[Interview] Johannes Roberts for RESIDENT EVIL: WELCOME TO RACCOON CITY

[Interview] Johannes Roberts for RESIDENT EVIL: WELCOME TO RACCOON CITY
Courtesy Screen Gems
In RESIDENT EVIL: WELCOME TO RACCOON CITY, the booming home of the pharmaceutical giant Umbrella Corporation is now a dying Midwestern town. The company’s exodus left the city a wasteland…with great evil brewing below the surface. When that evil is unleashed, a group of survivors must work together to uncover the truth behind Umbrella and make it through the night.

Recently, Nightmarish Conjurings’ Shannon McGrew spoke with Resident Evil fan and WELCOME TO RACCOON CITY‘s Director, Johannes Roberts, where we discussed everything from how he became a fan of the Resident Evil games, the fight for practical effects in the upcoming WELCOME TO RACCOON CITY, and how faithful the film is to the videogames we know and love.

It’s so great to speak with you again, Johannes! Can you start by telling us how you became a fan of not only the Resident Evil games but the film franchise as well? 

Johannes Roberts: As you know, I’m a huge horror nerd. I really came into [the game] when I was a student in the nineties and horror was in a bit of a weird place, and I was struggling to find my horror. I remember trying to get to watch In the Mouth of Madness and it was playing on one screen somewhere, I had to really travel to find that movie. It was just a weird time. Wes Craven kind of rebooted horror with Scream and that just didn’t connect with me. It was very self-aware and I didn’t want my horror like that. And then, this game came along that was completely in love with everything that I was in love with. You could tell the guys behind it were geeky horror nerds who just loved dark, scary movies that were gory and creepy. So I sort of fell in love with it for that. I was not a gamer at the time, so I sort of fell in love with it while watching this game as a movie, and then [I started] to get into gaming. So that was really how I sort of came across it. And then, the film franchise, I have a separate love for. I just fell in love with Milla Jovovich. And then to just be given the keys to the kingdom was such a great thing, to go back to the games and really make something scary again.

Speaking of making things scary, were you able to use a lot of practical effects on this film? 

Johannes Roberts: As much as I possibly could we did practically. Once things get beyond a certain scale, you have to move to the world of CG. We did a lot of practical and really, I fought for that. Everything about [the film] was old school. There were no drones. There were no technocranes. It was all old-school filmmaking. Zoom lenses, anamorphic, we didn’t smooth any of the camera work out afterward that you tend to do these days. It’s very single-camera old-school filmmaking.


Having seen all of your films, one thing that’s a constant is you always have had a banging soundtrack. For this film, what was the process like in picking the songs, especially the use of Jennifer Paige’s “Crush”? 

Johannes Roberts: Like The Strangers: Prey at Night and 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, you’re listening to my soundtrack. This is what goes on in my head all the time. And “Crush” was big in my mind when I was playing that original game. I knew straight away and very early on that it was either going to be that or Shakespears Sister for that sequence. I tried Shakespears Sister but it didn’t work, so we went with “Crush” and it worked. It told me so much about Leon and I loved it.

Also, Donal Logue was such a wonderful actor to work with as Chief Brian Irons and basically, I would wind him up and let him go. He was just glorious to watch. He did this improv scene where he started talking about Steve Perry and Journey and how that would be as a date night and stuff. And I was like, what the fuck is he even talking about. We put it in the movie and I didn’t know if people would get it, but I really liked it cause I just liked his energy with it. Then, when we have that whole scene with him, I’m like, holy shit, you know what he’s going to be listening to in the car? He’s going to be listening to Journey in his car! The movie is fun, ya know? I wanted it to be grounded and real and take itself seriously, but I just love the 80’s and 90’s music and it gives the film a great texture.

Since I haven’t played the video game, how faithful is this film to the game? And how important was it for you to feature Easter Eggs from the other films? 

Johannes Roberts: It’s super faithful to the games to the point that we worked hand in hand with Capcom. We got the blueprints for the mansion and the police station to actually build them from scratch. We really got as many details as we could. Whether it’s the trucker eating his burger to the truck itself, which was identical [to the one in the game]. I had so much fun just being a nerd and people wouldn’t stop me [Laughs]. I’d be like, well, I want to build this identically and it’s like, yeah, okay, you can do that. And I’m like okay, well then I want this as well [Laughs].

The Easter Eggs, it was great fun putting… it’s always about the story first, but it was great fun putting all these little nods. And obviously, you have the post-credit sequence and it was all kind of fun. The whole movie is just kind of in love with the games, for sure. I didn’t want it to overwhelm the movie, I really wanted the narrative to stand on its own and for people to just go in and be able to enjoy it. It’s a nerd movie, there are so many things that I was just like, fuck it if you’re going to let me do it, I’m going to do it [Laughs]. You don’t get that chance too often in your life so I went for it.

RESIDENT EVIL: WELCOME TO RACCOON CITY arrives exclusively in movie theaters on November 24, 2021.

Shannon McGrew
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