Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City’s “Turning Around Zombie” speech

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City goes to great lengths to recreate the events in the original Resident Evil the game and its beloved sequel in condensed, cinematic form. From “Jill[’s] sandwich ”word game for green herbs on the set, director Johannes Roberts strived to show his love for the Resident Evil games in his recently released film adaptation.

An unforgettable Resident Evil scene Roberts chose to include is the original game’s scary first encounter with a zombie. Early in Resident Evil, the player encounters an undead man who clings to a corpse, which slowly turns around in search of fresh meat and attacks the player. (Resident Evil‘s “Director’s Cut” and Sega Saturn releases used an image of the specific zombie for their cover art, establishing the over-the-shoulder zombie as the key to the series’ visual language.

Original Resident Evil game director Shinji Mikami referred to that zombie as Turning Around Zombie in a 2002 interview. The actor who plays that zombie on film in Welcome to Raccoon City is Matthew MacCallum, an enthusiastic, energetic Canadian performer who has a short, Doug Jones-like list of (mostly background character) credits playing aliens, zombies and other oddities. Over the course of his career, he has played a Russian Army Zombie in Paul WS Anderson’s Resident Evil: Retribution, and a silent brother in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. He will next be seen as “Tattooed Swordsman” in Guillermo del Toro’s next film, Nightmare alley.

McCallum said he was not just casually familiar with the zombie scene he appears in Welcome to Raccoon City, he struggled to get it. MacCallum, who describes himself as a thin guy with high cheekbones and a good physical fit for horror movie monsters, took the role of “Turnaround Zombie” – his official credit – very seriously. Maybe too seriously, after his own admission. After watching Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City‘s first trailer, which features a taster of MacCallum’s zombie, I would talk to him. So I did.

Here is our pleasant conversation, edited for the sake of clarity.


You play a zombie and you have a very iconic scene in the movie. And when I saw that picture in the trailer, I thought, “Oh, that’s what the scene is from Resident Evil and they did it perfectly. I have to talk to this guy. “

MacCallum: Yes, I asked directly for that role. My first job on camera in this industry was playing a zombie in the background Resident Evil: Retribution. So this is a kind of full circle. I came into this business to be behind the camera. I just wanted to be a storyteller. I was happy to pull cables, be on crew, and I fell a little into it. I made a joke on the set one day to one of my friends who is in the makeup department, like, “If you ever need a zombie, call me.” For I am a thin man to begin with.

I did Nightmare alley, and got a call to come in [for Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City] because it was the same casting director for both films. And I said, “Well … I just have a question: if they have to recreate the scene from the first game where they come in and a zombie turns around and is then killed by Barry, I want that role.” She said, “Why ?!” I said, “I just want it. If I’m doing another Resident Evil and they want to recreate that scene. [I have to be in it], because I’m such a fan. I know how crucial that is.

And John seemed to have liked it [my scene]. So as long as the director was happy, it’s great.

John seemed very convinced to make a very straightforward adjustment – very faithful and authentic. And I thought just your scene is exactly that. How did you prepare for it?

I actually thought a lot about it. I played the first game again. Just two days ago, I quit Resident Evil 2 re-recording. And I’m a big George Romero fan… yes, I went through all of them [Romero] movies and the like, have just studied and really thought about what I wanted with it.

I was friends with Alan, who made some of the zombie makeup [Welcome to Raccoon City] and was my makeup artist on Nightmare alley as well. I got bits and pieces [about the movie] through him like, “Here’s what we think,” and he would show me on his cell phone, and I said, “It looks like the game!” So the more I could see what they were coming up with and use the pull on my face because I have the high cheekbones like what they were doing with that I thought was okay, so now I just have to screw up a bit. more. I just kept getting more and more into my head.

When I first got the makeup on and my teeth popped in… it was all about the movement. And when we first entered the place where they shot the Spencer mansion – it’s a real house here in Hamilton; I’ve walked past it 100 times. When I got there [it felt right].

The Turnaround Zombie in Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is approaching Chris and Richard

Image: Screen Gems / Sony Pictures

At first take, John explained to me what he wanted. I came down to talk to the other actor and then he said, do you want to try one? I was like “Deep breathing. OK, let’s do it.” I do not know if it is luck, happiness or surprise, or what it was, but I made the turn and got up, I get shot, fell to the ground. I hear the cut. And the next thing I heard was – excuse my language – was [STARS member Richard Aiken actor] Chad Rook said, “Fuck, that was fucking scary.” And the whole crew burst out laughing, and I thought, “I got it.” I just kind of didn’t have to think about it like I did. I did a wealth of preparatory work. But that was the moment it was like, “Well, I think we do.” Then it was maybe four more shots. I think I landed differently once. Chad kicked me a few times to make sure I was dead. Everything from the moment I found out about that movement, it became like robot. Honestly, I stopped thinking, because what is my quote-quote quote in that scene? I’m eating someone, right? I hear something behind me. And I’m like, oh, more food. Yes. That is it. That’s my motivation. But it was … well, that was the funniest thing.

You had played the games, you are familiar with the scene that you were going to make, and you had lobbied for the roll. Did John realize that you knew so much about what you were recreating?

I do not think. He and I had no conversation until we sat down. Friends in the makeup department knew, yes, and maybe Jane Rogers in casting. She mentioned something about it. Anytime there’s a big creature kind of movie in Toronto and she casts it, I’m always called. She knows I can handle the job and I enjoy playing with creatures. I really enjoy it. I did not even really know what [Johannes] thought about my performance until I got back to resumes.

We talked about it. “What should I do?” I did it a few times and got less direction, but he gave us all the freedom. He trusted that everyone was a fan [or] had at least some familiarity, if not with the game itself, but the genre he makes. He did not say on the set that I heard the interview with him when he said that it was very much a John Carpenter-style genre film. He is 1000% right.

I actually play three separate zombies: I play Turnaround Zombie, and they brought me back a few days later, and we took close-ups of the RPD gates. Yes. So I’m in a different makeup there. And then there’s a shot when we break through a door. And I’m in there. They brought me back to Resumption Day as another completely different zombie. Because it’s all different makeups, the instructor does not [recognize you]. While he talks to me and we go back and forth. He said, “Have we seen you before?” And I thought, “Yeah, I was your turnaround zombie.” He said, “Oh, God, you’re a good zombie man.” At least that’s all I need to hear.

What was your reaction to finally seeing your zombie in the trailer?

I was so happy. It was on par with the last few projects I have done and I keep [mentioning] Nightmare alley and because I had it, it was just another completely different experience … I can honestly say it sounds ridiculous, but I can kind of stop working. I do not even have to work in this business again and I will be happy.

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