RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION is part 3. It takes place five years after part 2, APOCALYPSE, and was released five years after the first film in the series. It has a different style and tone, a little more serious, a little more grounded, but still pulpy, and it really works.
The opening tricked me. It begins so much like the first film – Milla Jovovich as Alice waking up naked and confused in the mansion, putting on the red dress and boots – that I thought I might’ve rented the wrong one. But she explores the place and ends up in a hallway in the Hive with the lasers and booby traps and one of them shoots and… gulp… kills her. Then some guys in biohazard suits appear, take the body up to the surface and throw it in a ditch. The camera pulls out to show a whole pile of dead Alices. And by the way, they’re all wearing that same outfit. I don’t know if that makes sense that they would have duplicate outfits to give these clones they keep testing, but if not it’s better than making sense. Nobody wants to see them wearing different outfits.
It turns out this is not the same Hive in the greatest city in the world, Raccoon City, USA. (I have family near Raccoon City and it’s a beautiful part of the country, great people, etc.) This Hive is the one in Nevada. But shit has gotten bad. The T-virus spread across the whole world in a matter of months, and not only zombified people but dried up the rivers. The world is a desert and Alice is now a MAD MAX inspired post-apocalyptic drifter on a motorcycle. Like everyone in this movie she wears brown desert clothes: a duster, a scarf, goggles, fingerless gloves, leather boots and straps, but under all that she has garters, a little bit of thigh exposed. I’m sure even just in filming this it was a big problem for sunburn and getting sand in there, but it’s that little touch that says “this is not the real world, this is RESIDENT EVIL, you guys.” It works.
As happens in the post-apocalypse, she gets tricked and abducted by a cannibal redneck family (the old fake baby routine). While tied up she kills one of them with a single head kick, and then has to fight some of those mutant dobermans (which look amazing, and I can’t tell if they really made up dogs or made them wear mo-cap suits).
Meanwhile, there’s this caravan of toughs led by Claire Redfield (Ali Larter, OBSESSED) and they include our old part 2 friends Carlos (Oded Fehr, THE MUMMY RETURNS) and L.J. (Mike Epps, BAIT, who by this time had been waiting two years to play Richard Pryor in a biopic that never happened). At a glance they look like a paramilitary squad, but then you realize that their reinforced vehicles include a school bus, a news van and an SUV that says “Brentwood Lady Nails and Pedicure” on the side. One thing that’s different from other post-apocalypses: computers still work, so they can set up perimeter cameras and watch from a laptop. I guess if you think about it taking away this series’ ability to cut to computer readouts would be like chopping off one of its legs.
They set up camp in a town 89 miles outside of Las Vegas and not far from Alice. She ignores their radio broadcasts for survivors while flipping through her journal full of maps, notes and duct-taped photos that tell us that she’s trying to get to Alaska because somebody else’s transmission told her it was safe there.
Wait a minute, didn’t that shot of her eyes at the end of part 2 imply that she was secretly an evil shill for the Umbrella Corp? That’s what I thought, but actually it just means she’s growing more scary-powerful, mostly in a telekinesis type of way but also because her brain can uplink to their satellites! Back at the lab they’re trying to create a clone that’s as good as her, but it’s not working out. But waking up Alice Clone #87 causes a psychic blast that 1) allows the bad guys to locate her and 2) destroys her motorcycle. So she walks over to the convoy in time to rescue them from a murder of zombie crows. They’re the only overly computery effect in the movie, but it’s a unique enough idea that it still plays pretty well.
After firestartering the birds away Alice collapses. Carlos runs and catches her in a “good to see you” hug. It’s so well executed that for a second it made me think I really cared about these characters. I don’t know about that, but I like Alice. One thing I noticed is that when she wakes up in a strange place with a young woman called K-Mart (Spencer Locke, THE BLING RING tv version) all up in her grill she’s immediately nice to her. The obvious choice for a skinny model playing a badass desert drifter would be for her to act gruff and bitter and only soften up later. Alice doesn’t waste time with that shit.
Eventually she convinces them all of her Alaska plan and together they go to mostly-buried Vegas for the supplies they’ll need for the trip. Like, I imagine, travel sized toiletries and stuff. Instead they find an ambush from the Umbrella people led by psycho Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen, LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER, HARRY BROWN, the Jack Taylor series), who in this one turns into a tentacled monster. In other series turning points, we lose both of the returning part 2 characters. L.J. is the one who gets the “hides from everyone that he’s been bitten” arc (cutting off his romance with hot medic Ashanti) and poor Carlos has to be the one to shoot him and gets bit by him. But at least he gets a heroic kamikaze death as they attack the Hive.
Underground, Alice discovers the lab where they keep all the clones of her. There’s a cool moment where one of them gets knocked out of her bubble and you get a clothed Milla Jovovich holding a naked Milla Jovovich. And that’s gotta be somebody’s fetish, so merry Christmas to that person. I read that at one point this was supposed to be the last movie, but they must’ve changed their mind when they filmed the oh-shit-it’s-on ending where Alice vows to come after the board of the Umbrella Corporation with a few of her friends… an army of Milla Jovoviches! It’s such a cool ending I forgave that they completely abandoned the idea that they’re trying to go to Alaska.
The silly character of Jill Valentine is not in this one because the actress was committed to what she might’ve expected would be a bigger franchise, ERAGON. I guess she would’ve been the one leading the convoy, but I like that they replaced the character instead of the actress, because it makes sense that over five years L.J. and Carlos hooked up with other survivors.
Paul W.S. Anderson returns as writer and producer, but the director is Russell Mulcahy (RAZORBACK, THE HIGHLANDER, RICOCHET). Some gossiper told me that Mulcahy could not fulfill his duties and that it’s mostly directed by the second unit guy, which would be Douglas Aarniokoski. If true, that would mean it’s not really from the director of THE HIGHLANDER, but HIGHLANDER: ENDGAME. Aarniokoski also directed NURSE 3D, and as a second unit guy worked on many Full Moon and Robert Rodriguez movies. But I have to say, there is a part where light comes through a spinning fan, an early Mulcahy trademark. Anyway, whoever did it I think did a good job. I legitimately liked this one.
VERN has a new action-horror novel out called WORM ON A HOOK! He has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the film criticism books Seagalogy: A Study of the Ass-Kicking Films of Steven Seagal and Yippee Ki-Yay Moviegoer!: Writings on Bruce Willis, Badass Cinema and Other Important Topics as well as the crime novel Niketown.