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Resident Evil: Deluxe Edition

Watching Resident Evil is like getting two movies for the price of one. In the first part, a group of paramilitary types have to battle their way into a high-tech underground facility owned by the ominous Umbrella Corporation. With products "in 90 percent of American homes," Umbrella would appear to be a combination of Microsoft, General Electric, and Philip Morris — and among their less-advertised interests are genetic cloning and weapons research. But an accident in the aforementioned underground lab has inspired the A.I. security, which tends "The Hive" (as the facility is known), to seal itself up and kill the 500-plus workers within. The rescuers venturing into The Hive's depths includes Milla Jovovich (kicking almost as much ass as she did in The Fifth Element, even in a skin-tight mini-dress) and Girlfight's Michelle Rodriguez — and they're used well, both actresses playing characters with much larger cojones than their male counterparts. Based as it is on a popular computer game, all of this traveling through The Hive's various levels, breaching big security doors, and getting killed in inventive CGI ways offers a surprisingly authentic replication of playing a first-person shooter game. Then the second part of the movie kicks into gear: All those dead employees have turned into flesh-chomping zombies, and now that the commandos are in the belly of The Hive, they have to get back out. Jovovich's character initially suffers amnesia, so she has some dandy Memento-like flashbacks as she tries to remember her role in all this mayhem — along the way she also gets to do a bit of wire-fu, kick-box a pack of ferocious zombie dogs, and handle some serious firearms. One sequence in the film is spectacularly grueling, as some of the soldiers are trapped in a room with slice-and-dice lasers — it's both compelling for the amazing computer work and just flat-out terrifying. And the grunge-laden soundtrack by Marco Beltrami and Marilyn Manson keeps the nerves sufficiently frayed. Critics were unimpressed by Resident Evil on its theatrical release, no doubt because they were all sick to death of crappy video-inspired movies like Street Fighter, Super Mario Brothers, and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. But director Paul W.S. Anderson (Soldier, Event Horizon) had the right idea here, relying on makeup, prosthetics, and old-fashioned movie-making to create a 21st-century version of classic horror flicks. Anderson shamelessly steals from other films, creating a mixed bag that crosses the claustrophobic fear of George Romero's Dawn of the Dead with the darkly funny "we're all gonna die!" nihilism of Aliens, and even samples a little 2001: A Space Odyssey for the gleefully homicidal A.I. device, dubbed "The Red Queen." It's a wild ride that's more than worth the price of admission, mainly because it follows the classic formula for horror-movie success as immortalized by Joe Bob Briggs — "anyone can die at any time."

Columbia TriStar's double-dip of Resident Evil (or triple-dip if a Superbit counts) offers the same anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, with the grinding punk-inspired score, creepy sound effects, and dialogue all coming through crystal-clear. Overlapping from the first release is the commentary track by director Paul W.S. Anderson, producer Jeremy Bolt, and actors Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez; it's scene-specific, but more gossipy than technical — fun, but not especially enlightening if you're looking for info on the more esoteric aspects of the movie's process. To remedy that, also included is a new track with Anderson and visual effects supervisor Richard Yurisich. There are eight new featurettes and three old ones — "The Making of Resident Evil" and "Zombie Makeup Tests" are scrapped from the first disc — with the repeats being "Scoring Resident Evil" (11:07), "Costumes" (3:26), "Set Design" (4:06), while the new one are "Playing Dead: Resident Evil from Game to Screen" (15:02), "Storyboarding Resident Evil" (6:24), "The Creature" (5:17), "The Elevator" (1:07), "The Laser" (5:04), "The Train" (2:19), "Zombie Dogs" (3:53), and "Zombies" (4:30). An awful music video was dumped for "Alternate Ending" (3:18), which talks to Anderson and shows some footage from a more upbeat conclusion, while "Resident Evil: Apocalypse Fangoria Clip" (3:38) shows footage from the sequel. Also included are trailers. Keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor

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