Across the Universe: Permanent 'Resident'
Can 'Resident Evil' outlast all other horror franchises?
By Don Kaye
Special to MSN Movies
Coming out this week is “Resident Evil: Retribution,” the fifth installment in the inexplicably successful horror/action series starring Milla Jovovich and based on the once massively popular video game. We call the series’ success inexplicable because the movies are by and large not very good: Their plots are variations on the same theme (Milla’s Alice battles zombies and uncovers clues about the Umbrella Corporation) and they offer up just a lot of sporadic, mindless action dressed in derivative horror/zombie garb.
Yet here we are, five films down the line, with writer-director-producer Paul W.S. Anderson promising that he and Jovovich (his wife in real life) have at least one more in them. Even after they depart, the series can certainly continue with a new star and director. Could “Resident Evil,” which is celebrating its 10th anniversary as a film franchise, possibly outlast some of horror’s longest-running series? Here’s a look at the competition:
“Halloween” (1978–2009): The franchise that made the slasher film a massive subgenre of its own in horror, “Halloween” has lasted for 10 films, including a 2007 remake of the original and a 2009 sequel that seemed to finally stop killer Michael Myers in his tracks.
Best: The original “Halloween” (1978)
Worst: A tie between “Halloween: Resurrection” (2002) and “Halloween II” (2009)
“Friday the 13th” (1980–2009): Following in the footsteps of “Halloween,” this iconic series ramped up the gore, the mayhem, the sex and, sadly, the mediocrity. Only three or four of the 12 films have any merit.
Best: “Friday the 13th Part III” (1982), the most well-made of the early films.
Worst: So many to choose from, but we’ll settle for “Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday” (1993)
“A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984–2010): Dream monster Freddy Krueger has fared better on the screen than his buddies Michael and Jason, with three genuinely good films out of nine to his credit. But a pointless, poorly received 2010 remake put Freddy to sleep permanently.
Best: The original “Nightmare” is still our favorite, but “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors” (1987) and “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare” (1994) are worthy follow-ups.
Worst: “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare” (1991)
“Hellraiser” (1987–2011): Although the first was a subversive, depraved classic from the mind of Clive Barker, this series crumbled into a pile of cheap, direct-to-video knockoffs. The ninth and latest cost just $300,000 to make and did not even feature series star Doug “Pinhead” Bradley.
Best: “Hellraiser” (1987)
Worst: “Hellraiser: Revelations” (2011)
“Night of the Living Dead” (1968–2010): The first three movies (“Night of the Living Dead,” “Dawn of the Dead’ and “Day of the Dead”) are still considered milestones of the horror genre. But creator George A. Romero kept coming up with worse variations in recent years. A 2004 remake of “Dawn” fared pretty well, though.
Best: “Dawn of the Dead” (1978)
Worst: “Diary of the Dead” (2007)
“Underworld” (2003–2012): Almost a kissing cousin to the “Resident Evil” films, these glossy, leaden time-wasters follow the same template of having a hot female protagonist in the midst of generic, stylized action, using familiar horror icons like vampires and werewolves. Yet there is little originality or energy in any of the four films.
Best: “Underworld” (2003), we suppose
Worst: “Underworld: Evolution” (2006)
“Final Destination” (2000–2011): “Final Destination” started out with an imaginative premise and a series of truly inventive death scenes, but the quality of the five films – while better than most horror franchises – has been erratic.
Best: “Final Destination” (2000)
Worst: “The Final Destination” (2009)
“Saw” (2004–2010): The first is a pretty creepy and suspenseful procedural with a truly surprising ending. The next six films jettison any mystery or coherent story for an increasingly complicated series of excuses to shred human bodies.
Best: “Saw” (2004)
Worst: “Saw 3D” (2010): The 3-D exposed just how one-dimensional the series had become.
“Resident Evil: Retribution” is out in theaters Friday, Sept. 14.