Resident Evil (2002) Explained

An Average Movie-Goer’s Review

Spoilers! If you don’t want spoilers – check out the Spoiler-Free post

Resident Evil (2002) explained poster

I love horror movies and if I’m going to watch them anyway, why not write an entertaining/funny review from the point of view of an average movie-goer and not a professional critic?

Resident Evil (2002) is a loose adaptation of the early video games in the Resident Evil (Biohazard) series that mainly takes place in the fictional Racoon City overrun by zombies and bioweapons.

An unnamed woman (Mila Jovovich) with amnesia wakes up in a strange mansion, before long a mercenary team, a police officer (Eric Mabius), and her husband (James Purefoy); also with memory loss, explore a large facility called the Hive where an Artificial Intelligence has gone homicidal in an attempt to prevent a greater evil…. ZOMBIES!

Quick Review:

If the game Resident Evil 6 – Jake/Shirley Campaign is bad and Resident Evil 4 is the best, with Resident Evil Village being good, then this movie is Resident Evil 0.

Why am I using a purely subjective rating scale? Because all rating scales are subjective.

Is Resident Evil (2002) Scary?

Ehh – Starts with tense scares then turns to more of an action movie, so it stays true to the video game series overall. If you scare easily, you have really nothing to worry about after the first 10 minutes of so.

All of our Paul W.S. Anderson Resident Evil Explanations/Reviews:

Related Article: Resident Evil (2002) Explained

Related Article: Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004) Explained

Related Article: Resident Evil: Extinction (2007) Explained

Related Article: Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010) Explained

Related Article: Resident Evil: Retribution (2012) Explained

Resident Evil (2002) Full Plot Summary:

The movie opens with a narrator and some text telling us the Umbrella Company has become the largest commercial entity in the United States. By the beginning of the 21st century, 9 out of 10 homes have the company’s products and it has become the world’s largest supplier of computer technology, medical products, and healthcare. Also, their political and financial influence is “felt everywhere”. No word on if they provide two-day shipping or if their CEO has gone into space yet.

But secretly, Umbrella is working on some shady stuff like bioweapons! It’s so secret, most of their employees don’t even know what’s going on behind the scenes.

The title card appears and the movie really starts by showing some quick cuts of someone stealing a few vials of a blue and green liquid (the T-Virus!), putting them in a black duffel bag, and tossing one of the vials into the lab to break and release the T-Virus.

Why? Because fuck’em that’s why! In reality towards the end of the movie one of the villains reveals why they stole it but they never explain why they let the virus loose. It was completely unnecessary if you think about it too much, but don’t do that.

As the virus, now airborne, flows through the vents and makes a bunch of dogs in cages start barking like crazy, we get a view from the security cameras powered by an advanced artificial intelligence.

The AI has initiated an emergency lockdown of the entire facility which houses hundreds of Umbrella employees. After trapping workers, it unleashes other gases to instantly kill them… as advanced AIs tend to do apparently.

We cut to the point of view of several Umbrella employees stuck in an elevator hearing another elevator’s cables snap and crash at the bottom.* They begin to panic, fearing theirs is next but instead they force open the doors between floors, and one woman volunteers to squeeze through the opening.

Since this is a horror movie, she gets stuck. Unfortunately for her, the elevator is started back up by the AI and decapitates her, cutting to black before her head is smashed.

At 8 minutes 30 seconds in we’re finally introduced to our nameless main character played by Mila Jovovich! Why is she nameless? Because she doesn’t remember anything, doesn’t know her name, and is never given a name in this movie. In later movies, she’s called Alice so we’ll refer to her as Alice.

Alice wakes up in a bathtub in a mansion that appears to be her home. She investigates seeing a wedding picture of herself and a man she doesn’t recognize (amnesia), a glass case in one of her drawers with plenty of guns, and then gets a jump scare… by the wind. OOOOH, spooky wind!

That’s technically our first jump scare at 11 minutes and 45 seconds in. She goes outside and… runs away from the wind again? Now we know where M. Night Shyamalan got his idea for The Happening.

Mark Walhberg confused
Yea we’re all just as confused as you Marky Mark

Seriously, it’s kind of weird, the wind picks up and she stares ominously at it, backs up slowly from it, then she’s violently pulled back into the mansion by an unknown person. This turns out to be police officer Matt Addison. How did he get into the mansion without her noticing? Why did he pull her violently in instead of just approaching her normally? Never mind all of that.

