Handicapping the Terrifyingly Similar ‘Resident Evil’ and ‘Underworld’ TV Adaptations

By  · Published on October 14th, 2014

Sony Pictures / ScreenGems

As it has been decreed by the Ancient Ones, all that was once film must now be TV. So it should be no surprise that, as of Sunday, we’ve got two more film franchises to be thrown on Hollywood’s towering pile of movie-to-TV ventures: Resident Evil and Underworld. From Variety comes the news on Resident Evil– Constantin Films, the production company behind the franchise, told the publication they’re shifting Resident Evil to the small screen after the sixth film (tentatively titled Resident Evil: The Final Chapter) comes and goes. Then, over at IGN (which we picked up on via Digital Spy) came similar news from Underworld guru Len Wiseman– first a spin-off without Kate Beckinsale, then a main series film with Kate Beckinsale, then everyone packs up and moves to television.

Wiseman also said the words “expanding” and “universe” in regards to all this new Underworld, but let’s slam that particular Pandora’s Box shut for now.

With these two, we’re getting into hokey sitcom-level coincidence territory- two different studios revealing new TV shows, having done so on the exact same day with the exact same movie. Because Underworld and Resident Evil are practically twins- if you were to read the words, “Female hero in skintight leather blasts holes in horror movie monsters with dual-wielded pistols, then takes a break to marry her director who’s given the entire series a mild blue color filter,” you would have zero way of guessing which franchise we’re talking about.

Let’s make it clear: despite one dealing with zombies and the other with werewolves and vampires (and, all too infrequently, werewolf-vampires), there’s no need for two identical series with identical aesthetics be made into identical TV shows. One would suffice. And in a perfect world, Resident Evil and Underworld would be caged into some kind of TV remake Thunderdome and forced to jab each other with Chinese guan-dao spears until only one was left TV-ready. But as we’ve yet to enforce Mad Max law on our TV remakes, the best we can do for now is run a comparison, and see just which of these franchises would hypothetically guan-dao the other into submission. Let’s compare the two via three categories: Monster Gore, Monster Creativity, and General Monster Popularity.

Monster Gore

The Resident Evil franchise has always leaned on CGI for its blood and guts, which will cost it dearly in this category. Zombies are a classic vehicle for makeup effects, and Resident Evil has showcased all kinds of undead ladies and gentlemen across five films- regular zombies, super-intelligent zombies, zombies with weird mandibles, zombies infected with parasites, giant zombies wielding axes, and Nemesis- a bulked-up bodybuilder of a zed in a slick trenchcoat. All great. But when it comes to the big money monsters, they’re always composed via gobs of CGI.

Really, really, abhorrent CGI. I dare you to make it through the next four minutes without either a sigh or a loud cackling laugh. Spoilers for Resident Evil: Afterlife follow, but let’s be real here and admit that no one’s day would really be ruined by Resident Evil: Afterlife spoilers.

Useless CGI bloodm slow-motion and a sense of profoundly unintentional camp. Meanwhile, Underworld, with fake blood glinting off the jaws of a practical werewolf and Kate Beckinsale bending people in half (plenty of CGI, but CGI that’s far better at obscuring its crappiness) wins by a healthy margin.

Monster Creativity

And now the competition swings back in the other direction. Because Underworld’s bloodshed might be more pleasing to the eye, but the monsters doing so are as boilerplate as horror movie monsters have ever been. Far worse is the series’ insistence on cross-breeding its werewolves and vampires and never approaching the level of cool that the words “vampire/werewolf hybrid” deserve. Hybrids are giant bats or giant wolves or regular humans given a slight skin tint and claw extensions and nothing else (this way, their undead sex appeal remains intact). Here’s a thought apparently no one in the Underworld series has ever had- a giant wolf with bat wings and extra-long vampire fangs.

Was that so hard?

Meanwhile, despite being built from gross pixels, Resident Evil is rocking some zombie crows, zombie dogs that split open into giant mouths, huge beasts with anteater-proportionate tongues and a fleshy Jorah Mormont with tentacle powers. If you really want to be a stickler, you could dock Resident Evil for nabbing most of those creatures from the game series and failing to include what are obviously the game’s coolest enemies (the Hunters, frog-baboons with a taste for human flesh), but even with those negative points, Resident Evil is far and away the winner in this category.

General Monster Popularity

Kind of a big deal as far as TV spinoffs are concerned. The more fans a franchise has, the better it’ll do when someone plops that franchise onto basic cable amidst a jillion other horror series. And once again, Resident Evil comes away with the win. Not only do the films make more money by a near 2:1 margin (domestically, they’re neck and neck, but Underworld has limp international appeal), but the Resident Evil series also has decades of gaming fans rallying behind it.

Well, maybe “rallying behind” isn’t quite right, given that the films are shoddy imitations of the games (many of which are downright classics), but the name recognition pulls it through regardless.

So there you have it. Resident Evil comes away, guan-dao in hand, while Underworld slumps to the floor leaking precious bodily fluids. Although to be honest about it, there’s something in me that would rather see Underworld on the small screen. Resident Evil’s had more films and more chances to associate its name with the worst kind of cheapo action horror. Underworld feels just a bit more untested, and thus more likely to put in the time an effort necessary to supply us with quality blue-tinted action horror.

Also, the clip from Resident Evil: Afterlife above is just so shitty. That’s a pretty big factor.

And we’re still years away from all of this- maybe, in the time it takes to develop both Resident Evil: The Series and Underworld: The Series, the two can realize they’re wasting valuable resources by competing and become Resident Evil Underworld: The Series . It’s not like anyone would notice, anyway.