Resident Evil: Dead Can Dance.

29 April 2002 | 12:00 am | Chris Ryder
Originally Appeared In

Dead Man Walking.

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Resident Evil opens at cinemas on April 25.

It’s just a game, right? Yet conspiracy theorists would have us believe that the world depicted in the Capcom game, Resident Evil, is not that far away. Little wonder then that the game’s transfer to film makes for such an intense cinematic experience. For when things go wrong in Raccoon city they go terribly wrong. The dead walk.

Enter Raccoon City and you enter a world where computer corporations control the balance of power, super computers are a reality and viral warfare a norm. An underground hive with a projected view. A bevy of workers all toiling towards one goal – the world domination of Umbrella Corporation. Almost all of them equally oblivious to Umbrella Corp’s dark underbelly.

As the premise for a computer game, Resident Evil with its brain hungry zombies and its evil computer is unsurpassed. As a film, it’s the best game to make the transition to the cinematic medium. Forget Lara Croft, and Tomb Raider, Resident Evil is the real deal. Mind boggling effects, wicked camera work, great performances and a chilling story line. It’s an action packed adrenaline ride that has you gripping your armrests for the length of the film.

Michelle Roderiguez  (Girl Fight) and Milla Jovovich (Fifth Element) star as the film’s butt kicking action gals. Rounding out the cast, is Australian actor, Martin Crewes making his feature film debut as the military tech head Kaplan.

For Crewes (who is currently starring in the 70’s musical Oh What a Night!) the leap to feature film fame and fortune came about fairly suddenly.

He recalls: “I was in London, I’d been working on a musical and I had an audition on the Friday- then on the Wednesday they flew me to Berlin for a screentest. I met with the director, did the audition flew back to London, landed at Heathrow and got a call from my agent saying I’d got the part. The Wednesday that they flew me out they were already in pre-production – they were doing their first read-through and some other guy read my part.”

For his role as Kaplan, one member of the six-man crew sent in to restore order at the Hive, Crewes had to become proficient with all sorts of weaponry and computer gadgets. Coming to the film late, the other actors had already started weapons training, Crewes soon found out “that actually I’m a bit of a crack shot, and I’d never done it before. I guess when I first started they had a few days on me, but I soon caught up. We did a lot of commando training and working on formation. We’d all be given an objective and then that’s how we’d take down a room – like in the film, I enter the mansion without my guns on, ‘cause my objective is to get to the jack and get the computers up.”

Occasionally when working on films with a military slant, the pecking order on screen carries over into the downtime. Sergeants don’t talk to privates – or in the case of The Planet Of The Apes, the apes never spoke to the chimps. Did this happen on Resident Evil? No mingling with the zombies?

“Hmm, good question – but not really,” says Martin. “I think part of the reason is that Michelle Roderiguez who plays the point-man – is not at all like that. The point-man is meant to be really focused and serious and she’s not like that at all. So those elements broke down.”

You’d suppose anyone involved in the film would have been a fan of the game, but Martin admits he’d never played Resident Evil before arriving on set.

“I was a PlayStation fanatic,” says Crewes. “To the point where it was affecting my health. I was addicted. You know, like you walk around in your normal life and think ‘ohhh I have to get home and try that – that’s how you get in that room’. And we actually had the first Resident Evil in the house. But I thought – that looks a bit too intense – ‘cause I can’t start a game without finishing it – I thought I’d rather play something with a happy funny bandicoot then this scary gory game with all the lights out. So I didn’t play it ‘til I got to Berlin and Michelle Roderiguez had a copy of the game.”

Over the years there have been many films whose plot revolves around zombies taking over the world, in a bloodthirsty quest for brains to feed upon. Few of them however, have actually managed to terrify. Yet in Resident Evil the zombies are positively chilling.

“They had zombie workshops,” says Crewes. “Like zombie bootcamp…to establish how the zombies move. Because if the audience laughs at the zombies – it’s gone, your movie’s gone. They have to be terrified.”

Indeed, Crewes’ character, Kaplan, spends much of the film looking like he’s about to pee his pants in fright.

He laughs: “It’s not hard in some of those situations – where you are completely surrounded by zombies in this very enclosed set – with all these people coming towards you – it’s not that difficult to put yourself there… to feel terrified. I had a lot of help.”