Just as Matt pulls her into the mansion. a highly armed SWAT-like team of about 4, break in through the windows. The door wasn’t locked but when you have an opportunity to make an entrance, you take it. Did I say 4? I meant 7, it’s just that only 4 even get a name.

Kaplan, played by Martin Crewes, is playing the wimpy IT guy role, Rain, played by Michelle Rodriguez, is playing herself, J.D, played by Pasquale Aleardi, is playing the cool guy role, there are two random guys, a doc, and the captain (he’s so cool), played by Colin Salmon, who gives two different exposition dumps but never gets a name.*

Michelle Rodriguez saying hi
Michelle Rodriguez’s version of a friendly introduction to Officer Matt

After holding him at gunpoint, Captain Cool decides to bring along the cop, Matt Addison, instead of letting him go. At around 20 minutes in, Captain Cool gives his first exposition dump telling us the mansion has a secret entrance to the “Hive” which is the extremely large underground facility we saw get shut down by the AI at the beginning.

The AI, called the Red Queen, went homicidal for unknown reasons and released security measures in the mansion which caused Alice to get knocked out and temporarily lose part of her memories. We also learn Alice and her missing husband work for Umbrella and they’re both actually security operatives.

The secret entrance leads the group to a rather old-looking train that takes them to the Hive. On the train, Rain and J.D. attempt to open what looks like a stuck closet door. When it’s finally forced open a semi-conscious Spence (played by James Purefoy) spills out. Alice realizes it’s her missing fake husband but he also has amnesia and doesn’t know how he got on the train.

Once they arrive at the Hive there’s a weird short scene where Matt, now handcuffed, stares at a vent. The movie is telling us that Matt knows more than he lets on and realizes the vents have spread the virus throughout the facility. But, the ominous multiple cuts between Matt and the vent is pretty unintentionally funny.

As the group walks through the Hive, they pass along glass windows to offices filled with water where a woman’s body is floating, apparently dead. When they walk away there’s a quick jump scare and that’s technically our first zombie at 27 minutes but, no one sees it.

The group arrives at what their map calls “Dining Room B” yet, in front of them, is actually a large fog-filled storage facility holding rows and rows of metal pods. The group is unable to see what’s inside which makes you wonder why the pods even have windows to begin with. Captain Cool commands Rain and J.D. to stay at the front of the room watching over Matt as the rest of the group proceed through to the next room.

Why is there so much fog in this room? Why does Umbrella call this secret storage room “Dining Room B” instead of something like “storage room – please ignore”? You’ll have more people looking for “Dining Room B” instead of storage rooms. Did people never accidentally stumble in? Stop asking questions.

The next room is the best set piece of the movie and it doesn’t even have zombies! Kaplan tells Alice the plan is to shut down the Red Queen using an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) but to get to her circuit room they have to cross this locked room beyond a laser defense hallway.

Captain Cool places an electronic tool to unlock the door and Kaplan sits on a computer just outside the hallway to hack in. Once he gives the signal, Captain Cool, the Doc, and the two redshirts, I mean random guys on the team, carry the EMP through the room. But before they can get to the hacked door, the Red Queen locks both exits, trapping the four, and turns on her laser defenses!

Umbrella team enters the laser hallway
From left to right: Captain Cool, Random Guy #1, Doc, Guy who just shit his pants

Captain Cool and Random Guy #1 dodge the first laser but Random Guy #2 loses 4 fingers and passes out from shock. The Doc gets her head sliced off in an impressive CGI scene (for 2002).*

Outside of the room, Alice starts to panic yelling at Kaplan to hurry and hack into the room to kill the lasers. The next laser chops Random Guy #1 in half, it’s implied it kills Random Guy#2 who was still on the ground, but Captain Cool impressively dodges it.

This angers the Red Queen because the next laser she sends turns into a large laser grid which kills Captain Cool just as Kaplan is able to hack in and disable her defense.

Kaplan gets a pep-talk from Alice before they both take the EMP into the next room.

Alice consoles Kaplan
“Look at me, I’m the Captain Cool now”

Here our main antagonist is finally introduced, a hologram of the Red Queen, a small British girl. Did you think I was going to say, zombies? This is Resident Evil, zombies are just set dressing.

The Red Queen begs them not to activate the EMP but as they do so, she turns to them and tells them her catchphrase, “You’re all going to die down here.”

