If this writer were a betting man, he’d put all of his money on Anderson’s legacy being most synonymous with the RESIDENT EVIL franchise.
As the former Editor-in-Chief of FANGORIA, I had a lot of surreal experiences throughout the last few years of my life. Yet perhaps very few would rank higher than getting to interview filmmaker Paul W.S. Anderson wearing an EVENT HORIZON t-shirt, which put a mischievous, almost childlike smile on the director’s face. Truth be told, this writer has always held Anderson in fairly high regard; outside of my unwavering affection for HORIZON, which may be the single most fun horror film of the ‘90s, Anderson had helmed many infectiously crazy sci-fi films in the past several decades, including MORTAL KOMBAT, SOLDIER, and DEATH RACE.
But if this writer were a betting man, he’d put all of his money on Anderson’s legacy being most synonymous with the RESIDENT EVIL franchise. Helming four of the six films personally over the past 15 years, Paul W.S. Anderson has helped take the franchise from its simplistic zombie film beginnings to one of the biggest, most action-packed franchises in genre history. Yet all good things must come to an end, and in the case of RESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER, the current iteration of the video game adaptation is going out with a bang. With the film now sinking its teeth into audiences nationwide, Terror Time caught up with Anderson at last year’s New York Comic-Con to get the details on Alice’s final adventure…
TERROR TIME: At what point did you realize this was going to be THE FINAL CHAPTER of the RESIDENT EVIL franchise?
PAUL W.S. ANDERSON: Well, when we were doing the last movie, which was the fifth movie, I knew that it would lead into THE FINAL CHAPTER. So in the sixth film, we brought everything into the conclusion.
TT: In the latter half of the franchise, you really injected your unique sensibilities back into the films. What should the fans expect from RESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER?
ANDERSON: Visually, it’s going to look totally different from anything that came in the franchise before it. The last film was very stylized; it had more of a science fiction look, the visuals were very clean, and there was a lot of slow motion. THE FINAL CHAPTER looks very gritty and very intense; it was also shot primarily on location. We built a few sets, but it was primarily shot in real locations in South Africa. The shooting style is very handheld and gritty, and the action is bone-crunchingly intense. It’s a very different ride than what fans might expect from the previous films.
But we’re also juxtaposing that action with some really intense horror. The first movie was definitely the most intense in terms of horror; it was very claustrophobic, it took place in one underground location- “The Hive”- and it was is really focused on the horror. The last half of THE FINAL CHAPTER takes place in The Hive, and I really tried going for that feeling once again. So we alternated action scenes with some really insane horror. It’s a very, very scary movie. I love EVENT HORIZON, and it’s the scariest movie I’ve made since EVENT HORIZON.
TT: As someone who’s style was so integral to these films, was it important for you to go back to The Hive and explore some of the things you explored the first time around?
ANDERSON: Absolutely. One of the most intriguing things about the first RESIDENT EVIL is that you’re introduced to a protagonist named Alice who has suffered memory loss. She doesn’t know who she is, so she doesn’t know her story and she doesn’t know why she’s there. So she has to go back to the beginning and has to go back to where it all started. By returning to Raccoon City, Alice is going on a journey of self-discovery. So she discovers the truth about herself, the truth about her brother, and the truth about the Red Queen. A lot of the questions that were hanging over the franchise get answered in this movie.
It’s funny because a lot of those things were in my mind when I made the first film, in case I ever got the chance to explore them down the road.
I was lucky enough to see RESIDENT EVIL turned into a franchise and I’m lucky enough to bring it to its end. It’s exciting to end the franchise exactly the way I wanted.
TT: Was it important to provide Alice with a more intimate Journey this time around rather than explore a bigger, more ensemble-oriented piece?
ANDERSON: The movie is definitely focused on her; it’s her journey and her story. Every scene has Milla [Jovovich] in it, and if a scene doesn’t have her, they’re talking about her. The franchise is more focused on Alice than it’s ever been. At the same time, there is a broad ensemble cast, but this film is very much Alice’s journey, specifically the end of her journey.
TT: What is there any actor from the franchise that you may not have worked with directly that you are excited to work with on THE FINAL CHAPTER?
ANDERSON: Well I didn’t direct the third movie [RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION], although I did direct parts of it when Russell [Mulcahy] fell ill during the shoot. On those days, I got to work with Iain Glen directly, and I enjoyed it very much. Although we killed Ian in the third movie, I do remember him telling me, “Darling, you can always find a way to bring me back.” So I said, “Of course,” and then filmed his death scene. Yet here we are six years later and he’s back in THE FINAL CHAPTER. So I got to call him- and I haven’t spoken to him in years at this point- and I said, “Hi Iain, it’s Paul,” and he said to me, “Ah, Paul! I’m glad you’re seeing things my way!” [laughs]
Iain Glen was very excited to come back and he’s outstanding in the movie. I’m glad I got to work with him again because he created such a fantastic foil for Alice. It may be a truism but your hero is only as good as the villain that they are fighting. That’s especially true for THE FINAL CHAPTER since there are three villains: the Red Queen, Wesker, and Dr. Isaacs as well.
TT: Obviously, you have done horror before. What was your approach towards the horror in THE FINAL CHAPTER? Did you go for suspenseful scares or were they more action oriented?
ANDERSON: What I like so much about EVENT HORIZON and what I sold the Paramount about EVENT HORIZON- because the script is very interesting; there was big action and then it was very scary- was that it wasn’t an action movie or a horror movie; it was the best of both. With most horror, it gets very scary and then they diffuse it with humor, which lets you off the hook a little bit. What I loved about EVENT HORIZON was that it never let you off the hook because you diffuse the horror with action instead. That’s the same approach that I took here, matching really intense horror scenes with really intense action scenes.
TT: What was the most important aspect of giving Alice a proper goodbye?
ANDERSON: There is an emotional component to THE FINAL CHAPTER that wasn’t necessarily there for the rest of the franchise. I certainly felt emotional by the end of the film, when Alice’s story comes to a conclusion- and I’m British! It’s hard to make me cry; stiff upper lip and all of that. So there is both an emotional aspect to the story, plus we’re tying up strings we left 15 years ago, so I think the audience is going to be extremely satisfied. Not only is RESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER going to kick your ass and scare the daylights out of you, but it’ll also have a satisfying narrative conclusion as well as an emotional element that is new to the franchise.
RESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER, directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, is now in theaters from Screen Gems.
For those who may need a refresher on the franchise and its story, here is Milla to explain.