There’s an unspoken rule in Hollywood: movies based on video games will almost always suck. Hell, just look at Uwe Boll’s filmography. However, Paul W.S. Anderson’s adaptation of the highly popular Resident Evil video game has spawned an entire film franchise, with all 7 films raking in a combined $1.2 Billion worldwide.
It’s a financial success that seems to defy expectations; after all, how can these movies make so much money when they suck so bad? Like, I’m not even kidding: on average, a Resident Evil movie will get a Rotten Tomato score of 40%, hardly something anyone would consider a critical success. Kind of like the Twilight saga.
So why are the Resident Evil movies making money?
Resident Evil Movies: Banking on a Trope it Created
Here’s the thing about the Resident Evil movies: they play on the zombie apocalypse trope. Not anything new, not since George Romero’s 1968 Night of the Living Dead (not the first zombie film, but it’s the one that catapulted it into the mainstream). However, the Resident Evil movies are one of the first to introduce the idea of humanity having some sort of fighting chance against the undead.
To say that the Resident Evil movies banked on a trope is kind of an understatement: it was one of the films that introduced the ‘modern’ idea of a zombie apocalypse, where we see a zombie infection happening on a global scale. Prior to the Resident Evil movies, very few films touched on the idea of an apocalyptic vision of zombies, with George Romero being at the forefront in the ‘70s, and Asian films like the 1997 Bio Zombie from Hong Kong and 2000’s Versus from Japan.
2002’s Resident Evil and 28 Days Later (with the latter being the superior zombie film, IMHO) also introduced people to a terrifying concept: running zombies. Suddenly, zombie films went from slow thrillers into action-packed, run-and-gun movies with a lot of automatic machine guns and explosions. Basically, it turned into an action film, and say what you will about action films, but the truth is that those will always make money.
Who is Even Watching the Resident Evil Movies?
Go to any internet forum and look for topics that deal with the Resident Evil movies and you’ll pick up on three things: one, fans of the original video game series hate the movie series, horror movie buffs hate the film series, and both sides are asking who the hell is watching the Resident Evil movies that it spawned not one, not two, not three, but six equally awful sequels? Don’t worry if you’ve only seen like one or two: it’s not like the Lord of the Rings where you could watch it in a particular order to heighten your viewing experience. With the Resident Evil movies, you could watch it in any order and it would do nothing to convince you that any of it is good.
So who the hell is watching all these terrible films? The answer is simple: people who watch action films. At the end of the day, the Resident Evil movies are only borrowing elements from both the video game series and the horror movie genre; at its heart, you don’t watch a Resident Evil movie to get some kind of nuanced story that delves deep into humanity’s psyche, or legitimate scares that tap into your primal fears.
You watch it for the pew-pews, the kablams, the get-to-the-choppah moments, the Girls-with-Guns trope, and a lot of nonsensical-but-pretty-cool high-tech weapons. It’s all about the spectacle, the lights and sounds, and the Resident Evil movies do that really well. If you wanted to watch horror, check out these scary movies on Netflix instead.
If you want to see heads exploding and guns shootin’, then go for any Resident Evil movie. Really, just choose one, they’re all roughly the same.