The ever-enduring Resident Evil film franchise gets a reboot with Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, a highly anticipated tweaking of the series with the promise of a return to its origins for those fans of the games who were less than enthused by the previous movies.

After six instalments with writer, director and producer Paul W.S. Anderson pulling the strings, the latest chapter does away with his Alice narrative and takes us back to 1998 and the lifeless town of Raccoon City, where only employees of the Umbrella Pharmaceutical Corporation (and residents too poor to leave) remain.

With an eerie sickness draped across the community, it soon becomes apparent that an Umbrella experiment has gone horribly wrong and the company is preparing to wipe the town from the map in the ultimate cover-up.

After years away from home, Claire Redfield (Kaya Scodelario) returns to Raccoon City to reveal to her police officer brother, Chris (Robbie Amell), information that she received from a journalist investigating the Umbrella Corp.

The moment of her arrival coincides with the first manifestations of a grotesque virus, which turns people into flesh-eating monsters (let’s just call them zombies), and along with a group of fellow officers from the local cop shop, Claire and Chris make a desperate bid to escape the city.

The first striking quality of Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is the straightforward narrative. The high-tech stylings of Anderson’s previous instalments have been swapped for a more rudimentary setting and a situation that relies on basic resources.

Most of the story unfolds in a police station and a decrepit mansion, with the only objective being survival. And those highly skilled heroics of Milla Jovovich’s Alice are supplemented by uncoordinated desperation and instinct.

The film’s stripped-back atmosphere and lack of character expertise gives the franchise a welcome facelift. The zombies are depicted in a very game-play manner and there are enough jump scares peppered throughout the movie to keep fans on edge. And setting the story in the ‘90s not only allows for a fun retro soundtrack, it also provides plenty of nostalgia for anyone old enough to remember discmans, monochrome Nokia phones and Snake.

The story itself covers the first two Resident Evil games, and long-serving fans ought to relish the smorgasbord of references and Easter eggs on offer. To further align itself with the games, the action unfolds in a strange orchestration of technique and style, switching between cinematic and gameplay conventions. The resultant effect is a jarring narrative that could prove distracting for viewers unfamiliar with the games, but conversely, provide gamers with a reason to get excited.

So, where to from here? It goes without saying that there’s room for several sequels and lord knows, there are plenty of Resident Evil games for the makers to tap in to. It’s also possible that this story occupies the same universe as Alice, and with Paul W.S. Anderson’s name appearing as an executive producer, it’s not unreasonable to predict a future crossover.

In cinemas: December 9
Starring: Kaya Scodelario, Robbie Amell, Hannah John-Kamen
Directed by: Johannes Roberts

Interview with director Johannes Roberts and Kaya Scodelario

Resident Evil at JB H-Fi