Kaplan and Alice regroup with Spence then head back to Rain, J.D, and Matt in the other room. FINALLY, we get zombies! 40 minutes in!

While the group mourns the death of the others, and by that I mean Rain has to be held back from punching Kaplan in the face, they hear a sound in the distance. Rain goes to investigate, finding a woman who looks to be in pain. Rain approaches her and gets her hand bit just as J.D. arrives.

The woman (zombie) keeps walking towards them so J.D. shoots her multiple times to no avail, suddenly she’s shot by a hail of bullets revealed to be from Rain using an automatic rifle. (She’s so cool!)*

The rest of the group runs towards Rain and J.D., brought by the sounds of the gunshots. Unfortunately for them all the zombies have also heard the bullets and are now heading their way. At 41 minutes in of this 90-minute movie, we finally get a zombie horde!

First zombie appears in the movie
“Sorry, we forgot this was a zombie movie.”

There are a lot of bullets, zombies, and even an explosion that separates the group. Alice gets pieces of her memory back where she remembers meeting with someone in secret and agreeing to get them the virus.

This makes her believe she may have been the one who stole the virus at the beginning of the movie. Matt picks up some dropped handcuff keys in the confusion and frees himself before running off somewhere.

Kaplan is panicking trying to type in a code to get a door open as Rain and J.D. provide cover fire. Spence is there leaning on a wall telling Kaplan to hurry in a kind of villainous way. J.D. gets pissed, pushes Kaplan, and punches in the code, turning to Kaplan saying “see it was easy.” right as the door opens to a room full of zombies… and it doesn’t go well for him.

Resident Evil mosh pit
He’ll be fine….

J.D. gets pulled in and Rain gets bit again trying to save him. She’s pulled back by Spence and Kaplan as they make their escape using a different route.

Alice arrives at a different part of the facility, a more lab-like area that turns out to be part dog kennel which means dog zombies! Alice goes all Jason Bourne fighting them off with high-flying kicks and eventually kills them with a gun she finds on a dead body.

“Whose a good…… boys….?”

In a different part of the facility, officer Matt is looking through desks seemingly looking for someone, when he’s attacked by a female zombie he recognizes. Just as he appears to be zombie-lunch, he’s saved by Alice. If you’ve played Resident Evil games then you know there are a bunch of twists and here’s one!

Turns out Officer Matt isn’t actually a cop, he’s actually an activist looking for his sister who works for Umbrella and was the zombie Alice just killed. He and his sister were working together to bring down the mega-corporation Umbrella because they found out about the bioweapon experiments.

Matt’s sister has been working with someone on the inside to get the virus and evidence but now believes the person she was working with betrayed her and released the virus. Twist number 2! Alice realizes she was the inside person Matt’s sister was working with but doesn’t tell Matt because of the whole betrayal thing.

The two return to the group, who have run out of hope, because Rain just revealed that the doors they came through will close permanently in an hour as part of the emergency shutdown of the Hive. Alice then comes up with a plan; turn the Red Queen back on to get help out of the facility.

Since Kaplan holds a device that would completely fry the Red Queen’s circuits, the Red Queen agrees to help but not before another exposition dump that is just filled with so much incorrect science!

She tells them hair and nails continue to grow after death (it doesn’t), new cells are produced after death (ehh), and the electricity in your body takes months to dissipate after death (no). These are not true but are used to justify the T-Virus creating zombies but again, don’t think about it.

The group gets a map of utility tunnels from the Red Queen and makes their way down what appears to be sewer pipes, but are quickly overwhelmed by another zombie horde. They climb up to the walkways but not before Kaplan gets bit and separated. Guess who else gets bit? That’s right, zombie magnet Rain, not just once but twice, and then comes face to face with an undead J.D. who bites her again.

Zombie J.D attacks Rain
See? Totally Fine…

Rain survives and is pulled up to the walkways, Kaplan is also nearby but on a collapsing pipe. Alice tries to think of a plan to save him but Kaplan tells them to leave him as he loads his gun with his final bullet. Rain; who is starting to succumb to the virus, Alice, Spence, and Matt reluctantly leave Kaplan behind as a gunshot rings out.

BUT TWIST THE THIRD, Kaplan used the final bullet to kill the zombie climbing up his leg and escapes through another walkway to an unknown fate.

