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The Resident Evil Netflix series delivers a fresh take on zombies

The new Resident Evil Netflix series has given its zombies a makeover from those seen in the franchise previously, for better or worse

Ella Balinska as Jade in Resident Evil

Despite a new Resident Evil movie hitting our screens just last year, streaming service Netflix has been developing a TV series based on the hit horror game franchise, and the show is set to hit the small screen this week. In the new Resident Evil Netflix series, much of the lore of the original videogame is present and accounted for, but the show does offer a fresh take on the undead in the franchise.

As you would expect from any zombie movie or sci-fi series based on flesh-eaters, the approach to bringing the zombies to the screen, and the manner in which they operate is a crucial element. For Resident Evil fans, there is a longstanding history of how their particular brand of zombies go about their brutal business.

For the latest interpretation of the situation in Raccoon City, Netflix digs into the dodgy experiments of the Umbrella Corporation and their role in the outbreak of the T-Virus; pretty standard stuff. With their zombies, however, the creators have deviated from the breed we see in the videogame from the ‘90s.

In the classic survival game, the zombies attacking Raccoon City are slow and sluggish, much like the undead in George A. Romero’s horror movie masterpiece, Night of the Living Dead. Their lack of pace though, certainly doesn’t detract from how terrifying those games are.

The zombies in the game also lack intelligence, at first at least. Although they develop a better understanding of the behaviours of the human survivors as time goes on, the general concept that these beasts are quite literally braindead, does offer some hope for players hoping to make it out alive.

Similarly, in the Resident Evil movie series, the rotting adversaries are basically very slow and very stupid. Eventually, they begin to attack en masse, but not until the fourth science fiction movie of the franchise. It would appear Netflix has taken a leaf out of the book of Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.

In the Resident Evil Netflix series, the zombies have stepped up a notch it seems. Long gone are the dead folk dragging their feet, replaced instead by infected beings who are capable of moving pretty damn quickly, which definitely helps to make them more scary than those in the games.

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The brain function issues still remain from what we’ve seen in the first four episodes of the new series, but it’s very likely that the zombies will follow a similar trajectory to those in the games and the 2000s movies and begin to learn to hunt more strategically. If that is the case, we could have some pretty formidable walking dead on our hands.

When you compare this depiction to other modern styles of zombie, the Resident Evil Netflix series does find itself lacking somewhat though. If it’s speed you’re after, look no further than the Korean movie Train to Busan, in which the horrifying flesh-eaters are quick enough to catch you before you can say “first class.”

Zombies in Train to Busan

Similarly, the Brad Pitt vehicle World War Z features some of the zoomiest zombies you’re ever likely to see. The thriller movie will always be seared into my memory for the scene where the hordes of rather nimble necro-nemeses ascend a huge wall, rendering all mankind’s defences useless.

This can’t quite be put down to any form of intelligence though, more instinctive, animalistic behaviour. Perhaps the most fearsome of all zombies on the big screen are the vampyric shadow-lurkers in I Am Legend, not least because of their impressive ability to hunt with meticulous precision and deadly cunning.

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You see, it doesn’t really matter how fast your zombies can move, if they don’t have the brains to back it up. The tension of watching someone try to outrun a flesh-eating foe is exciting, but nothing is quite as enthralling as seeing a conscious, bloodthirsty killer stalk its prey.

While the Resident Evil Netflix series may have got its zombies hitting the ground running, we need to see them step up their pragmatism if this show hopes to earn its place in Raccoon City folklore.