In a brief interview with New York Magazine, RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE star Milla Jovovich confirmed that plans are indeed underway to make a fifth entry in the computer video game-based zombie action series, which was the number one film for its premiere this past weekend.
She also said that while her husband, director/writer Paul W.S. Anderson already has some ideas for the sequel, they intend engage the fan base for the games and films.
“We’ve been talking to a lot of fans on Twitter and stuff, so it’s probably going to be one of the first movies where we really talk to fans to see what they want, and what characters they want to see. It’s going to be a more interactive process.”
Is this a bold step toward democratizing the film making process or a pandering towards the sometimes highly critical and vocal audiences for the films? Arguments could be made for both sides of the issue. It will be interesting to see if this idea is actually played out in the months to come.
RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE made $28,696,500 in the US for its opening weekend, and another $42,348,610 Worldwide, bringing the total to over $71 million so far for the $60 million dollar production. Figures via BoxOfficeMojo.com
Seldom scary and never exciting, RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE nevertheless deliver a few morsels of mindless entertainment.
Hard experience and profound disappointment have taught us not to expect too much from the RESIDENT EVIL films, which tend to be slick but thoughtless, shoot-em-up variations on the familiar zombie mythology as laid down by George A. Romero. By those diminished standards, RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE is actually not too bad – which is not to say it’s good, just that in its over-eagerness to provide an endless profusion of audience-pleasing action, it occasionally delivers a halfway decent set piece. It’s seldom scary, and it’s never very exciting, but it does achieves its goal of delivering a little mindless entertainment.
Although officially based on the Capcom videogame, RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE betrays numerous other influences. It’s part zombie movie, part anime-action film, part MATRIX knock-off. There’s even a little Dario Argento thrown in (the computer-generated effects showing an interior view of the aftermath of a hypodermic injection might suggest CSI, but it’s probably closer to images from Argento’s OPERA – a suspicion confirmed when we start seeing bullets fly by the lends in extreme close-up before achieving their splattery results). In fact, there’s so much in the film, that there almost has to be something to like. You just have to wait for it.
And wait you do. It’s no accident that writer-director Paul W.S. Anderson launches with a big action scene (multiple clones of Alice [Milla Jovovich] attacking the underground stronghold of the Umbrella corporation, which is responsible for the T-virus that brought about the zombie apocalypse), because after that, the film wanders around aimlessly, trying to find a story to tell before finally settling into a familiar scenario of a few survivors holed up in a relatively safe place – in this case a prison, instead of a shopping mall (as in DAWN OF THE DEAD).
After that, there is not much to do except hope to hook up with some other survivors – if any still exist. It’s the same old dilemma we have seen other characters face in this situation, and Romero pretty much used up any life left in it, till there was nothing left for SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD earlier this year – and the idea feels twice as dead now. * But really none of that matters. The minimal story is just an excuse to deliver enough cool scenes to cut together into a cool trailer. You almost sigh a breath of relief when the zombies break into the prison – ending the tedium and forcing the characters to start shooting. The ensuing chaos results in several nice moments, such as Claire Redfield (Ali Larter)’s battle with the Axeman (Ray Olubowale) – who pretty much shows up just so he can get in a fight.
Anderson knows that he doesn’t need his script to justify this kind of stuff; it’s justified because that’s what the audience paid to see. He’s not even particularly interested in making some kind of pop art statement about female empowerment; we just take it for granted that we see two tough chick running, shooting, and fighting because it looks cool, and who cares about feminism?
Instead, Anderson focuses his effort on shooting it all in super-slow-motion, with lots of spraying water and flying glass – all looking really beautiful in 3D. The process – thankfully, not a post-production conversion – packs an added punch to the bullets and debris that go flying through the air – sometimes off the screen and into the audience’s collective face. The 3D is not perfect – it is better at adding depth than at projecting objects out of the screen – but it is better than anything we have seen since AVATAR.
Anderson is at his best when showing off his 3D toys for the pretty effects they can achieve. His approach is far too superficial to generate any real suspense – you never really fear for the characters, and if one of them does become zombie chow, it’s not as if he even pretends to expect you to care. So instead, it’s all a question of showing off flashy technique in order to achieve the expected “Ain’t it cool!” response. This works up to a point, but ultimately it feels like someone trying way to hard to meet and beat the Wachowski Brothers at their own game (which, come to think of it, was a goal that defeated the Wachowskis as well, when it came to the MATRIX sequels).
