If I’m being honest, despite the presence of various pus-faced zombies, skinned dogs and more sinister laboratories than you can shake a hypodermic at, Netflix’s new Resident Evil hasn’t felt particularly Resident Evil-y to me.
Now, I understand that what might scream classic RE to me may not be the same for everybody else, but truthfully, if the sight of the logo of the Umbrella Corporation emblazoned on literally everything you see isn’t doing it, then surely something has gone wrong somewhere. Well imagine my surprise when suddenly, three episodes in, this new iteration of Capcom’s legendary survival horror game starts to do something right and after two whole episodes of fluff involving wandering around the future appoycalypse mixed with present day teenage growing pains, some concrete connective tissue has finally arrived at the same time as some classic, RE beasties have decided to make their bow.
In 2022, morally wavering scientist Albert Wesker makes his report on Umbrella’s new wonder drug, Joy; but unfortunately the results aren’t exactly what CEO Evelyn Marcus was hoping to hear. It seems that the infamous, DNA mutating super bug known as the T-Virus is very much present in the ingredients of the pill that Umbrella is hoping will put them back on the map; but while overdosing will cause such noticable side effects as violent tendencies and necrosis after 3 days of exposure, Marcus simply doesn’t think that the risks are worth pumping her greedy brakes for – especially not when it’s discovered that twinning a regular dosage of Joy with particular visual stimuli means that Umbrella can actually effect the way their consumers think. Balking at full on mind control, Wesker convinces Marcus that they should at least look into trying to engineer a cure for the T-Virus for safety’s sake only half aware that shit may already be hitting the fan as they speak as the infected Billie starts hallucinating like a roadie for Black Sabbath as she staggers around school drenched in a flop sweat.
Meanwhile, in the dystopian 2036, Billie’s sister Jade is desperately trying to get out of Dover alive after an attack of Umbrella drones and after taking refuge with a family of smugglers, finds that an alternate route to Calais involves taking a stroll through the abandoned chunnel.
Of course, no one simply takes a stroll anywhere in the world of Resident Evil and some very familiar creatures are going to make their presence felt as the survivors stumble their way through the dark, dank tunnels.
So even though there hasn’t really been that much to challenge it so far, the third time is finally the charm for the episodes of a show that’s mired itself in family melodrama and half heated conspiracy. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s still business as usual as Jade importantly frets about her sister’s deteriorating health and Evelyn Marcus deals out more sociopathic business plans to a boardroom of beaming toadies, but the appearance of some classic RE monsters and some franchise name dropping finally manages to drag your interest rate beyond that of a mindless binge watch.
I’ve had many a nasty thing to say about the Mila Jovovich movies (and I’ll say them again too) but one thing they did rather well – besides squeezing its lead actress into all manner of restrictive clothing – is that they gave us a massively varied cross section of Resident Evil’s famously malformed rogue’s gallery and while we were only two episodes in, a couple of zombie hordes, a Cerberus dog and – for some reason – a giant Caterpillar weirdly felt like the show’s producers were being a bit stingy. Well not any more, as Episode 3 not only delivers us a tight, well edited attack from RE’s favorite footsoldiers, the Lickers, but we also get a giant spider which I do believe is a first for a live action RE product. The Lickers are cool, fast, viscous and fairly accurate as their skinless bodies scamper up walls and their prehensile oral protuberances impaled their screaming victims and whisk them off into the dark and its genuinely good to see a more distinctive baddie from the franchise make its toothy debut. The spider is suitably repulsive too as, beyond giving archnophobes a predictable case of the shudders, its extra vile considering its dragging an extra squishy egg sac behind its bloated body and while it’s fairly reminiscent of the Shelob attack from Lord Of The Rings, we still get the juicy sight of it splitting a dude in half like its carving a roast. It may not exactly be highbrow, but it’s shit like this that’s going to inject some much needed life into this show.
Elsewhere, the connections to the original plot from the games are helped eloquently by someone finally dropping the name “T-Virus” in conjunction with literally everything Umbrella is trying to achieve and some serious mention is made to the events of the first Racoon City, meaning that the events of the first three games (at least) are technically cannon even though we still are unsure of Albert Wesker’s role.
However, outside of clawed abominations with a tongue that could put Gene Simmons to shame and concrete connections to the plot of the video games, the same problems ensue. Future Jade is still running in place while trying to avoid the attentions of the truly irritating, bumbling Umbrella drone, Baxter and this episode once again ends with her in the clutches of yet another dangerous tribe of humans (isn’t that where the first episode ended?), while elsewhere, the revelation that Jade’s school ally is none other than Marcus’ son drifts by with hardly a raised eyebrow. To be blunt, it would be nice if Billie’s sickness could get a bloody move on as we’re nearly halfway through the season already.
It seems there’s only so much flesh eating monsters can do in the face of a overarching story that’s moving as rapidly as a legless zombie trying to crawl up a downward escalator and I feel the more this show trusts in mindlessly flinging legacy creatures at us, the more painless this show will be to watch, but as it stands, The Light is Resident Evil’s brightest episode so far thanks to it plunging us into the dark where the creepy crawlies thrive…