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Last December, the producers of RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE granted FANGORIA exclusive access to the Toronto set of the fourth chapter in their action/horror franchise, derived from the best-selling Capcom video games. For 10 weeks, right up to AFTERLIFE’s September 10 release from Screen Gems, Fangoria.com is presenting a series of one-on-one interviews with the movie’s cast and crew.
Written and directed by film series originator Paul W.S. Anderson, AFTERLIFE once again stars Milla Jovovich as mysterious heroine Alice, who teams with a small group of postapocalyptic survivors in a world overrun with zombies, monsters and agents of the nefarious Umbrella Corporation.
Today we continue our talk with longtime RESIDENT EVIL series producers Jeremy Bolt and Robert Kulzer (see the first part here).
FANGORIA: Could you talk about the film’s different settings: Japan, Alaska, LA?
JEREMY BOLT: Well, first of all, with the postapocalyptic Los Angeles, it was very important to Paul that it feel real, but not like the scenes in THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW or TERMINATOR, which were very dark. He tried to find a look that was extreme but also believable, so we based it on something that is quite original for LA—particularly if you live there—which are the fires, basically. In a world that has gone to hell in a handbasket, there’s no control and no fire service, so clearly, what’s going to happen to LA is it’s going to get burned. So we have a burned cityscape, with ash and smoke in the sky.
ROBERT KULZER: And if your fire department has turned into undead, all hell will break loose.
BOLT: And then Alaska…just beautiful bleak desolation. There are shots at the beginning of the film that you are so not going to expect from a RESIDENT EVIL movie, just in terms of the epic landscapes of the ice floes up in Alaska.
KULZER: It’s actually a very interesting theme in the movie—a sort of, “What happens after the extinction?” There’s always great documentary footage and Discovery Channel programming about Earth after humans, and what happens to civilization after whatever big destruction occurs and what remains. Every RESIDENT EVIL movie has a strange philosophical theme, and in this one, what resonated with me was that there’s a great survival instinct with this planet. There will be a resurgence of life after any kind of disaster, so nature cannot be extinct; you can beat it up, but it will come back. The places we use are definitely in a bad, bad state, but the human spirit has this tendency that, when the shit hits the fan, people are coming together and fighting for their survival and for the continuation of it all.
FANG: Zombie movies are more popular than ever. Are there going to be more zombies in AFTERLIFE? Or creatures?
BOLT: There’s more of everything. There are definitely more zombies. I’m not sure there are more creatures. There are different creatures.
FANG: Is the Licker coming back?
FANG: But the dogs return, of course.
BOLT: Everything has evolved. There is a particular character from the last game who is in it; we’re not quite sure of his heritage, but he’s certainly very memorable. There are going to be some interesting surprises for the audience. But if you don’t play the game, you’ll still really enjoy this. We’ve always really been adamant that this shouldn’t just be for gamers, and clearly, based on the box office, it isn’t. These are stand-alone films, and one of the reasons that has happened is they’re not just undead or zombie movies. The Umbrella Corporation is clearly a combination of Microsoft, Rupert Murdoch’s company and Goldman Sachs, and Alice is the individual taking on the evil corporation. It’s classic, and then there are zombie creatures in the mix as a consequence of the evil empire. That’s why it works. If it was just about the undead, I don’t think we would have gotten past the first one, and the second one would’ve been a bit of a gimmick, but it’s definitely the way we’ve evolved Umbrella and the characters there and their battles with Alice; that has kept it all going.
FANG: So how is this film looking compared to the other three RESIDENT EVILs?
BOLT: It’s certainly, visually, the most impressive; it’s beautiful. And the actors we have are the best cast. It’s going to be a very different film.
KULZER: The sets and the cinematography [by TRICK ’R TREAT’s Glen MacPherson] alone are very stylized. You definitely feel we’ve found our tone, in terms of the storytelling and character development, and that we have set a certain set of rules that are pretty consistent with the previous movies. But through the 3-D and the amazing cinematography, everything just feels a little bit more like a big Hollywood film. The girls look fantastic in a world of 3-D and HD; the makeup and the lighting just make them look phenomenal. And it has affected the whole visual style of the movie; it’s a little bit larger than life, and it looks great.
FANG: For non-fans coming to this franchise for the first time, if they haven’t seen the other films, does it work as a stand-alone movie?
BOLT: Yeah, and there will be an introduction of sorts from Alice—so if you’ve seen nothing, you’ll quickly be brought up to speed. It’s very important and responsible that you do that as a storyteller, because even if you have seen the previous films, you might have forgotten all the information and just want a gentle reminder. We always hope we’re expanding the audience and are going to get people who haven’t seen the other pictures, but this feels closer to an A-movie than the others. I have to remind myself—as does Robert when we look at some of these shots—that we’re dealing with the undead, because some of the scope and the way these shots are choreographed and put together is a return to old-school filmmaking. It’s like David Lean, which is fantastic for the subject matter, but we’re enhancing it and upping the ante.
FANG: So what else has Paul added to the series by coming back for this fourth chapter that you wouldn’t have gotten from another director?
KULZER: To a large degree, it is his visual mind, where everything from the architecture, the lighting, every prop, the color palette, the things that are a part of his vision as a director and his interests as an artist. He writes it and then he has a chance to basically 100 percent—with some budget cuts—turn it into reality. That’s what he has added. He’s one of these people who actually has a vision and can execute it.
BOLT: Every shot in the film is going to be memorable. Our challenges as producers are making sure there aren’t too many riches, and we discipline it and edit it accordingly because Paul has such a strong visual mind. He’s very much like a painter or an architect; the challenge is that we don’t get too caught up in the beauty and maintain the pace and the narrative and all those things you expect from a RESIDENT EVIL movie.
FANG: Will the story and characters be up to snuff with the visuals?
BOLT: The story, definitely, and the characters…with Wentworth Miller and Shawn Roberts, we’ve got some great actors, and we’re going to be scaring the audience in slightly different ways. You either do “cheesy 3-D,” which is huge things coming out at you, or you make something of the fact that the audience gets so sucked into this world and the immersive side of it. For me, that will be the most interesting side of the post process: how we shake the horror and suspense elements into this medium. It’s definitely a medium for action, for beauty and visual scale, but we’re still working out how we’ll make it work for horror and fear.
FANG: Compared to the other RESIDENT EVIL films that mix horror, action and sci-fi, how will they balance out in AFTERLIFE?
BOLT: This one is more horrific in the sense that the audience will feel that they’re right in there, and they definitely will be. We’re not huge fans of grossness and being too gory, but there are elements you would expect—we always think less is a little bit more in that department—but normally, you see a dark corridor and you can’t see its second half. In 3-D, you can see a lot more; it’s all about how you manage that. That’s really our challenge. Do you make the corridor underwater? Do you have things coming at you in 3-D, which is really cruel? These are the sorts of discussions we’ve had, and it’s going to be, as a result, a very different horror experience than some of the other films.
FANG: So going forward, not just with future RESIDENT EVIL films but other productions, are you completely sold on 3-D and HD?
BOLT: It depends on the film, but certainly for our action/horror movies, 3-D is definitely the future, and HD is definitely the future for probably everything we do.
Stop back next week for an interview with Albert Wesker himself, actor Shawn Roberts. And check out FANGORIA #296 (on sale in August), featuring an all-different AFTERLIFE set-visit cover story.
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