Resident Evil and the horrors of advertising

resident evil regenerate ad

By Rob Walker

When I saw the first Resident Evil in 2002, I enjoyed it. While the first film strayed substantially from the source material, it was a fun action/horror mashup that left me satisfied. The last shot of the film, with Milla Jovovich gazing upon the ruined landscape of Raccoon City, writes a check that the series can never truly cash. When the second film rolled around, I was underwhelmed. I will concede however, that even as each successive movie was worse than the one before it, the corresponding film teasers do such a wonderful job at lampooning modern advertising, that they have now become the best part of the series.

Resident Evil Apocalypse was the first to kick off the brilliant ad concepts, by making us believe we were watching a spot for Dove or Maybelline. Using the style and structure of a cosmetics commercial, the audience was lulled into a sense of familiarity, before watching a beautiful model age into into an undead nightmare.

Resident Evil Extinction created a teaser that is a dead ringer (pun not intended) for a Las Vegas tourism promo and segue ways into a post apocalyptic landscape that is reminiscent of the final scene of Planet of the Apes. The widening of the scope from human vice to a ruined world, was both thrilling and terrifying.

Resident Evil Afterlife avoided this advertising technique in favor of a straight action trailer focusing on the addition of 3D. Resident Evil Retribution, however, gave us two clever fake outs. The first being a teaser disguised as a mobile phone commercial, given added credibility by the friendly voice of Patrick Stewart.

The full trailer begins as a “feel-good, family film” about a suburban housewife. We have bouncy music, warm lighting and a little girl chirping a cliched punchline. It looks like we have Milla Jovovich cast in a Jennifer Aniston movie. The filmmakers played it close to the vest and held off revealing Oded Fehr for as long as possible. The comfortable morning routine of a beautiful family soon gives way to a siege of squid-mouthed zombies.

While the Resident Evil films have gotten steadily worse, the series’ advertising is consistently clever. By using techniques we are familiar with, these trailers make a comment about corporate consumer culture and how we’re all influenced by it. This advertising technique is the logical extension of the original video game’s message about the sinister nature of corporations. Oddly enough, this concept is packaged and sold to us by the mother of sinister industries, Hollywood.

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