Re-christened with a "W.S." to distinguish himself from Paul "P.T." Anderson of "Boogie Nights" and “Magnolia” fame, our Paul is the Brit who directed the silly but enormously enjoyable "Mortal Kombat" film. Anderson's eye for swooping camera moves and near-fluid CGI effects were even more present in the visually robust "Event Horizon," a movie that, as pure eye candy, was an extraordinary work of cinematography and set design.
After "Soldier," Anderson's visual instincts are back on track in his own adaptation of "Resident Evil," based on the popular video game. Lifting angles, sets and sound effects from the game, Anderson's faithful big screen recreation is a surprisingly enjoyable zombie romp, with clearly defined parameters: a surgical team races against a clock, and there's only one way that leads in and out of the massive underground complex. Surrounded by topsoil and bedrock, no one knows you exist, let alone hears any screams for help.
Columbia's DVD looks gorgeous, with faithful transfers of Anderson's icy, nearly-monochromatic colour schemes that set the film's eerie ambience, and lend the film a gloss the modestly budgeted production didn't have. Much like "Event Horizon," "Resident Evil" is a stunner, with Berlin locations - primarily an old Nazi barracks for the above-ground scenes, and the labyrinthine subway system being rebuilt at the time- adding major production value, along with some clever low-tech trickery.
The disc's surround mix is typical of Anderson's work - very aggressive, and loud bursts of droning ambience tracks and explosive techno mobiles - in this case composed by Marilyn Manson and the "Scream" trilogy's Marco Beltrami. Ambient sound effects are fairly active in the surrounds, including bizarre effects created (as explained in the commentary track) from 3000 moving cockroaches (listen as Michelle Rodriguez peers below the train at the beginning with a flashlight), and blowing air through chicken carcasses. Really.
The disc's extras are plenty, but one disappointing aspect is the lone commentary with director Anderson, co-producer Jeremy Bolt, and actresses Milla Jovovich ("Yo-Vo-Vitch!") and Michelle Rodriguez. Any effort at detailing the production - as so well accomplished on the "Mortal Kombat" disc - are torpedoed by the constant inane chatter by Rodriguez and Jovovich. Talking over each other and the elder talent, the vacuous platitudes ('Who cares about those details - Look at my nipple!") often trample Anderson's initial efforts to explain production aspects (such as the original aborted ending), and the director frequently gives up, informing listeners they can hear more details on the disc's secondary track from special effects whiz Richard Yuricich - a feature regrettably never realized.
In place of the aborted sound effects commentary are numerous featurettes focusing on key aspects of the production. The "Making Of" covers the broadest ground, including shooting in Berlin, stunts, locations, CGI and creature effects, and decent cast and crew interviews. The secondary featurettes cover the film's soundtrack, with a lengthy Q&A between Anderson, Marilyn Manson, and Beltrami (who's mostly ignored in favour of his better-known collaborator). Others focus on the monochromatic costumes; brief make up tests, with the actors walking to the camera to maximize the details of the truly gruesome effects; and the economical and fortuitous set designs which incorporated many unused Berlin locations.
The remaining extras are the film's music video, and a collection of trailers for "Resident Evil" and other action-oriented films currently in release, or slated for the fall (such as "Formula 51").
"Resident Evil" has also been released in a SuperBit version, and the franchise was expanded by a pedestrian sequel, "Resident Evil: Apocalypse," in 2004.
© 2002 Mark R. Hasan