Before being adapted into a series of movies, Resident Evil was originally a survival horror video game set in the zombie-infested Raccoon City. An evil corporation called Umbrella started the infection by releasing the T-Virus.
The movies bear no resemblance to the video games aside from that fact and that the characters have the same names. Main characters from the games like Leon Kennedy, Claire Redfield and Jill Valentine, for example, all make an appearance at some point in the movies. Some characters like Jill Valentine and Claire Redfield have major recurring roles, with Claire being the leader of a group of human survivors.
I wouldn’t even really categorize the Resident Evil movies as horror even though they’re clearly trying to fit in the genre with the use of jump scares and eerie music. The later entries in the series mostly devolve into pure action, devoid of horror tropes altogether.
Just to be clear, I’m not an expert on the series. I’ve only played the 2019 Resident Evil 2 remake for a few hours.
Mild spoilers for all of the movies ahead.
The first Resident Evil movie released in 2002 and the final movie, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter released in 2017. In total, there are six movies written by and mostly directed by Paul W. S. Anderson. They’re not worth your time.
The main character throughout the series is Alice and is played by Milla Jovovich. She wakes up having been knocked unconscious from a fall in the shower and has amnesia.
The first movie is mostly a standard low-budget sci-fi horror flick, except it has a single standout scene. A combat unit from Umbrella is trying to blow up an underground Umbrella research facility called The Hive. I’m just now realizing that I don’t know why, but that’s a testament to how little brainpower is needed to watch these movies.
Anyway, the team has to move through a narrow glass corridor, when they become locked in because of a security mechanism. All of a sudden, a high-power laser spanning the width of the corridor appears and starts moving towards the people trapped inside. Two of the soldiers manage to dodge it, but the third isn’t so lucky. A line of blood around her neck slowly appears and her entire head slumps to the ground. The next laser cuts another soldier in half as he tries to jump over it. Meanwhile, the unit’s leader manages to pull himself up and over it. However, he’s not so lucky the next time as the laser splits itself into a crosshatch pattern and turns the last guy into cubes.
The effects are a little dated, the way the cubes fall to the floor looks a little odd, like they’re suspended in the air with magic, but it’s otherwise a pretty cool scene. It’s all downhill from there.
Naturally, as the movies progress, more backstory is revealed as the writers build out more of the world. Resident Evil gets slightly more complicated but nothing beyond the initial premise really ever matters. At the end of the third movie, Alice essentially unlocks supernatural powers and learns to do cool acrobatic maneuvers. The movies might as well be a video game at that point because Alice just gets more and more powers and fights more and tougher zombies. I’m only being half sarcastic when I say that It might actually be a decent idea to make a game based on the movie that was originally based on a game.
Another small note is that the Resident Evil movies all basically take place right after each other. So unless you watch them back to back, you’re going to feel a little lost. These movies came out several years after each other, so I can only imagine how confusing it must have been to walk into a theatre and see an Alice-clone army attacking another Hive-like facility.
Also, Alice is or was cloned dozens of times because she was exposed to the T-Virus and bonded with it to make her stronger in a way that hasn’t happened to anyone else… kind of. There’s also a super-powered bad guy called Wesker. He doesn’t matter all that much though because he’s sidelined in favor of a mastermind scientist character. That alone might be the worst offense the Resident Evil movies make.
Having the two battle it out in a grand finale in The Final Chapter would have been epic. Instead, it’s just about dispersing an anti-virus that cures the world I think. I really lost the plot towards the end of the series and that’s really emblematic of the entire Resident Evil movie experience. There are way better movies and shows that deserve your time, but if you’re still dead set on watching these movies, don’t go in with any expectations beyond losing an hour and a half of your life per movie.