In Resident Evil: Afterlife, it’s four years since the deadly t-virus decimated mankind. Alice (Milla Jovovich) is still battling the nefarious Umbrella Corporation, while also hunting for Arcadia, the source of a mysterious transmission promising an infection-free safe haven. On her search, she stumbles upon a group of survivors holed up in an old prison in downtown Los Angeles. The Arcadia, its transpires, is a tanker moored off the L.A. coast but there’s no way of getting to it, not with zombies massed a hundred deep outside the prison gates.
To make matters worse, an early tussle with arch-villain Wesker (Shawn Roberts) has stripped Alice of her super-powers, although in practice all this really means is that Alice occasionally gets her hair mussed as she carves her way through another batch of living dead goons.
It’s all enjoyable in a frothy way, even if the storyline has been botched together from a variety of cinematic donors. The opening sequence where a leather-clad Alice takes on a bunch of Umbrella Corp. storm troopers is pure Wachowski brothers, so replete with slow-motion wire-work and splintering columns you might be forgiven for thinking that writer-director Paul W. S. Anderson never got over seeing The Matrix. The middle section is taken up with an Assault on Precinct 13 scenario – here we find an enigmatic ex-soldier (Wentworth Miller) locked up in a Hannibal Lecter-style cage.
After a brief foray to a flooded armoury that recalls similar watery scenes in Deep Blue Sea and Alien: Resurrection, plus a battle with a giant, axe-wielding monster who’s been transplanted wholesale from The Lord of the Rings, the film moves into Escape from L.A. territory. You’ve got to hand it to Anderson: the man knows how to recycle. There’s a glitzy, horror theme park feel as we’re guided from one time-honoured set piece to the next. And to give him his due, Anderson is a maestro when it comes to choreographing chorus-lines of zombies in slow-motion.
The most spectacular example is when Alice jumps off the side of the prison-block and a threatening cloud of stooges falls in pursuit. There are other eye-catching visual flourishes as well – a low flying aircraft lopping off heads and leaving a crimson swathe in its path, sawn-off shotguns that spray silver coins, the smoking skeletons of high-rises dotting the L.A. cityscape.
Despite mumbling her lines, Milla Jovovich emotes effectively and gives you hope that humanity will still look stylish after the apocalypse by prancing around in a fetching aviatrix outfit. Among the other cast members, Wentworth Miller from Prison Break shows a darker side to his boyish charm, although by now he must be wondering what he has to do to get out from behind bars.
Resident Evil: Afterlife is the sort of film you’ll want to watch on Blu-ray because it makes your flat-screen look good, and in the end that’s my quibble with it. Zombies don’t do gloss. Knowing this, the production team shunt them aside in favour of monsters with tentacle mouths and the genetically enhanced Wesker. For a long-term horror fan, it’s enough to make you pine for the simple pleasures of Zombie Flesh-Eaters. But who knows, perhaps Anderson and co. will rediscover their love of the living dead in the inevitable fifth instalment, no doubt already shuffling and lurching into production.
Best performance: Milla Jovovich
Best scene: She leaps, they follow.