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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

wtf: ‘Resident Evil: Afterlife’ using 9/11 imagery to sell itself

Is this the best way to convince New Yorkers to come out for a zombie apocalypse movie on the weekend of the ninth anniversary of the biggest disaster in city history?


This ad looks so much like imagery that’s seared into my memory that I actually stopped short when I saw that ad above, on the back of a phone kiosk.

Perhaps we’re meant to wish that Milla Jovovich had been there for us on that fateful day in 2001…



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  • NickT

    I think this might be an eye of the beholder thing, as I see the back of a ruined Hollywood sign.

    If I were a New Yorker, I might see it differently, but I don’t see an intentional 9/11 reference there. (If only because I wouldn’t trust the advertising for this film to be anything less than blatant about it)

  • elucidarian

    I agree with NickT. When you look for patterns, you will surely find them, although such behavior may be so conditioned to become an unconscious effort. I’m sure the average New Yorker finds 9/11 imagery pretty inescapable, indelible not only in mind but in identity.

  • David Conner

    I think NickT’s right, and that is the back of the “Hollywood” sign. Wikipedia says the plot is about Alice, who “searches for and rescues remaining survivors in Los Angeles of the T-virus outbreak….”

  • Ide Cyan

    It looks like something out of Luis Royo or Michael Whelan’s artwork.

  • David

    You know? I even stared at the picture a while trying to see what you saw. All I saw was some girders with a ruinous city in the background, I didn’t even notice that it was the Hollywood sign until pointed out by NickT. I think this is more a failure of advertising than anything else, you see offensive, I see nondescript, neither of which are what the marketers were going for apparently.

  • MaryAnn

    I completely did not see the Hollywood sign either, but as soon as NickT mentioned it, it was blazingly obvious.

    Still, I think a reflection of 9/11 could be showing up there, too. (Not even necessarily deliberately.) Our ideas about urban disaster changed on 9/11: I’m sure no one would have thought about blizzards of office paper being one of the immediate results of the violent destruction of a commercial skyscraper, but we saw that in *Cloverfield* and it just seems right now.

    Something similar could be at work behind this image, too.

  • Dani

    It didn’t occur to me that it was the Hollywood sign, but when I first saw this I thought it was meant to read “OH.” As in,
    “Hey Milla, it’s the Apocalypse!”
    “OH?”
    “Yep. You… you should probably go kill stuff now.”
    “OH.”

  • CB

    Yeah, that’s clearly the HOLLYWOOD sign looking over Los Angeles, but what the heck is that on the right side “ghosted” in? Some kind of… floating building? Gothic space ship? Upside-down wrecked building, with a normal building with lights on underneath? Really, WTF is that?

    Maybe that… thing… was creating the impression of being at ground-level in a city of tall buildings (like the ground zero picture below), enhancing your subconscious connection between the poster and 9-11 imagery?

  • bronxbee

    even after the H and O were pointed out to me, the WTC imagery doesn’t quit… but, as pointed out, it may be because i’m a new yorker and it’s almost a constant … not memory exactly, not flashback exactly… just a constant… something that makes it like a scar that never heals over completely.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    As a born-and-raised Los Angeleno, even after reading the headline, I immediately saw the H and O of the Hollywood sign. In fact, i then look at the building behind her and say to myself, “What the fuck building is that if she’s up on the hill with the Hollywood sign?”

    Also, isn’t kinda late to be WTFing the use of 9/11 imagery to sell fantasy, since even you mention “Cloverfield”? That movie was about as exploitative of 9/11 imagery as a movie can get without being about 9/11.

    Why do I suddenly feel like Rudy Guiliani? >.>

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    As a born-and-raised Los Angeleno, even after reading the headline, I immediately saw the H and O of the Hollywood sign. In fact, i then look at the building behind her and say to myself, “What the fuck building is that if she’s up on the hill with the Hollywood sign?”

    Also, isn’t kinda late to be WTFing the use of 9/11 imagery to sell fantasy, since even you mention “Cloverfield”? That movie was about as exploitative of 9/11 imagery as a movie can get without being about 9/11.

    Why do I suddenly feel like Rudy Guiliani? >.>

  • Neil

    CB and Dr. Rocket,

    The “ghost” building that’s confusing you is just the reflected image of the street the photographer was standing on to capture the image of the movie poster.

  • I agree it’s a context thing. I didn’t see 9/11 imagery or the Hollywood sign at first. I actually thought it was a suspension bridge with two of the towers leaning in opposed directions.

    But I wasn’t living in NYC around the time of 9/11 and I’ve never seen the Hollywood sign in person (having spent only a scattering of days in LA in my whole life). I do, however, cross a suspension bridge on the way to work every day. So, I think it’s more a trick of the mind than an intentional invocation of any particular disaster.

  • blondestevie

    no way is it towards 9/11. fact its not set in New York and ooh yeah its set in a ruined world full of zombies. Any one who actully knew what the film was about would know its the hollywood sign as you see it in the trailers. Its like your trying to cause trouble for it thats wtf.

  • michael bland

    The new advert for the videogame shows scenes similar to the concrete/dust that rushed down the streets after the demolition, sorry, building collapse. And there is also a plane crashing into a building.

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