Nightmare at Bitter Creek


“Made for television, and no better than you’d expect from that.”

Nita Daniels (Wagner) and her three girlfriends take a horseback trip up the mountain, expecting to meet their husbands at the top. However, the trip becomes a nightmare, as four members of the ‘Aryan Survivalist Brigade’ are holed up there, and decide to take out the women and their alcoholic guide, Ding (Skerritt). Initially, Ding takes the fore, but when he is injured it’s up to Nita and her pals to fight back. This TVM struggles, largely because of the lack of justification for the white supremacists: the entire party they attack are about as Aryan as they come, so why, exactly, should they be targeted for elimination? It would have been far more plausible had the party been ethnically-mixed, or even their guide been black – or, heck, Jewish.

Instead, the threat here is…well, a bit crap, really. They’re all but entirely faceless, clearly no good at marksmanship, and even the biggest of them is no match for a hungover Ding. Understandable, the TV-movie limitations restrict how “nasty” they could be shown, but there’s no sense of threat. It probably doesn’t help that the best actor in the film is Buster the dog, probably because his motivations are the most clear. The four women rarely get beyond the most shallow of caricatures, without any background to make you care for them – but I must admit, things do pick up significantly in the last twenty minutes, as the heroines find themselves trapped in a canyon, and Allison (Cassidy) needs to grow a spine if she’s to save her friends.

It’s not a terrible concept; this just needs to be executed with more conviction, and the medium of the television movie is probably not the right one for the story. That doesn’t permit the necessary level of dread, which would be something no TV company would want to show, especially back in 1988, when this was made. Finally, a small note on truth in advertising. Of all the facets depicted on the sleeve (right), there are certainly no bears and no lynchings. Nor is there any mention of the Confederacy or the Ku Klux Klan. Skerritt and Wagner, I will give you, but I’m not quite sure what the middle image on the right is supposed to depict.

Dir: Tim Burstall
Stars: Lindsay Wagner, Tom Skerritt, Constance McCashin, Joanna Cassidy

Resident Evil: Extinction


Extinction event.”

Has it really been three years since the last installment? Guess so. Therefore, about time for the most durable of the video-game to movie franchises, to pop up with another entry. Things continue to go from bad to worse as far as Planet Earth is concerned, with the T-virus, which spread from the complex to Raccoon City last time, now infecting the entire world. A few survivors roam the wastelands, such as in a convoy led by Claire Redfield (Larter), unable to stay in one place too long, because the zombies will locate them. Meanwhile, Dr. Isaacs (Glen) is working on reversing the virus, or at least making the zombies docile – though his approach to scientific teamwork leaves a little to be desired, shall we say. He also has a pit where he disposes of his raw material, an aspect that reminded me of the original Aeon Flux short films.

Into this comes Alice (Jovovich), who vanished off the grid, when she realised the Umbrella Corporation were tracking her. She gets lured in by a fake distress call, but after disposing of some zombie dobermans, eventually joins Redfield’s crew, just in time to save them from an attack by zombie crows [Mulcahy clearly having been inspired by The Birds, though I can’t help wondering how they got the cool contact lenses into the avian predators’ eyes.] They hear rumours of sanctuary in Alaska, and decide to head there – that requires a refuelling stop in what’s left of Vegas. However, Umbrella have been alerted by Alice’s burgeoning psychic powers and have left a nasty surprise…

S’ok. Mulcahy is no stranger to franchise cinema, having done the first couple of Highlander films, and the harsh desert lighting and exterior landscape is a nice contrast to the usual, dark, claustrophobic approach adopted by most Z-flicks. His experience is of particular use in the action sequences, where he does a better job of avoiding the cinematic excesses, in which Alexander Witt indulged, too frequently, last time up. The script is merely workmanlike: it feels too much like a series of cool set-pieces joined in the editing bay, rather than springing organically from the storyline.

The main problem, I feel, is that giving Alice mental powers detracts from the physical side of action, which has always been a major part of this series’s appeal: watching Jovovich kick zombie butt. The Las Vegas battle is unquestionably the highlight of the film as far as that goes, with Alice adopting a no-nonsense, slice-and-dice approach, that’s a gleeful joy to watch. After it, however, things go somewhat wonky: the entire Redfield subplot is airily waved away, and then there’s the inevitable boss level fight – this time against the Tyrant [if you’ve played the games, you probably know what that is, which puts you one-up on me], a somewhat rubbery, tenticular beast that is not among Patrick Tatopoulos’s best work.

Compared to the fight against the Nemesis in Apocalypse, this is a major disappointment, largely consisting of them hurling psionic shock-waves at each other. I’m sorry. This isn’t the Resident Evil I signed up for. I signed up for the one with the knock-down, drag-out punchfests, not the Harry Potter-esque BS. There’s a nice sense of symmetry, in that the battle ends in the corridor with the laser protection system, but the mechanism with which it ends is disappointing, rather than having Alice beat the Tyrant. Certainly, the lamest climactic battle of the three films.

Things do perk up at the very end. As in the first two films, there’s a grand final shot, which leaves you eagerly anticipating the next part – in this case, presumably called Resident Evil: Globapocarnarmagediediedie. Certainly, I wouldn’t be averse to seeing a fourth installment, though I would be inclined to send the makers a stiff memo before they begin production. Item #1. Try and come up with some ideas of your own. As well as the above-mentioned Hitchcock thievery, the film also borrows wholesale from Day of the Dead, Mad Max 2 and Mad Max 3, plus Alien: Resurrection. #2. After the apocalypse, the survivors will have plenty of Sony products with which to work. Really. Ease off on the unsubtle product-placement.

#3. Where was Jill Valentine? Okay, we’re kind of fond of Oded Fehr (he’s very good in Sleeper Cell), who does return as Carlos Olivera. And Larter, whom you’ll recognise from the first couple of Final Destination films, isn’t bad in her role, with a couple of kick-ass moments (left); there’s a possibility RE4 may concentrate on her. However, Sienna Guillory was better than either of them, and her unexplained absence this time is disappointing. Guess she asked for too much money or something. Finally, and most importantly, #4: skip the mental telepathy nonsense, no matter how much Milla Jovovich may want to wrinkle her forehead and lob psychic blasts at things. Just make her kick ass. The ending does give plenty of scope for development: without giving too much away, Alice could become the Swiss Army Knife of dispatching undead, with a variety of useful options. Overall, while some way short of perfect, this isn’t bad – and after some serious disappointments in recent years, it’s just good to see an action heroine back at the top of the box-office.

Dir: Russell Mulcahy
Star: Milla Jovovich, Iain Glen, Ali Larter, Oded Fehr