As the last installment of the Resident Evil film franchise looms now is a perfect time to look at how the first installment robbed us of what could have been another feather in zombie Godfather, George A. Romero’s hat. Sure it’s not breaking news and it’s been discussed online for years but every time I see the title Resident Evil my horror heart yearns for what could of been.
For those that may not know back in 1998, video game developer Capcom hired Romero, whose landmark classic “Night of the Living Dead” single-handedly created the modern zombie genre, to direct a live-action TV commercial for the game “Resident Evil 2” (known as “Biohazard 2” in Japan). Set in an abandoned jail overrun by the walking dead, the 30-second spot starred Brad Renfro and Adrienne Frantz. While the commercial only aired in Japan it impressed Sony enough to hire Romero to write and direct a feature film version. Romero went to work on the script and over time word spread in the horror community that the words Romero and zombie would soon be invading cinemas once again. Obviously this was well before the rise of social media but you would have been hard pressed to find a horror fan at the time who wasn’t talking about this. Unfortunately Sony and Capcom ending up passing on Romero’s version instead opting for a more commercially viable easy to swallow version headed by Paul W.S. Anderson. If I only had a time machine to go back and shake some sense into those decision makers.
Resident Evil would go on to cement Milla Jovovich as the face associated with the name and Romero would eventually years later get another shot at mainstream success with Land Of The Dead but to think what could have been. With it being the end of the 90’s and the makeup FX industry still alive and pumping we could have at least had one more teaming of Savini FX supporting a Romero zombie epic. We could have had another vintage Romero heroine to put on a pedestal alongside Judith O’Dea, Gaylen Ross, and Lori Cardille. We could have seen a resurgence in Hollywood hiring director’s who built the genre we love to direct tent pole films. Alas, we got a film series that is now on it’s seventh film and has raked in millions upon millions of dollars for Sony and Capcom. We got George A. Romero who can’t get a film financed and in cinemas. We got a litany of video game CGI style horror adventure films and zombies that have strayed so far away from what we loved. We got what we paid the studios for. In the end we did this to ourselves horror fans.
If you haven’t seen the trailer that Romero directed for the Resident Evil 2 video game check it out below.