Resident Evil movie director reveals Stephen King influence on Raccoon City

Johannes Roberts talks about his favorite Welcome to Raccoon City Easter eggs and his hopes for a potential sequel.

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Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City sign

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City's location was influenced by Stephen King's It and Salem's Lot.

Sony Pictures

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City welcomes you to a dying town, brought to life by a director who drew on the iconically chilling games as well as horror legend Stephen King.

Welcome to Raccoon City is in US theaters now, with the UK release coming Friday and the Australia release set for Dec. 8. It's written and directed by Johannes Roberts, known for helming the 47 Meters Down movies, and ignores previous Resident Evil flicks to adapt the first two games in the 25-year-old series. It's also designed to delight fans with a barrage of Easter eggs and set-up for sequel possibilities.

Roberts has been a fan of the Resident Evil series since its early days on the original Playstation, noting that watching others play was a formative part of his student years. He's gotten into gaming himself in the last decade and says the 2019 remake of the second Resident Evil game highlighted just how cinematic computer games have become.

Ahead of the movie's release, I chatted with the energetic Roberts over Zoom about his favorite Easter eggs, re-creating some of the iconic locations from the games, some of the movie's deviations from the games, and sequel possibilities. 

Here's a transcript of our conversation, lightly edited for clarity. We kept our conversation spoiler-free, so you can read on without fear.

Johannes Roberts (Getty)

Director Johannes Roberts is proud of the Easter eggs in Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City.

Valerie Macon/Getty Images

Q. This movie is full of Easter eggs for fans of the games. Which ones are you most proud of?
Roberts: I won't spoil the scene, but the loading scene from Resident Evil [the 2002 remake] where the body sits up in the morgue -- I don't know how long I spent trying to work out how to get that into this movie. It makes me super happy to re-create that moment.

And I love the fact that I've managed to get "Itchy Tasty" in as a plot point. The thing that makes me happiest about the whole thing -- and I love that it's become the cornerstone of the marketing -- is the police station. Just that we built that police station.

Is the area behind the police station desk CGI?
We worked hand-in-hand with Capcom; they gave us blueprints of the mansion and the police station. And it was like OK, the police station is ridiculous, how the hell am I going to do this? We didn't build the statue at the back; that's a digital set extension. But we built about 50% of it -- it's a huge space -- up to the desk and the stairs. It was a massive build, along with the mansion.

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City RPD

Elements of the movie's police station are augmented with CGI.

Sony Pictures

It was fascinating that you decided to have Umbrella gradually infect Raccoon City with the T-Virus, as opposed to just a sudden outbreak, from the games. What was the thinking behind that?
Stephen King and John Carpenter are my heroes. I very much used their work as references, to be able to take the games and put them on screen. I wanted this girl coming into town, having people peer from behind curtains, just to have that Stephen King vibe of this small, dying town. So it's a slow, creepy sense that everything is slightly wrong. It could be Salem's Lot. It could be Derry from It.

Also, I remember watching the Mark Ruffalo movie Dark Waters [which is based on a real-life case against chemical manufacturer DuPont] and thinking it felt like a drama version of Resident Evil, with this small, dying company town. I found it really fascinating and wanted to make that a theme.

You've expressed interest in adapting Resident Evil: Code Veronica for a potential sequel. I'd say you almost have to adapt that next, given how overt a reference the projected movie of the Ashford twins is.
I knew I wanted to put that video in there somewhere because it's so creepy. I had just met Kaya [Scodelario] and Robbie [Amell], and brought them together for the first time. Because we were all in quarantine, we hadn't been able to rehearse together in the same room. 

We were just going through the script, when we heard screaming -- it's like, "What's going on there?" -- and we went out back. And there's these two girls bouncing on a trampoline, these 10-year-old twins. I was like, "There's my Ashford twins." I actually asked Kaya, "Can you go up and ask them? We need to have them in the movie."

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Would you ever consider going outside the games and telling a new story in a sequel? We've never seen the fall of Umbrella in the main games. That was in a spinoff.
I'm interested to see people's reaction to this. There would definitely be elements from outside the games, but I would love to carry on with the game world. There is so much still to explore. I love the fourth game. Code Veronica is super interesting. As long as we don't get to Chris punching boulders [as seen in Resident Evil 5].

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