The Resident Evil game franchise is no stranger to film and tv series adaptations. From Milla Jovovich’s cannon of Resident Evil films to the recently released Resident Evil series on Netflix, horror fans have plenty of places they can turn to for a creepy romp through zombie-ridden wastelands.
Film and television adaptations of the iconic horror series tend to dole out heavy portions of zombie mayhem, predominantly focusing on giving the viewer a fast-paced, action-heavy experience. Current cinematic versions of the horror franchise are also known for reducing the fear factor within Resident Evil and instead leveraging for greater spectacle. Zombies are often encountered in large, writhing hoards, foregoing the more minimal approach of the early entries in the game franchise. This leads to a fascinating question.
Given the lackluster reception unfortunately associated with just about every attempted adaptation, what exactly are the live-action Resident Evil movies and shortly-lived series lacking?
What Makes the Original Resident Evil Game So Good?
Released on the PlayStation in 1996, Resident Evil may not have been the first survival horror game, but it certainly would become the title to define the genre. The game offers two playable characters in S.T.A.R.S. agents, Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine. Though each character’s story contains some unique gameplay mechanics and plot elements, the central story remains the same for both.
The lead character finds themselves alone in a huge mansion filled with zombies and not enough bullets to go around. The texture and feel of the game are built on dimly lit corridors, challenging puzzles, and, of course, plenty of hair-raising zombies.
Resident Evil has become synonymous with the very best that survival horror gaming can offer. There was simply no other experience quite like it. To this day, Resident Evil remains a truly scary game — even with the lights on. What elements made the game so successful that might also might lead to the hopeful Resident Evil movie of our nightmares?
A Single, Nightmarish Location
One of the most iconic aspects of the entire Resident Evil franchise is the sprawling mansion in which the majority of the first game takes place. Promoting horror and exploration over action, the mansion acted as a maze-like labyrinth of locked doors, dead bodies, and those that have recently come back to life. The third-person perspective gameplay made the narrow hallways and cramped rooms feel all the more claustrophobic.
An abandoned mansion filled with mysterious clues, missing partners, and flesh-hungry zombies? The movie almost writes itself. The fact that we have yet to see a truly horror-focused Resident Evil film is shocking. Resident Evil deserves a film that limits the story to a single, nightmarish location filled with dimly lit hallways and claustrophobic encounters with the walking dead.
A Commitment to Survival Horror
The “survival’ component of the original Resident Evil simply cannot be overlooked. Simply put, staying alive wasn’t easy. In addition to the roving zombies, the mansion was home to an impressive list of mutated creatures, including undead dogs, carnivorous plants, and one very large snake in the attic. To add to the tension, fresh ammo clips to refill your already meager supply were difficult to come by. This meant picking your targets carefully and attempting to navigate spaces strategically without using your weapon.
Coupled with the aforementioned claustrophobic atmosphere, Resident Evil’s attention to difficult choices and tense player circumstances keeps the suspense high with the ever-lurking possibility of a fatal encounter waiting around the next corner. These elements would make a perfect beginning point for concocting a Resident Evil script with a truly infectious bite. Placing characters in a foreboding location with limited resources is the stuff of classic horror films. In this case, it comes with the added bonus of being faithful to the source material.
Resident Evil’s Cryptic, Creepy Puzzles
Resident Evil wasn’t just about surviving the next zombie attack. An equally crucial aspect of the game focused on navigating the often confusing confines of the abandoned mansion. In an unfortunate turn of events for the lead characters, progression toward understanding the dark history of the mansion comes with solving a variety of puzzles. Lest the tension should be lost while exercising a little brain power, many of these puzzles can prove fatal if they aren’t properly solved.
Horror properties like Saw have built entire franchises on gory, puzzle-based horror. The space is wide open for an accurate Resident Evil film to utilize this often overlooked element of the original game.
Make Zombies Scary Again
It’s fair to say that popular culture has held a particular affinity for zombie horror properties since Night of the Living Dead first terrified audiences in 1968. Since that time, audiences have been spectators to countless variations on the undead theme. From the lumbering, mindless Walkers of The Walking Dead to the crazed and hive-like behavior of the zombies in World War Z, viewers have seen it all. Horror fans deserve to have their pants scared off by zombies again. A faithful take on the original Resident Evil offers a chance to make zombies the terrifying harbingers of death that they truly are.
Operating under a policy of less is more, zombie encounters within the first Resident Evil were modestly spaced and effectively placed in order to provide the most horrifying content possible. The player will often hear the undead before they see them, allowing for a palpable sense of apprehension and fear to envelop the player before their inevitable encounter with the hungry undead.
Any attempt at resurrecting a Resident Evil property should consider providing audiences that same suspense. Allow audiences to bite their fingernails, cover their eyes before, and imagine their own worst version of what awaits around that next foreboding corner.