Ever since AMC’s “The Walking Dead” sank its teeth into pop culture, zombie shows have been reanimating on TV at an apocalyptic rate. Netflix alone has a horde of shows and movies, like Zack Snyder’s “Army of the Dead,” the Korean high school drama “All of Us Are Dead,” the period horror “Kingdom” and even the dark comedy “Santa Clarita Diet.” To stand out from the rest of the pack, all of these post-“Walking Dead” shows had to reimagine the classic zombie story by experimenting with genre or setting. Netflix’s “Resident Evil” series is no different, infusing its take on the undead with multiple timelines, teen drama and a sci-fi pharmaceutical company bent on world domination.
The “Resident Evil” franchise has been around for more than 25 years, launching as a horror game in the mid ’90s that terrified players with its grotesque monsters and haunting world. It’s since reanimated as dozens of spinoffs, TV series and a multi-film franchise led by Milla Jovovich. Netflix’s “Resident Evil,” however, takes a different approach by focusing on the Wesker family, which includes their distant dad Albert Wesker (Lance Reddick) and twins Jade and Billie Wesker (Tamara Smart and Siena Agudong). Casual “Resident Evil” fans will no doubt recognize Albert Wesker as one of the foremost villains of the franchise, but the series reimagines him as a cold, subtle father figure who produces some of the most compelling moments as his mysterious past unfolds.
Unfortunately, Reddick’s moments are confined to one storyline in “Resident Evil,” as it shifts between the present day in New Raccoon City, another reference to the video games that will intrigue fans, to 2036, where a zombie virus has ravaged the world. Compared to the other characters, Albert Wesker’s pseudo antagonist/mad scientist/bad dad drives the show. But the show is as lifeless as a flesh-hungry zombie when he’s not around.
The present-day storyline is a mix of bland high school drama and pharmaceutical corruption, while the future 2036 events, starring Ella Balinska as a hardened and traumatized adult Jade Wesker, whiplash between zombie guts and tired genre tropes. Since half the show is future-set, there are some twists later on — mostly “Who is still alive in 2036 and how did they survive?” — but the disparate zombie parts do not make a cohesive zombie whole.
Horror and undead fans, on the other hand, will be able to sink their teeth into the zombie action of “Resident Evil.” There are plenty of blood-soaked moments, including some gory kills and zombie-animal hybrids that are monstrously fun. Fans of the video games will also spot several reanimated references, like ferocious zombie dogs and a brutal chainsaw sequence that’s a mess of fun.
“Resident Evil” doesn’t reinvent the zombie wheel, as it juggles too many storylines without honing in on one vision for the series. Fans of the series of the genre may find some enjoyable moments amid this apocalyptic tale. Reddick also gives a dynamic performance as the show progresses, but his absence from scenes leaves viewers hungry for more.