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Set Report: The Sights of Resident Evil: Afterlife

Shock meets Anderson, Jovovich in Toronto

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For more coverage: Interview: D. Eric Robertson (Visual FX) | Interview: Jeremy Bolt (Producer) | Interview: Ali Larter (Claire Redfield) | Interview: Milla Jovovich (Alice) | Interview: Paul W.S. Anderson (Director)

The living dead have been here before. Adorning the walls of Toronto’s Cinespace Studios, on a November afternoon in 2009, one can find posters for Resident Evil: Apocalypse and the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead.

Quietly, over the years, Pittsburgh has relegated its status as the undead capital of North America – a badge proudly worn since George A. Romero shot Night of the Living Dead there in the ’60s – and handed the reigns to Toronto. Besides harboring the aforementioned Evil sequel and Dead remake, this city in the Great White North holds wildly popular zombie walks and is now a place where Romero coincidentally calls home where he’s completed three entries in his on-going Dead series. And now it’s welcoming another zombie menace within the walls of Cinespace: Resident Evil: Afterlife, the 3D fourth entry in Screen Gems and Capcom’s franchise culled loosely from video games.

Paul W.S. Anderson returns to the director’s chair after helming the first film and producing/writing every chapter in the series. Alexander Witt took control of Apocalypse – a film confined to the streets of Raccoon City – and Russell Mulcahy opened the scope of the series just a bit wider in Resident Evil: Extinction, the last film which found series stalwart Alice (Milla Jovovich), and her clones, declaring war on the nefarious Umbrella Corporation (the company responsible for a world-wide virus that decimated the population, punished Mother Nature and unleashed a zombie menace). Other familiar faces in Afterlife include Ali Larter (reprising her role as Claire Redfield) and Spencer Locke (as K-Mart). Newcomers to the series include Wentworth Miller, filling the shoes of Chris Redfield, Shawn Roberts, now playing Wesker (previously essayed by Jason O’Mara in Extinction) and Kim Coates, playing a slimy Hollywood type who has miraculously survived the destruction that has been thrown at the human race.

Shock Till You Drop is led through Cinespace by producer Jeremy Bolt (longtime collaborator with Anderson). Before we even reach the main soundstage, there they are…

A pair of the goddamn zombie dogs that have reared their mangy heads in every film.

These things are not alive. Instead, they’re a stand-in creation by Paul Jones and his FX team. Bolt and Jones note their working relationship reaches back as far as Ken Russell’s 1988 The Lair of the White Worm. On closer inspection of the dogs, this writer notes various changes to the beasts, all of which are very Rob Bottin/The Thing-esque. Much like the previous dogs we’ve seen, these are in various stages of decay: Exposed ribs, torn ears, gnarly hair. Their heads are split wide open, strips of cranium pulled back like petals on a flower to reveal a lethal maw rimmed with razor-sharp teeth. Bolt revels in Shock’s fascination at these hideous sights.

Just around the bend, we find Anderson standing at the fringe of a stark white room. The Umbrella logo emblazoned on the wall. A “Level 7″ security sign hanging elsewhere. On one end of this seemingly sterile stage are six medical tables. Gaunt, grey bodies rest on each surface…save for one table that is empty. Where’s the sixth body? I wonder.

Facing this set-up sits Albert Wesker (Roberts) himself. Hair immaculate and slicked back. Sunglasses on, of course. The actor has bulked up for the role, since Shock last spoke to him. Anderson calls on Roberts to do a take in which he merely has to act like he’s dodging something. On action, Roberts holds a beat then quickly moves to the side of his white chair. Anderson tells us the digital team will composite several throwing knives hitting the chair’s headrest.

Anderson requests another take and Roberts effortlessly avoids the imaginary weapons. He grimaces at the tail end of this dodge, visibly miffed someone just tried to kill him. The director is happy with this and calls for a cut, laughing, “He’s pissed now!” and leaves Shock to give notes to his actor. My journey continues on to the art department where production designer Arvinder Grewal allows us to get a real good of idea of what’s to come in the fourth film.

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Source: Ryan Rotten, Managing Editor