Elsewhere in Dining Hall B, something escapes from one of the many pods! A Licker!

Licker's introduction
Licker? I hardly know her!

Alice has another flash of memories flood in and remembers where the virus was kept and more importantly, there’s an antivirus! They rush to the room but Alice finds them both gone, Spence then gets a rush of memories and remembers he was the one who stole AND unleashed the virus.

Doing so to sell it to the highest bidder, it’s never explained why he released the virus but presumably, it’s because then there wouldn’t be a movie.

Spence grabs a gun, points it at the group, and offers Alice a chance to join him. But, she remembers she was working with Matt’s sister to reveal what Umbrella was doing and refuses to go with Spence.

He reveals the antivirus is on the train where they originally found him and then he’s bitten by a zombie. He kills the zombie and escapes, locking Rain, Alice, and Matt in the room to die.

The Red Queen makes herself known over a monitor and shows the group Spence being killed by the Licker who is now making its way toward the group. She offers to save the group if they kill the still-alive Rain since she is infected and the antivirus may not work at this stage of the infection.

The Licker, who has now mutated further after eating Spence, attempts to break into the room. With time running out, the Red Queen eggs on Alice to kill Rain, Alice lifts an axe and destroys the monitor instead.

The power shuts off and a door on the far side opens revealing it to be Kaplan who has triggered his device killing the Red Queen and unlocking all the doors. The four escape before the Licker can break in and rush to the train.

Kaplan activates the train, Matt helps Rain into the train as Alice kills the now zombie Spence and picks up the antivirus. Both Kaplan and Rain get the antivirus injected into them as the train rushes off into a happy ending.

Except the Licker comes back! Scratching Matt through the metal train cart and then kills Kaplan. Alice and Matt fight it off using a convenient pile of pipes with Alice pinning the Licker down by its tongue using a (convenient) sharp pipe.

Matt fights off and kills a zombified Rain before he opens the cargo doors dropping the Licker into the tracks, causing it to burst into flames.

The train arrives at the mansion, and Alice and Matt escape just in time before the doors shut down permanently. They enter the mansion to a less happy ending.

Except… the scratch Matt received from the Licker begins to mutate and, suddenly, a group breaks into the mansion wearing white hazmat suits capturing them both. As the screen fades to white, a voice sends Matt to the Nemesis program (sequel bait!!!) and sends Alice to the Raccoon City facility for testing.

An undisclosed amount of time later Alice wakes up with various needles in her body in an observation room.

Alice wakes up in lab
Not weird at all

She pulls out a bunch of needles and walks through a creepily empty facility. As she leaves the building it’s revealed to be a desolate Raccoon City Hospital. It’s then revealed, during the time she was being tested on that the virus decimated the city. Alice walks through an empty street, finds a police car, and takes the shotgun as the screen pans out.

Alice walks out into Raccoon City
That’s the Raccoon City I know so well

And that’s how it ends. There are five or fifty sequels though so it doesn’t really end.


If the game Resident Evil 6 – Jake/Shirley Campaign is bad and Resident Evil 4 is the best with Resident Evil Village being good then this movie is Resident Evil 0. That might make more sense to those who’ve played the Resident Evil games.

If you like Resident Evil games you might also still like this movie as long as you don’t come in thinking it’s an adaptation of the games because it’s definitely not that.

If you like B movies with some horror and a lot of action you’ll like this movie, it’s not as crazy as the sequels get with its own rules and convoluted story so it’s still pretty good for the average movie-goer.

If you want to read about how crazy the sequels get with their logic, we recently explained the first sequel 2004’s Resident Evil: Apocalypse

Also, a reboot came out in November 2021 that is more faithful to the games but it includes Chris and Claire Redfield, Leon Kennedy, and a bunch of other characters from the first three numbered games so there are still a lot of changes…

You can read our explanation/review of Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City (2021), here.


*A properly built elevator will have several back-ups preventing it from crashing at the bottom. Even an AI wouldn’t be able to cut all the wires and bypass the failsafes that are installed.

*Wikipedia tells me his name is James “One” Shade, how freaking cool. No idea why they don’t name him in the movie.

*The angle of Doc’s decapitation by the laser is a bit weird since the laser is going completely straight but the cut on her neck is curved up.

*The hail of bullets throws the zombie-like 5 feet in the air which is ridiculous


Stuff to Ignore

Rotten Tomatoes – 36%

Metacritic – 33

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