“My dad said: ‘You’ll never get paid to play video games. There’s no way, what are you doing wasting your time?’ Well, haha dad!’”
Haha indeed! We’re discussing the latest addition to the Resident Evil franchise, Resident Evil: Welcome To Racoon City, with its stars Avan Jogia (whose dad never believed he’d get paid to play games), Tom Hopper and Robbie Amell. It’s needless to say this group didn’t mind the prep work for their latest movie so much: “It was the best homework we’ve ever been given for a movie: just ‘go and play the game’,” Hopper laughs.
Luckily when trying to defeat the big bad, playing the games is no new experience for some of the cast: “I grew up on the games,” Amell tells us. “I had played pretty much all of them and then I replayed Resident Evil One and Resident Evil Two Remastered before we started shooting, just for fun to rip through ‘em.”
It’s also fitting, then, that their movie, Welcome To Racoon City, follows the plot line of Resident Evil One and Two games. “It was really unbelievable to see the detail in the sets and some of the Easter Eggs throughout the movie,” Amell says. “It’s really impressive.”
The movie is set in the once the booming home of pharmaceutical giant Umbrella Corporation, Raccoon City, which is now a dying Midwestern town. Umbrella has now moved on to a bigger and better premises, leaving the city a wasteland and its residents desperate and jobless. Not only that but the company has left something underneath the surface of the city. Something evil that’s about to get out. The only ones with a chance to escape are the fine (and not so fine) members of the Racoon City Police Department.
With the movie being inspired from the first two Resident Evil games, expect harrowing adventures in the grand R.P.D building, on the streets of Racoon City itself and in The Spencer Mansion. “It’s an adaptation of one and two,” Amell nods. “Johannes [Roberts, the director] asked for blueprints from Capcom for the Spencer Mansion and for the police station. The production designer nailed it, it’s unbelievable.
“What I think is so great about it is it’s the movie that fans of the games have been waiting for. I think they’re going to lose their minds. But if you haven’t played the games, it’s a great introduction to the franchise because it’s an origin story were you get to meet these characters. You can tell Johannes is so passionate about the games because he really knew what he was doing.”
Adapting straight from the (let’s be frank, bloody scary games) means that this latest addition to the franchise fits firmly in the horror category: “It fits smack bang where it should really, which is a horror, with elements of humour and I think real nostalgia as well,” Hopper explains. “There’s a brilliant Nineties nostalgia to the game in there but it’s definitely in the horror realm. But it’s a horror for gaming fans. It’s a horror for the fans of the game.”
That means you can expect plenty of dark corners, jump scares and unimaginable creatures jumping out at you: “It’s very specific to the way the horror was done in the game,” Hopper tells us. “I feel like it’s very immersive. I think compared to the other movies where it was a standard horror, with zombies coming at you from here, there and everywhere, is that feeling you get when you first play the game. You start thinking: ‘Should I look around this corner? Should I open that door?’
“That’s what this does. I feel like it has this immersive theatrical element to it where you are one of the guys in there with them. I don’t think any of the movies has done that.”
“This is a horror movie,” Amell agrees. “It’s a Nineties horror movie. I think the Nineties adds some charm to it. The music’s fantastic. It even adds a little bit of humour, which I think makes the horror moments hit harder.
“Johannes was like ‘this is a horror movie’ and it makes sense. The games are horror games. But the action still hits hard. It’s exciting, the movie’s fast paced. It’s awesome. The scares are similar to the video game, some of them are slow creeps, and some of them are jump outs. Johannes knew exactly what he wanted to take from the game, and I think he delivers on the tone very well.”
Coming from a background set firmly in horror, Johannes was certainly a fitting person to steer the Resident Evil ship back to its horror roots: “Johannes has such a horror background,” Jogia tells us. “That’s where he comes from. So I think his sensibility is that and he takes every opportunity to continue that sensibility and make this a horror film.”
“I love the Resident Evil games,” Johannes Roberts tells us. “This is definitely out and out horror. It’s pretty gory. I’m amazed how gory we were allowed to go with it. We pushed it. The previous franchise was very much not gory, or horror orientated, so I was amazed how far we could push that!”
Welcome To Racoon City is the seventh movie in the franchise, adapting the first two games which were released way back in 1996. So we think it’s pretty fair Resident Evil is definitely a franchise audiences can’t get enough of, and one that has a serious legacy… “Resident Evil One and Resident Evil Two were so huge and such smash hits and part of pop culture that the name recognition alone just brings people in,” Amell says of why we keep going back to Umbrella for more. “I think the movies were awesome. I think Milla Jovovich is a badass. My buddy, Shawn Roberts, played Wesker, he loved them. I’ve seen every single one of them.
“I think the nice thing about ours is that it is the first adaptation of the video games, which I think people have been waiting for. So that’ll have us stand out a little bit, but I just think it’s a beloved universe with beloved characters. People like to see them. I want people who grew up on the games to feel like we delivered on the movie that they wanted to see.”
“Yeah, I think once the credits roll the hope is that a fan or a newbie alike is like ‘it’s Resident Evil man!’” Jogia agrees. “That the people who loved it, continue to love it and the new fans get excited about playing the games because they are great games.”
Indeed, audiences are very much the focus on the Welcome To Racoon City – namely, scaring the crap out of them: “It’s meant for people to come together in a dark room and jump and scream together,” Roberts says. “I really felt like you can never please all the fans of the game and you could never please all the fans of the franchise and then there are people that just want to come to movies. Somehow you have to combine all those people together to come to a movie and the thing to me that will bring them all together, that will make this find a home no matter what, is if it’s a scary movie.
“They’ll come together and they’ll jump and scream at it.”
Resident Evil: Welcome To Racoon City: rent the Home Premiere now! Download & Keep 31 January, Rent on Digital, on 4K, Blu-ray and DVD on 7 February. Read our deep dive interview with Johannes Roberts here.