Resident Evil is a splattery futuristic zombie thriller, designed as a jolt-a-minute freakout for young audiences who were numbed into submission long ago. There must now be an entire generation that has never experienced George A. Romero’s ”Living Dead” films, with their flesh-munching ghouls and frenzied atmosphere of rabid, hyped-up paranoia. ”Resident Evil” is a blatant recycling of those queasy pulp classics, notably ”Dawn of the Dead” (1979), with its claustrophobic setting, its comic-book sociology, and its SWAT-team-on-the-defense ballistics. The film starts out looking like a timely exercise in biohazard panic, as a group of masked commandos breaks into the Hive, a vast underground genetic research facility run by a meta-conglomerate called the Umbrella Corporation. There’s one nifty sequence, inspired by the 1998 Canadian film ”Cube,” in which two men get trapped in a corridor patrolled by a deadly geometric slice-and-dice laser.
But that’s all window dressing, as ”Resident Evil” turns into a monster combat thriller as impersonal in its relentlessness as the videogame series that inspired it. The director, Paul W.S. Anderson, made a nifty little outer-space chiller called ”Event Horizon” a few years ago, but this time, working with a cast that features the girls-with-guns team of Milla Jovovich (not bad) and Michelle Rodriguez (all one-note pout), he shoots the works, complete with demon Dobermans, zombies that pop up like fun-house skeletons, a token ”Matrix” fly-kick or two, and a bullwhip-tongued skinless giant that leaps and slithers like ”Alien.”