Oh, now you’re just messing with me. This is the third horror film I’ve watched recently, and I’m now officially three for three on movies in which a character says, “This is like a bad horror movie!” And once again, it’s because the movie is a bad horror movie. Why can’t, just once, we have a character who remarks, “This is like a good horror movie!” Anyway, unlike Hellraiser: Hellworld and Diary of the Dead, I went into Resident Evil: Degeneration fully expecting it to be awful but hoping that it might at least be watchable. And that’s about what I got though it was slightly less watchable than I was hoping.
I am a Resident Evil fan. As increasingly dumb as they are, and as increasingly dumb as I am for feeling this way, I’ve liked all three of the live-action movies. The Resident Evil video games are the only ones I’ve ever played consistently. So for once, I’m the target market for a movie based on a video game. That said, you know the “cut scenes” in the video games — those sequences where you can’t play the game and instead have to watch as the plot is advanced through a combination of middling CGI, bad writing, and unspeakable acting? If you’ve ever watched one of those and thought, “this would be awesome if it went on for 90 minutes,” then Resident Evil: Degeneration is the movie for you. For me, it was an exercise is tedium, albeit tolerable tedium.
Resident Evil: Degeneration focuses on a couple familiar faces from the Resident Evil universe. First, there’s hunky Leon, last seen blowing away medieval Eastern European peasants in 21st Century Spain in the Resident Evil IV video game — a game which proves that, whenever anyone makes fun of Americans for now knowing much about the rest of the world, they should then take a close look at Japan as well, which apparently assumes modern day Spain is full of pitchfork-wielding peasants and people who still dress like King Louis XIII of France. Anyway, for Resident Evil: Degeneration, Leon teams up with Claire Redfield, the heroine from the Resident Evil II video game, who we first meet when she is arriving at an airport that is soon besieged by a zombie. Exactly how the zombie got into the terminal — which means he would have had to shamble past the security checkpoint, presenting his ID and boarding pass along the way, without being noticed or attacking anyone until he got into the vicinity of our main characters — is a question best left unasked, unless you like asking unanswerable questions of a CGI zombie movie based on a video game. Let’s just say that, since he didn’t have nail clippers or shampoo in a larger-than-3-oz container, he didn’t attract the ire of the TSA. And he probably took so long to pick out a target because he was temporarily confused by the sweet, sweet smell of Cinnabon.
But once he does start attacking people, things unfold pretty quickly. A plane that has been attacked by an on-board zombie crashes and disgorges zombie passengers. Claire finds herself protecting a young child and a fat, scumbag senator who does that “most obnoxious pinstripe-suit wearing, cigar-puffing, fat politician in the world” act and looks less like an actual fat person than someone dressed up in one of those goofy looking movie fat suits. Is CGI rendering a realistic looking fat person really that hard? Everyone else has some degree of realism about their design, but this guy looks he just wandered in from that David Lee Roth video where he goofs off in a fat suit.
Anyway, the special forces are called in to contain the zombie outbreak, which is when Leon shows up, along with tactical unit member Angela Miller. While dumb, the entire “zombie siege at the airport” sequence is dumb in the usual zombie movie fashion, and really, it’s pretty enjoyable. It’s once this part is over that things get bogged down thanks to the typically Byzantine Resident Evil addiction to conspiracies within conspiracies and lengthy back stories. The gist of things is that one thing leads to another, Angela’s brother is a terrorist, people are trying t uncover the evil zombie work of a company called WilPharma, and there’s very little zombie action after that initial airport bit. Instead, we jump to what would be, in the video game, known as the “boss fight,” the end of the level throw-down between your character and whatever ugly dude guards against your proceeding to the next level. These fights are never as much fun as the other parts of the game, where you just shoot zombies and unlock puzzles, but since video games seem addicted to them, I suppose there’s no turning back at this late stage in the game. It turns out that that, no matter how tiresome I think such things are in the video games, they’re even more tiresome in movie form, which is why the final 2/3 of this film stumbles and falls after a fairly entertaining start. It’s nothing but poorly written, poorly delivered exposition that culminated in a lengthy, unengaging “boss fight.”
Technically speaking, I’m not sure the look this movie was going for. The first order of business, of course, was to tie it directly in to the video game, unlike the live-action movies which are related tangentially, at best. So, mission accomplished there. Unfortunately, we’re still reminded of how we can roll with this stuff in a video, as we know we get to take control eventually. Not so, here, and thus the quality of artwork is much more of an impairment. The CGI is that weird “not quite real” look we saw as far back as that god-awful Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within movie. Dead eyes, weird movement, everyone glows, a tendency to look like you’re not so much a person as you are the likeness of a person molded out of shiny plastic. It’s a step up from the video game but a step down from what you would expect from a CGI movie (and I don’t expect much from those). All in all, though, it’s not awful, with the exception of that idiotic looking job they did on Senator Jowls McPiggyEyes.
What is awful, though, is the acting, which is pretty much as bad as the acting in the video games. It doesn’t help that this movie is full of the same stilted, awkward sounding dialogue as the video games, though it never quite reaches the depths of “Jill, here’s a lockpick. It might be handy if you, the master of unlocking, take it with you,” but it’s still pretty awful. And of course there’s the “This is like a bad horror movie” line to instantly get on my bad side.
The cast of voice actors is experienced, both with video games (which have always been notorious for dreadful voice acting) and cartoons (which are usually a mixed bag). But that experience doesn’t shine through, and most of what’s recited sounds like it came from the first read-through as performed by a high school drama club. I guess sometimes “experience” doesn’t necessarily equate to “quality.” Although this is a Japanese production, no Japanese language track is included in the DVD — though, weirdly, there is a Thai language track — so I can’t comment on their delivery, except to say that tin-earned dialogue usually sounds better in a language you don’t speak.
So, all in all, this movie is pretty bad. But it’s not unwatchably bad. Perhaps I’m overly charitable because I’m a Resident Evil fan. Perhaps I’m overly charitable because I watched Diary of the Dead just before this, and that movie was terrible in ways I never thought possible for a George Romero zombie movie to be. Whatever the case, the end result is that I managed to harvest some minor degree of enjoyment out of Resident Evil: Degeneration — but just barely, and not so much that I would really encourage anyone else to seek it out.