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Director Johannes Roberts Dishes On Making Resident Evil Scary Again - Exclusive

Getting handed the reins to the most popular video game-based movie franchise in history is one thing. Being given the mandate to reboot it is another. Writer-director Johannes Roberts took on both with his new film, "Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City," which shifts the emphasis away from the action of the first six films in the series — the Milla Jovovich era — and back toward the chilling survival horror that was such a key component of the games' astonishing success.

Based on the first two titles in the series, with perhaps a bit more pulled from "Resident Evil 2," the new movie brings together largely faithful versions of well-known original game characters like Claire Redfield (Kaya Scodelario), her brother Chris (Robbie Amell), Albert Wesker (Tom Hopper), Jill Valentine (Hannah John-Kamen) and Leon S. Kennedy (Avan Jogia) and places them at the original ground zero of the games' monstrous zombie outbreak.

The movie takes place in the bowels of the Spencer Mansion and the corridors of the Raccoon City Police Department, all in the shadow of the ever-present Umbrella Corporation and the horrific experiments that turned sleepy Raccoon City into hell on Earth. There are betrayals and revelations also more or less right out of the games as the main cast comes under siege from Umbrella's creations.

"When I came on, the pitch was very much to go back to the games and to tell something super scary," Roberts tells Looper about his own mission brief, "and to basically go to recreate the feelings I had when I was playing the games as a kid."

Going back to the horror roots of Resident Evil

Right from the start, Roberts — whose previous credits include "47 Meters Down" and "The Strangers: Prey at Night" — says that it was clear what kind of movie distributor Sony Pictures and production company Constantin Films both wanted.

"Definitely with Constantin Films, we knew we were going to go back to the original games," explains Roberts. "My presentation of this was like, 'Look, I want to scare people again.' That's the big thing for me. If you're a fan of the games, or if you're a fan of the movies, or if you are just a fan of horror cinema, the one thing you all want is to be scared. That's where I felt the unity would come from ... I just want to scare the s*** out of people. The studios, Constantin and Sony, were very much together on that."

As for the game's publisher, Capcom, Roberts described working with them as an "interesting process" that ultimately yielded the same results. "They're obviously very protective over their creations, but we really went to them to work hand in hand with them," he says. "We built the mansion, we built the police station on the actual blueprints that they gave us for the game. We used their exact art they gave us."

In the end, continues Roberts, "you're going to do your own thing," and he cautions that no adaptation is ever going to translate the game literally to the screen. But he called the entire process of making "Welcome to Raccoon City" a "really positive one" and adds that the film is his love letter to both the franchise and horror tradition.

"Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City" is playing in theaters now.