Few video game franchises have had such a strong lasting impact on popular culture than that of the Resident Evil series. Originally known as Biohazard in Japan, the first Resident Evil game was created by Capcom and released on the original PlayStation console in 1996. Credited with reviving popular interest in the genre of zombie horror, the franchise has since gone on to release over 25 games, as well as spawning a live-action film franchise, a trilogy of Japanese animated films, an animated Netflix series, and a new live-action series also currently in development.
More recently, however, Resident Evil is coming back to the big screen with the first entry in a rebooted and reinvigorated film series which gives the original games their much deserved due. While the previous six films starring Milla Jovovich would go on to become both the highest-grossing film series based on a video game, as well as the highest-grossing zombie film series throughout the 2010s, their connections to the storylines contained within the original games that inspired them were tenuous at best.
This latest film, helmed by 47 Meters Down director Johannes Roberts, however, has deliberately brought the franchise back to its ‘90s roots in a film closely based on the original two PlayStation games. Recently we had the good fortune to sit down for a round table interview with the stars of Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, Robbie Amell and Kaya Scodelario, who respectively play the game’s well-known siblings, Chris and Claire Redfield.
Suggesting that this film “is the movie version that fans of the games have been waiting for”, Supanova alumni Amell said he “was a big fan” of the original games and praises writer/director Roberts for “making a true adaptation… that he delivered in the best way”.
“I grew up playing the games,” Amell admitted. “One of my earliest childhood video game memories is playing the first one and dogs jumping through the window and scaring the hell out of me. I’m a big fan of the Milla [Jovovich] movies, my buddy Shawn Roberts plays Wesker… I saw them I was a big fan of them, they were super cool.
“I thought what’s really interesting about our movie is that it is a true adaptation of Resident Evil.. I read the script. I had a Zoom meeting with Johannes and it was clear that he was the right guy to make this project and that he was a gamer and he was passionate about [it].”
British actress Scodelario, who audiences may recognise from her leading role in the Maze Runner franchise, or even her breakout role in the UK teen drama Skins, was similarly excited to tackle the role of Amell’s on-screen sister, Claire.
“I was really excited,” she said, “and I think I knew how much fun it was going to be to shoot. I really love doing action movies and stunts and I really love being a part of something that already has such a strong fan base. And I’ve been really lucky that I had that with Maze Runner and Pirates [of the Caribbean] and that there are people that are excited to watch it that are going to want to see the character, and that those characters been a part of people’s lives and multiple generations. And there’s a huge responsibility with that, but it’s also really amazing to kind of get to bring that to life for so many people.”
Of course, it wasn’t all fun and games on set, and Roberts’ decision to introduce the rain-soaked atmosphere of the original games certainly provided its own set of challenges for the cast and crew who were working in sub-zero temperatures in Canada.
“The hardest element of the entire shoot was the cold,” Scodelario admitted. “Shooting in Canada in below 22 degrees celsius weather and it was all night shoots. I think none of us saw the daylight for three months straight. And it just caused a lot of problems especially with the motorbike stunts.
“We have rain towers and rain machines to kind of emulate that look from the games. But it was so cold that it meant that the water would actually freeze as soon as it hit the tarmac, as soon as it hit the road, which then made it incredibly unsafe to even drive a car over it, let alone do any motorbike stunts.”
Of course, fake rain and freezing cold were not the only challenges to be presented to the cast and crew of Welcome to Raccoon City, which was also one of the first major productions to forge the way for others when it came to learning how to film under COVID-19 restrictions.
“It was weird,” Amell said. “[Filming] a movie about a virus during a global pandemic, but what I will say is, everybody was very aware that we were very lucky to be shooting and a lot of people in the world weren’t working…
“So everybody was very careful. There were testing protocols. We were tested three times a week. There were massive protocols and shield protocols. We were bubbled so we could only spend time without masks amongst the same people we would be on screen without masks with.”
Scodelario added: “A lot of our prep involved figuring out how we were physically going to do that. It included, you know, 300 members of the crew being tested every two days and people ending up with sores and blisters on the inside of their nose from so many tests and it was really, really difficult.”
Yet despite the challenges of bringing what is clearly one of the most faithful video game adaptations to the big screen, both actors seem keen to continue on in the roles in the event of a potential sequel.
“I would love to do a sequel,” Amell revealed. “I know that Johannes has mentioned Code Veronica or Resident Evil 4 as possible adaptations. You know, I think that we’re in really great hands with him. And you know, this is kind of a dream come true for me. So I would love to continue playing the character.”
As for Scodelario, who described her character Claire Redfield as the “quintessential badass chick”, it was essential that she approach the character with the reverence her role in the Resident Evil franchise has earned in the past two and a half decades. From her trademark red jacket in the games, which she admitted “was a big deal”, through trawling Reddit threads and internet fan sites for potential insights into the character, much of her “attention was focused on getting that right”.
“When you’re playing a character that is loved by so many people, it’s very important that you do research and respect that and I wanted to give that to the fans,” she explained. “It was also about really respecting that we were trying to do something very different, especially from the previous movies. You know, we are essentially a horror movie.”
Though Welcome to Raccoon City isn’t the only project Amell has on the boil, and the busy actor also managed to let a few tidbits slip about the upcoming second season of his sci-fi comedy Upload available on Amazon Prime. “We finished filming it,” he revealed “It comes out, I think maybe in February, and it’s great. If you like the first season, it’s even better. We leaned into kind of the weirdness and there’s still a ton of heart… If you think the finale was good in season one, wait till you see the finale for season two.”
Until then, fans certainly have a lot to sink their teeth into, as the Resident Evil franchise goes right back to its roots when Welcome to Raccoon City hits Australian cinemas on December 9.
LEAD IMAGE: Tom Hopper, Chad Rook, Hannah John-Kamen and Robbie Amell in ‘Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City’