In a way, Anderson’s best sequence is the opening titles, which play out over a rainy sidewalk in Japan: as a woman stands strangely still and silent, passersby move in and out of frame, obscuring the credits that seem to float in the air. The payoff – she turns into a zombie and attacks – is predictable, but it leads to a memorable zoom-back to a wide shot of the globe, as the dot representing this first victim expands into a black stain spreading wider and wider, eventually enveloping almost everything. It’s visual flash of the most ostentatious kind, but for once in the film, it perfectly makes a narrative point, demonstrating the spread of the T-virus faster than any montage of incidents ever could. Although there are one or two good jumps, the horror element of RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE is pushed rather far onto the periphery, with the zombies mostly outside the prison. When they do get some screen time, they are spruced up with CGI to add tentacle-like appendages that sprout from the mouth. There is a faintly desperate air to the effect – as if trying to achieve something different from the same old walking dead – and yet the image is just bizarre enough to be truly startling, especially when the revelation is carefully staged and time to provide some of the film’s few genuinely startling moments.
Too bad the characterizations and performances are too flat to take RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE’s popcorn flick dynamic and raise it to the level of a an exciting adventure. We don’t expect Shakespeare, but we don’t even get the enjoyable thrill of good pulp adventure: the characters are not broadly drawn archetypes; they are barely drawn at all. They’re really just there because somebody’s got to be jumping through the CGI hurdles that Anderson tosses around the screen. Jovovich and Larter pretty much walk through, relying on their looks and apparently so pleased with getting to do the action that delivering dialogue was almost an afterthought. Boris Kodjoe shows a little charisma as Luther West (so much so that when his character apparently dies, it’s no surprise that he returns). Kim Coates makes a fine creep as the self-centered movie producer who still wants to run the show even though the world as he knew it is gone. Unfortunately, Shawn Roberts is a dud as the villain, delivering flat line readings in a voice apparently meant to echo Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) in THE MATRIX.
RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE is an oddly comforting movie. You might think that the end of almost all human life on Earth would be cause for some existential angst, but not to worry. The presence of zombies and villains is actually an antidote to despair, providing an unending recreational workout that ends up looking like the world’s glossiest exercise music video. It’s not much of an achievement, but it could have been worse. And really, the scene of Alice jumping off the rooftop, with zombie following her, lemming-like, to their doom, is worth the price of admission.
Against all odds, Anderson pulls off a small coup at the finale: a cliff-hanger promising an action-packed sequel. As frustrating as it is to see the only real excitement related to what we hope to see in the next film, the teaser does elicit some small anticipation, rather than a groan of dread. FOOTNOTE:
There are other touches that seem like direct references to Romero’s zombie films. For instance, in what feels like a clever inside joke, Anderson builds to the revelation of a heavily armored vehicle – a la the Dead Reckonig from LAND OF THE DEAD – and then discards it, just to subvert expectations.
RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE (Screen Gems, September 10, 2010). Written and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. Music by tomandandy. Cinematography by Glen MacPherson. Cast: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Kim Coates, Shawn Roberts, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Spencer Locke, Boris Kodjoe, Wentworth Miller, Kacey Barnfield, Norman Yeung, Fulvio Cecere, Ray Olubowale.
Featurette with interviews and clips from the 3D film RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE, including actresses Milla Jovovich and Ali Larter and writer-director Paul W.S. Anderson. Opens Friday, September 10.
Screen Gems releases the fourth film based on the popular video game about zombies resulting from some evil corporate malfeasance. Considering that we have already been through RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE (2004) and RESIDENT EVIL EXTINCTION (2007), you have to wonder what’s left. Well it involves our old champion Alice (Milla Jovovich) on a mission to protect survivors from the walking dead, while also hatching a plan to destroy the Umbrella Corporation. Back in the director’s chair for the first time since the first RESIDENT EVIL (2002) is Paul W.S. Anderson, who nevertheless contributed the scripts (as he does again here). The supporting cast includes Ali Larter, Wentworth Miller, Spencer Locke, Kim Coates, Shawn Roberts, Kacey Barnfield, and Boris Kodjoe. Music by tomandandy. Cinematography by Glen MacPherson. Release date: September 10, 2010.
Hot on the heels of the stills released last week Sony released a full trailer for the latest in it’s series of video game adaptations, RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE, yesterday. The trailer, first screened at WonderCon, starts out with the usual post-apocalyptic establishing shots but soon kicks out the standard Jovovich action scenes fans have come to expect.
More than this though, the trailer seems to go to great lengths to advertise the fact that this latest instalment was shot with Cameron’s patented 3D cameras. Over. And over. Again. Nothing in the trailer convinces me that AFTERLIFE will be any better than the previous films and it even looks like it can add THE MATRIX to the list of films it’s stolen from.
RESIDENT EVIL:AFTERLIFE is set for release on the 10th of September later his year. What do you think, does this trailer impress you or could you care less?
Thanks to MySpace for this one, as five new stills from the latest RESIDENT EVIL film, AFERLIFE, have appeared online. RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE is once again being directed by series veteran WS Anderson (EVENT HORIZON, AVP) and is being shot, no surprises here, in 3D.
