Resident Evil Welcome to Raccoon City is the first attempt at a faithful adaptation of the Resident Evil games, shot during the pandemic in a frigid, closed-off Canadian town. “It was all night shoots! So for three months, none of us saw any daylight, at all”, says Kaya Scodelario, who plays Claire Redfield. “And it was minus 23 degrees celsius in Canada, it was absolutely freezing… and because of covid, we were isolating, so we couldn’t have any of the normal things you’d do! You know, drinks, your family visiting… so we were all in a state of heightened anxiety, at all times, anyway, which obviously… well, it really helped with the performance!”
Yes, Claire is in it. This is a clean reboot, folks; an attempt to swing the needle right back to the start of the record, to chart the beginning of Racoon City’s descent towards being the single worst place to live in any videogame, ever. And to its credit, there’s a genuine thrill to be a fan and see all of Racoon City’s landmarks – the police station, the creepy mansion on the hill – faithfully brought to life. It goes further than that, though. The cast themselves are tremendous fans of the games. Avan Jogia, who plays rookie cop Leon Kennedy, lights up when I mention that he holds his gun just like Leon does in Resident Evil 2.
“I mean, as fans of the games – just as fans! – we were happy to have a movie that takes the games seriously.” I then ask him if he considered going deep and insisting on moving around on set as if he was operated by tank controls, and he laughs. “Yeah! Man, that’d be interesting – I actually wanted to do a couple of shots like that, with the camera locked off in the corner, in that style! But yeah, I really thought about the gun, how Leon holds us. I had to get that in.”
The plot unfolds right where you’d expect it to. Claire Redfield is hitching a ride into town just as things start to go awry. Her brother, Chris (played by Robbie Amell) is a serving member of the RPD (Racoon City Police Department), a small town police force comprised primarily of very young, very attractive people. Leon is the new kid, but there’s also Wesker, played by rumoured Bond replacement, Tom Hopper. When things go south and the inevitable infection spreads, Claire and the RPD are the ones the film follows into the depths of Umbrella’s staggeringly implausible but wonderfully bonkers facility beneath the town.
And so much of this film lives and dies on the chemistry of the cast – on their ability to bounce off one another, bring levity to their characters that peeks through the grimness pressing down on Raccoon City. So I devised a test of sorts for Kaya (Claire), Avan (Leon), Tom (Wesker) and Robbie (Chris). Check it out, and decide for yourself whether they have the pedigree, the skills, to carry the names of our beloved Resident Evil heroes.
I mean, come on. They’re pretty great, right? There’s a genuine ease about each cast member, a sense that they’re all so stoked about their work on the project, which is genuinely rare when talking to people who’ve worked on game adaptations. For that reason alone, Resident Evil is worth the watch.
Resident Evil Welcome to Raccoon City released in Australian theatres on December 9, 2021.