Rue Morgue contributor and 3-D expert Jason Pichonsky checks in with a look at the latest tech treat for 3-D fans, 3-D TV, to see what it offers horror fans. This instalment tackles the latest in a long trend of 3-Dimensional sequels Resident Evil: Afterlife.
For the fourth entry into the franchise, Resident Evil: Afterlife, Paul W.S. Anderson (the original film’s director and series writer) returns to the director’s chair, this time bringing along a 3-D camera rig used in Avatar. Does this style over substance director have the cinematic chops to churn out an impressive 3-D film? Let’s slide that 3D disc in the Blu-ray player and find out…
Unlike the zombie films of George Romero, the Resident Evil franchise avoids the inclusion of social commentary, preferring to remain true to its “shoot ‘em up” videogame origins, and this new Resident Evil chapter is no exception. Afterlife continues the cliffhanger story setup in the previous film. Alice (Milla Jovovich), aided by a new army of clones, invades the Umbrella Corporation’s last stronghold and birthplace of the zombie plague, an underground facility in Tokyo. After blowing the Umbrella Corporation’s facility sky high (and her clones with it), she pursues head baddy Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts) onto his escape plane. Wesker injects her with an antidote to the T-virus, wiping out the superpowers she’d developed in RE: Apocalypse and effectively resetting the series to its origins.
What follows is a return to a familiar zombie flick scenario. A small number of disparate survivors barricade themselves against the rising (and further mutating!) zombie infection. In this case it’s a futuristic prison in L.A. Soon Alice and her group discovers that the zombie-free haven Arcadia does indeed exist and that it is not in Alaska as they’d believed but is in fact a ship in the L.A. harbour. Of course, they need to find away through the undead hordes and to that ship. For fans of zombie flicks it’s a set-up that’s familiar yet still engaging.
Yet Afterlife has nothing to add to the genre. The undead get a surprisingly small amount of screen time and have been so genetically altered that they share more in common with Lovecraftian demi-gods that their shuffling Romero brethren. But the film has something going for it that elevates the viewing experience, and that is of course is 3-D.
Afterlife uses the technique expertly, both for atmospheric and out-of-the-screen effects. Anderson and company chose locations that are prime settings for 3-D effects, as well. Whenever possible the film uses locations that heighten the 3-D space, contrasting the claustrophobic, such as a cavernous underground lair complete with floating observation pods (filmed at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto), with the vast, including Los Angeles from the air and the shores of Alaska. But it’s the out-of-screen effects that impress, from the film’s copious use of rain, mist and fire (all 3-D crowd pleasers) to the more tried and true screen piercing shotguns, axes and exploding brains.
A stand-out scene in the film features an attack by the giant zombie Executioner (a character ripped from the Resident Evil 5 video game with little explanation). Anderson’s cameras run in super slow-motion, as the lumbering giant pursues Claire (Ali Larter), swinging his axe into the audience and bursting the shower room’s water pipes, unleashing torrents of water into the air that seem to float around the audience. The result is pure eye candy.
Even the film’s horribly derivative opening and closing sequences fare better in a 3-D presentation. These pure anime action sequences take direct inspiration from the 1999 film The Matrix to the point of borrowing many of the now twelve-year-old film’s stunt and effect sequences verbatim. Viewed flat, these sections scream rip-off, but in 3-D they become homage. After all wouldn’t it be cool to if The Matrix had been in 3-D?
Resident Evil: Afterlife makes a fine addition to the 3D Blu-ray shelf. And the disc itself is filled with a number of extras including a commentary, deleted scenes, Undead Vision’s picture-in-picture video commentary and a number of featurettes. Get it and let those zombies rip right through the screen.
Jason Pichonsky shares more thoughts on stereoscopic cinema at depthsploitation.com