Johannes Roberts reveals Welcome to Raccoon City will be a tonally dark, "creepy" origin story that adopts the games' "fixed camera" filming style at the Spencer Mansion.

By Joey Nolfi
March 22, 2021 at 09:37 AM EDT
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The new Resident Evil movie will be a lively retread into undead territory for fans of the survival horror video game series.

Director Johannes Roberts revealed in an SXSW panel over the weekend that his upcoming revival — officially titled Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City — will adopt several elements from Capcom's zombie-themed series, including its signature grim tone as well as the games' "fixed camera" visual style.

"The big thing for me on this movie is tone. The thing that I loved with the games was they were just scary as hell, and that is very much what I wanted, that atmosphere. It's raining constantly, it's dark, it's creepy, Raccoon City is this rotten character," he said. "I wanted to put [that] in and mix it with the fun side, especially with the first game's around-the-corner style of storytelling. We had a lot of fun, down to the fixed-angle-playing that the first game had when we're in the Spencer Mansion."

With inspiration taken from the films of John Carpenter, including Assault on Precinct 13 and The Fog, Roberts explained that the origin story is an ensemble piece split between two main locations: The Spencer Mansion (a recurring locale throughout the games) and the Raccoon City Police Station that first appeared in Resident Evil 2.

Roberts united beloved characters like Claire and Chris Redfield (Kaya Scodelario, Robbie Amell), Jill Valentine (Hannah John-Kamen), Leon S. Kennedy (Avan Jogia), Ada Wong (Lily Gao), and Albert Wesker (Tom Hopper) over the gritty landscape, adding that the film weaves the characters' disparate fabrics together into a tense tapestry that's half "claustrophobic siege" movie and half "creepy as f---" survival story.

"[The remake of the second game] was such a wonderful cinematic experience with the tone, the constant dark, rain, the aspect of the game and I just took that and went yeah, that's the world I want to work in," Roberts said. "We very much took the tone of the remake of the second game and made that our template for this movie."

Though director Paul W.S. Anderson lead actress Milla Jovovich released six successful films based on the video games between 2002 and 2017, Roberts stressed that his version has nothing to do with the $1.2 billion series that preceded it, though he holds deep appreciation for Anderson's take on the material.

"It's a whole separate origin story that's based in the roots of the game and in the world of horror," he said. "I fell in love with Milla Jovovich, that first movie, it's great fun.... but this was a real pleasure to be given the reins to a new franchise, hopefully, that is its own thing. I'd never seen the terror and the atmosphere of the games, what I felt when I was playing those games or watching behind people's shoulders playing the games. I'd never felt that onscreen, and this is something I wanted to tell."

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is slated for theatrical release on Sept. 3. Watch Roberts' SXSW panel above.

Hear more on all of today's must-see picks, plus an exclusive clip from The Good Doctor, in EW's What to Watch podcast, hosted by Gerrad Hall.

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