Filmmaker Jim Sonzero, who directed over 50 cutscenes in Resident Evil 5, cites 28 Days Later and Metal Gear Solid 4 as some of his inspirations to make the survival horror game as horrifying as possible.
Think of a survival horror game – any survival horror game – and the atmosphere that the genre usually implies. Dark, narrow corridors, mist and gloom and enemies whose presence you hear before you see. Now think about Africa, a continent not known so much for its dark and gloomy towns as it is its bright, hot, and wide-open savannas.
In the absence of the genre’s usual tricks, how do you make a game scary? That was the challenge facing Capcom with Resident Evil 5, and so they opted to hire someone with experience – Jim Sonzero, whose work on Wes Craven’s Pulse (a remake of Japanese horror film Kairo) impressed the producers. Sonzero had never worked on a videogame before, but once he had the script and began to visualize the sequences, it was “very similar to the movie-making process,” he told MTV Multiplayer.
Sonzero said that with the exception of Metal Gear Solid 4, he was unimpressed with videogame cutscenes as a whole. “I just found them to be not cinematic. The choice of lenses, the way the narrative beats were exposed in the cinematics, seemed really static and flat.” So he aimed to bring his directorial experience to bear on the project. For inspiration, he looked to 28 Days Later as an example for how zombies can be terrifying in broad daylight, and Black Hawk Down as a way to shoot the African villages in which the game takes place.
For Sonzero, these cutscenes were a chance to make a movie as scary and as gory as he’d ever wanted – RE5‘s cinematics push the carnage limit, he said. “[W]ith the monsters and the evolution of the creatures and how they would burst and rupture out of people’s bodies – there was no limitation.”
Well, not no limitation – a few scenes were a bit too brutal, and had to be taken down a notch. Another unexpected hurdle for Sonzero was that sometimes, his cinematic ideas had to be curtailed to fit the limits of the coding – occasionally he would be told that the developers hadn’t properly modeled a particular area, so he would have to put his camera somewhere else.
Beyond RE5, Sonzero is reportedly in talks with Capcom about directing a live-action movie based on one of the company’s franchises. Resident Evil and Street Fighter might not have had much success in that regard, but what the hell – there’s always Bionic Commando, right?