If the recent remake of "Dawn of the Dead" proved how to expertly craft a zombie-horror-action flick, then "Resident Evil: Apocalypse" demonstrates the reverse.
Not even the flesh-baring outfits of Milla Jovovich can keep a viewer's attention in this tepid follow-up to the 2002 original.
To be honest, the initial video game-turned-feature was a guilty pleasure. It proved plenty scary and energetic, despite being nothing more than an excuse to watch people gun down the undead. And it starred Jovovich, the underrated Ukranian actress who's usually the most interesting thing about the sub-par movies she appears in.
But there's no performer on the planet who can save "Apocalypse," a murky, poorly conceived sequel that can't even make mindless carnage fun.
"We thought we had survived the horror -- but we were wrong," narrates Alice (Jovovich) during the intro.
Once the head of security at a secret high-tech complex known as the Hive, Alice is one of the few to weather a lockdown of the facility after a laboratory accident unleashes a virus that transforms victims into bloodthirsty zombies.
Now those infected have emerged from the underground area and spilled into Raccoon City above. Their presence forces the shadowy Umbrella Corporation to quarantine the entire city, leaving the newly revived Alice and a handful of humans, including a hostile ex-cop (Sienna Guillory) and a S.W.A.T.-type operative (Oded Fehr), to find an escape.
Calling "Apocalypse" derivative doesn't quite capture it. This is a film in which everything on the screen instantly reminds one of another movie. Virtually every character, line of dialogue, set piece, creature design and fight scene is familiar.
Hey, that's from "Robocop." Wow, that's straight out of "Escape From New York." Isn't this just "28 Day Later?"
A cinematic rip-off doesn't automatically condemn a movie (the amusing first "Resident Evil" would never win a trophy for originality). Rather, it's the sheer joylessness with which "Apocalypse" is rendered that dooms it.
Veteran cinematographer Alexander Witt makes his directorial debut, and his visual approach is among his weakest skills. Most of the zombie footage looks like outtakes from Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video -- minus the rhythm. Witt shoots every battle scene with a hurried, blurry sheen that blends the images together into incoherent mush.
Adding to the lousiness are the lame bad guys. While giant corporations are the enemy du jour of recent blockbusters, the supposedly all-powerful Umbrella is depicted as unable to make decisions that follow logical patterns.
At one point the higher-ups seem to think that testing their newest humanoid weapon (dubbed Nemesis) is of more concern than the potential fallout created from giving the order to nuke Raccoon City -- a city where most of these corporate scientists live. Wouldn't they be more worried about their own stuff getting blown up? What about the well-being of their families?
After what appears to be the finale -- a climactic bout between Alice and Nemesis (looking more like an NRA-friendly Swamp Thing) -- the movie veers into uncharted territory. The epilogue seems to be trying to outduel "Return of the King" for the Most Drawn-Out Ending award. In its effort to lay the groundwork for another sequel, "Apocalypse" keeps adding on stratums of excruciatingly unnecessary plot.
Now Alice's statement has greater resonance to those trapped in the theater: "We thought we had survived the horror -- but we were wrong."