From the images below it looks like business as usual for Milla Jovovich’s Alice as she runs around looking hot and shooting assorted zombies. One particularly interesting image, however, shows us a first glimpse of the “The Executioner” character from the video game entry, RESIDENT EVIL 5. Also along for the ride are Wentworth Miller (PRISON BREAK) playing legendary video game character Chris Redfield, and Shawn Roberts taking on the role of arch nemesis Albert Wesker.
None of the RESIDENT EVIL films have been particularly impressive thus far and based on these stills, AFTERLIFE looks no different. We’ll get a better look at the film this Sunday, when the first trailer is set to arrive. RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE is set for release on September 10th later this year.
Alien abudction film provides encounters of the weird kind
The enigma of alien abduction is one of the enduring mysteries of our time. Beginning with the famous case of Betty and Barney Hill in 1961, in which a couple were allegedly abducted while driving down a New Hampshire highway late one night, these reports of extraterrestrial kidnappings have continued unabated into the 21st Century. While a minority of abductees claim that the experience is a positive one, most of those who have purportedly been taken relate terrifying stories about being subjected to strange medical experiments and mysterious mind games.
Alien abductions reached the zenith of their popularity in 1987 with the publication of horror writer Whitley Strieber’s book Communion and UFO researcher Budd Hopkin’s Intruders, which were serious explorations of the phenomenon that made the New York Times bestseller list. Because abduction reports were so similar to each other and presented a very limited narrative format (people are picked up, prodded and let go), the experience has not translated well onto the screen. Only two theatrically-released features were based on real-life cases, the film version of Strieber’s Communion (1989) and the abduction account of Arizona logger Travis Walton, Fire in the Sky (1993). Two telefilms, NBC-TV’s The UFO Incident (1975), a faithful rendition of the Hill abduction case starring James Earl Jones and Estelle Parsons and CBS’s Intruders, based on the Hopkins book, were the two most powerful screen treatments of the abduction theme.
Now comes writer-director Olatunde Osunsanmi’s The Fourth Kind with a tale of alien abduction allegedly based on 65 hours of “archival footage” of “actual case histories” relating to a series of purported abductions in the Nome, Alaska area in October of 2000. The film’s title is a reference to the typology of UFO sightings formulated by the legendary ufologist Dr. J. Allen Hynek that was used for the title of Steven Spielberg’s UFO opus Close Encounters of the Third Kind, with abduction being the fourth level of an ET encounter. Resident Evil star Milla Jovovoch plays Alaskan psychiatrist Abigail Tyler, who is mourning her husband Will after he was knifed to death by an unknown assailant in their home and is caring for her two children. Abigail is counseling Nome residents with sleep disorders who all tell the same story of waking up in the middle of the night and seeing a scary-looking owl staring at them and hearing voices speaking in a strange language. When one of her patients, Tommy (Corey Johnson), goes nutzoid after a hypnosis session and kills his family and himself, Nome Sheriff August (Will Patton) suspects that Abigail’s therapy was somehow responsible for the tragedy. Abigail and her psychiatrist colleague, Dr. Abel (Elias Koteas) fire back by citing dozens of mysterious deaths and disappearances that have occurred in the Nome area since the 1960s. “There’s something going on in this town that we don’t understand,” she warns the Sheriff.
Things continue to go bump in the night as Abby finds a weird-looking mark on her body and suspects that she herself may have been abducted and that aliens may have been responsible for her husband’s death. An expert in ancient Near Eastern tongues identifies the language on the police tapes of Tommy’s murder/suicide as ancient Sumerian, the first written language in history dating back to the Fourth Millennium B.C.E. The mysterious voice seems to be saying, “Our creation…examine, ruin and destroy,” in the ancient language Then another patient, Scott (Enzo Cilenti) insists on being hypnotized in the wake of an abduction experience he describes as “the worst you could ever imagine,” and is possessed by an alien force during the session that causes him to levitate and go into convulsions that literally break his back. A chagrined Sheriff August orders Abby confined to house arrest after this debacle, but a UFO descends on her house in the middle of the night to abduct Abby’s young daughter, Ashley (Mia McKenna Bruce). Despite the fact that a police officer witnessed the UFO while the police video recorder conveniently goes blank, August still blames Abby for her daughter’s disappearance. In the movie’s climax, Dr. Elias hypnotizes Abigail in an attempt to probe her own abduction memories and ultimately solve the riddles of her husband’s murder and her daughter’s disappearance.
