While Paul W. S. Anderson’s Resident Evil films continued to grow a stronger and stronger reputation among the most vulgar of auterists, another series — of Japanese animations, following the plot of the original Capcom video games — began to see release, providing a role of continuity or world-building that may or may not, in some way, be referenced in future installments of the survival horror narrative. In 2008, there was Makoto Kamiya’s Resident Evil: Degeneration, followed, in 2012, by Resident Evil: Damnation (also directed by Kamiya). These 3D-CGI animated films filled, at the time, a desire that the American live-action productions weren’t satisfying, in that they provided an experience akin to the video games, in terms of lore, characters, and overall feel. The new installment of this series, Resident Evil: Vendetta, is directed by Takanori Tsujimoto, who, at first, seamlessly connects his film to Kamiya’s entries: Leon S. Kennedy (Matthew Mercer) — ex STARS agent, now traveling the world fighting off new biological weapons — enters a morgue that’s filled with corpses, and the corpses start to reanimate. But Tsujimoto also hints pretty early on that he’s tired of repeating the same scenarios over and over again — maybe even that, like our culture more broadly, he’s a bit tired of zombies.
Vendetta can be summed up by one line from Leon S. Kennedy… “I’m stuck in a god-damned loop.” For the fans, that’s probably fine.
Vendetta then decides to focus on Chris Redfield (Kevin Dorman), another classic protagonist from the video games. Redfield, alongside a whole platoon of soldiers, storms into a mansion that feels eerily similar to the one from the first PlayStation game — and Vendetta continues, from here, to make callbacks (most of them visual) to other installments in the franchise, bringing the whole experience of the film into the realm of a ‘safe space’ for those who played and enjoyed the games — especially during the first zombie encounter, which is ‘shot’ with a familiar pull-focus. But in this mansion, especially after Redfield jumps out a window to escape some truly feral zombies, we also come to realize that Vendetta is much closer to a soap opera — with mad scientists — than it is anything else. Many years ago, a bioweapon specialist was the only survivor of an aerial strike that tried to take him down on the day of his wedding (in the aftermath of the attack, he holds the hand, and most of the charred arm, of his wife to-be), and he wants to take revenge (or — he has a vendetta) against the entire world by creating the “A-Virus,” which unleashes the animalistic behavior of all humans. He also forces someone to marry him — and all of this happens while a full-blown biohazard attack on New York City is taking place. There is one interesting quirk here: Rebecca Chambers (Erin Cahill), who was, in the games a gun-wielding medic (though she hasn’t even been in one of those for awhile), features here as a woman creating vaccines for the undead. Otherwise, though, Vendetta can be summed up by one line from Leon S. Kennedy, upon his meeting-up with Redfield and Chambers: “I’m stuck in a god-damned loop.” For the fans, that’s probably fine.
You can currently stream Takanori Tsujimoto’s Resident Evil: Vendetta on Hulu.