero.  No-one’s character is.  And that’s probably my biggest problem with this.  I want that character… that super-slick cooler-than-thou gun-toting zombie-wasting quip-queen.  I wanted stylish action, and whilst it is, arguably still action, there’s more cool action in the Resident Evil 6: Final Chapter (2017) trailer than in this whole film.  This feels very back to basics.

It’s more grounded in a sort of 1998 reality than a slick sci-fi future and somehow that’s disappointing. For those not following along, this one is a prequel to the other six, and you can find the series documented as ever on wikipedia. How well this one dovetails into the first one I don’t know, but maybe we’ll watch the first one soon to find out.

I’d say this probably does do some more detailed explorations of more traditional horror vibes than other Resident Evils, and does it quite well, particularly at the start… you know, creepy orphanages, creepy kids, creepy doctors, creepy experimentation.  In a 2021 awash with pandemic reality, vaccinations and pharmaceutical conspiracy vibes in near equal parts, this kinda just feels like an amped up facebook feed.  Is Umbrella evil?  What is the G-Virus?  Can we trust scientists?  Did they vaccinate the police separately?

All this takes a long time to kick off, and maybe too long to introduce an expendable cast.  Zombies are as zombies are – I’ve never found a zombie film I can really get into.  Feel free to give me suggestions and I’ll feel free to ignore them.  So once that starts, all the hard work in the traditional horror space feels a bit wasted.  There are still some great zombie jump scares here and there I suppose.

And it gets full points for setting itself up in the 1990s and having a pretty great 90s soundtrack.

J* gives it 3 stars.

The trailer wins my award for best (and possibly only) use of Four Non Blondes song in a movie clip. Starts about the 1min mark.