Writer-director Osunsanmi presents this narrative using split screens that reportedly show the “real” Abigail Tyler (as portrayed by an uncredited actress) and her patients on “documentary” videos on one half of the screen going through the identical actions that are dramatized by Jovovich and the actors on the other half. Osunsanmi even becomes an actor in his own movie when he appears as Abigail’s interviewer in a tape purportedly made at Chapman University, a real college in Orange, California. In an effort to take The Fourth Kind “back over the line from fiction to reality,” (in the film’s own words), the movie attempts to pass off bogus video archival footage of therapy sessions and police videotapes as real documents. In addition, the release of The Fourth Kind was accompanied by a clever adcampaign designed to mislead audiences into believing that the events depicted are factual, even going so far as to set up a phony website about Dr. Abigail Tyler’s Alaskan medical practice and manufactured Internet stories about her. A September 1, 2009 investigative piece written by Kyle Hopkins for the Anchorage Daily News convincingly debunks the existence of Dr. Tyler and the events depicted in the film. As for the mysterious deaths and disappearances, of which there have been about 20 since the 1960s, an FBI investigation conducted in 2005 concluded that most of the deaths were related to alcoholism and exposure to the elements in Nome’s harsh environment, with no hint of alien involvement.
In cinematic terms, The Fourth Kind does establish considerable screen tension and uses the Blair Witch-inspired technique of filming people who are acting intensely frightened in order to induce similar feelings in the audience. Osunsamni’s style is documentarian, utilizing shaky hand-held camera setups, naturalistic lighting, time-coded video and split screen cinematography. The photogenic Milla Jovovich carries much of the film with her earnest portrayal of the tormented Abigail, but she is sometimes upstaged by the intense performance of the odd-looking unknown actress playing the “real” Dr. Tyler, who often appears onscreen in the same split frame. Professional thesps Will Patton and Elias Koteas lend their support, but none of the supporting characters is drawn in any depth. The film seems to take its cue from The Mothman Prophecies (2002), both in its subject matter of mysterioso goings-on in a backwater stretch of rural America and in its coy avoidance of showing anything overtly extraterrestrial. Much of The Fourth Kind was shot in Bulgaria, lending its “Alaskan” locations a temperate, forested look in lieu Nome’s real landscape of frozen Arctic tundra.
While purporting to be a true-life archival record of the abduction phenomenon, The Fourth Kind offers up a smorgasbord of ufological cliches and half-truths. To set the record straight, no abductee has ever murdered anyone as a result of their experiences, nor has anybody ever levitated or suffered back-breaking injury during a hypnotic recall session. Contrary to popular belief, alien abductions are not connected in any way we know of with missing persons cases, murders or unexplained deaths. According to research carried out by legitimate abduction investigators like Budd Hopkins, Raymond Fowler and David Jacobs, abductions are ongoing, intergenerational studies that would be severely impeded by its human subjects dying, and although abductees report painful and terrifying experiences, no one has been seriously harmed during abductions. The Sumerian language angle is derived from the work of rogue archaeologist Zecharia Sitchin, a theme which has been amplified in recent novels by Whitley Strieber but does not appear in mainstream abduction research. On the other hand, the film’s owl imagery has frequently been reported as what is termed a “screen memory” of gray aliens used to mask their true appearance, but whether this is a function of the human mind or an illusion produced by the aliens is open to debate.
Despite its many flaws and execrable advertising campaign, The Fourth Kind does manage to capture the mind-numbing terror of the abduction phenomenon, as anyone who has listened to the hypnotic regression tapes of Betty and Barney Hill can attest. But it’s also possible that the director is describing an entirely different phenomenon, that of sleep paralysis. This is an experience that occurs in a twilight state between sleep and wakefulness in which one seems to awaken paralyzed in bed. Some kind of being or entity is perceived to enter the room and approach the bed. The “entity” then begins to exert pressure on the sleeper’s chest until they awaken, only to find themselves alone in the room. Sometimes anomalous lights can be perceived, and sexual arousal can be a feature of the experience. Sleep paralysis is frequently found in people who suffer from bouts of sleepwalking, or somnambulism, and is also related to hypnopompic and hypnogogic sleep hallucinations. Alaska, where there are months on end of darkness or sunlight, is a prime location for sleep disorders (think of Al Pacino trying to get some shuteye in the Land of the Midnight Sun in the 2002 crime thriller Insomnia).
It’s easy to see how episodes of sleep paralysis, which is reported in many cultures around the world, could be interpreted as a close encounter with a ghost, a vampire, an incubus—or an alien. Indeed, all alleged alien abductions that begin in a sleep state are suspect. The abduction experiences described in The Fourth Kind all occur during sleep, and I suspect that director Osunsanmi has had a personal experience of sleep paralysis that provided the inspiration for this film. In other words, he may have been “sleeping with the aliens.”
THE FOURTH KIND (2009). Written and directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi. Cast: Milla Jovovich, Will Patton, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Corey Johnson, Enzo Cilenti, Elias Koteas, Eric Loren, Mia McKenna-Bruce, Raphael Coleman, Daphne Alexander, Alisha Seaton.
This review originally appeared in Theofantastique. Reposted by permission of the author.