One of the biggest movie release weeks of the year is always Thanksgiving and while Ghostbusters: Afterlife and the House of Gucci look to go head to head at the box office, one of the films going under the radar is Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City. The film is based on the popular horror video game franchise by the same name. With a week until the premiere, Johannes Roberts, the writer and director of the movie, sat down with Entertainment Weekly to discuss all things Resident Evil.
In the interview, Roberts talked about how he signed on to the project before knowing what Constantin Film, the production team behind all the Resident Evil movies, wanted to do with this particular film. However, he and the producers just clicked saying they had the same, "bizarre sense of humor”. He went on to say, "They had some materials that they were looking at, but they didn't really know what they were going to do." However, they did know one thing about the direction of the project, "This needs to be a whole different beast" than the previous films in the franchise.
Roberts briefly talked about the last film iteration, which spawned six movies starring Milla Jovovich. “They were never really about the games. I'm a horror guy. I'm a Stephen King guy. I'm a John Carpenter guy. All those things are sort of built into the fabric of this movie," he continued by saying. "I was just like, 'Let's make a scary movie again.'" For any horror fan, that quote should be music to your ears.
The first successful attempt to bring this video game series to the big screen was very action-heavy. The game series has gone on to have a similar identity crisis. It went from the strictly horror games of the first three entries to Resident Evil 4, which blended horror with more modern action sensibilities very well, to the lesser praised Resident Evil 5 and 6, which were straight-up action-adventure games. With the soft reboot of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, the series went back to its horror roots, and the critically acclaimed remake of Resident Evil 2 in 2019 jump-started Robert's push to make this movie.
While Roberts cites films like Mark Ruffalo’s Dark Waters and the TV series Chernobyl as a cinematic influence, the director said, "I remember playing that second game and going, 'This is the movie. This is it,'”. He went on to say, "It just blew me away completely. The aesthetics of it, the tone, the mood. I was like, 'This is the cornerstone of what we're going to do.'" From the trailers and previous behind-the-scenes featurettes, that is the vibe this film adaptation gives you. A faithfully scary film that combines the close quarters terrors of the mansion and police department from the first two games with the open-tense mayhem of Raccoon City itself. Roberts would go on to say:
“I think [Welcome to Raccoon City] sets everything up really well, an origin story for each of our characters, I think it would be really important to me that we don't just use this as a springboard to then just go off into our own crazy world. I think there's so much in the games that is so fascinating and exciting that I would really love to continue to explore that."
In the interview, Roberts also called Resident Evil 4, “such an amazing and groundbreaking game” which he previously displayed interest in adapting that story for the next film, but he also admitted that he has not had a chance to play the latest main entry in the series Resident Evil Village yet. The reason is actually quite funny. Like most of the world, the Roberts has not been able to get his hands on a Playstation 5. Which is weird to think about considering the film is being made by Sony who also makes the PS5. He joked about it by saying, “maybe you could put that in your article. Poor director is desperate. I will walk off any future sequels."
The horror of that game went back to the Resident Evil 4 balance between horror and action while adding a lot of interesting lore that recontextualized the entire series. When Roberts plays that game, there is a lot to mine from for future film sequels if Welcome to Raccoon City is successful. Roberts also confirmed that the movie is not in the same universe as the upcoming Resident Evil Netflix series saying there, "two very separate things. Bar the name, there really isn't any crossover there." He would expand upon that by stating, "It's a very different sci-fi Netflix beast, whereas this [film] is retro horror, Stephen King-style. And this is super, super faithful to the games, whereas the Netflix show is its own beast, from what I understand."
At any rate, the film looks to bring the series back to its horror beginnings and hopefully be one of the first video game movies that translates the material accurately from the console to the big screen. Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City will be released exclusively in movie theaters on November 24th, just in time to inject some fear into your Thanksgiving meal. The film stars Kaya Scodelario, Avan Jogia, Robbie Amell, Hannah John-Kamen, Tom Hopper, Lily Gao, and Neal McDonough.
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