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There are nine core games in the Resident Evil video game series, a couple of remakes, and several spin-off titles. And, there are six movies in the Milla Jovovich-led film franchise and a seventh film, a reboot, which came out last year. That’s a whole lot of zombie content, but the creator of Netflix’s new Resident Evil says the show stands on its own and is ready to expose brand new audiences to the T-virus — though longtime fans will, of course, find plenty of Easter eggs.
“You don’t need to know anything about the games or the movies to understand this story,” Andrew Dabb tells SYFY WIRE ahead of the series premiere. “If you know a little, if you’re familiar with the games at all, there are Easter eggs in there that you will pick up on. but you could come in completely blind and you would have a good time.”
The new series does feature a familiar name or two from the games (and without spoiling anything, some of the differences between the established characters and the TV versions are intentional and part of the plot), but the eight-episode first season is indeed accessible for total Resident Evil newbies. The action is split between two timelines. The first is in 2022, when sisters Billie and Jade Wesker, along with their father, Albert, move to New Racoon City — a company town created by and for employees of the powerful Umbrella Corporation. That very corporation will be responsible for the unintentional creation of a virus that turns humans into zombies and animals into mutated monsters. In the second timeline, 14 years later, we follow an older version of Jade as she flees Umbrella’s clutches across a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
Although Dabb says he has a plan for how the two timelines converge, should Resident Evil get picked up for enough seasons to get there, the decision to show the before and after of the end of the world, rather than the actual downfall of civilization, was intentional.
“When you see most zombie storytelling, it’s telling the story of ‘one guy who got bit’ or ‘the outbreak is from here,’ and now the world is falling apart or in the process of falling apart. It felt like we had seen that story many, many times in many different ways,” he explains. “So, let’s instead show the leadup to it, because you don’t see that as much, and let’s see what happens 10 or 15 years later because humanity is adaptable.
“It felt like that was a little bit more fresh ground, although in the world of zombie storytelling I don’t know if anything, beginning-to-end, is 100 percent original,” Dabb admits.
He’s correct in that no zombie story can be totally free of familiar tropes, but Resident Evil does feel distinct from the Paul W. S. Anderson film series, which remains one of the highest-grossing and better-reviewed film franchises based on a video game. Dabb credits the films, starting with the first one in 2002, with being ahead of their time when it comes to blending genres.
“You’ve got horror and action and sci-fi. If you watch the movies, even from the first one but especially in order going forward, they are experimental in a way that I think gets a little bit lost in the shuffle now,” he says. "So many movies, including a lot of Marvel movies and things like that, are that thing. All you see is combining genres these days.”
That offers the TV show an opportunity to be a little bit more focused in contrast.
“The movies went big and crazy (and I love them), and the games tend to be smaller and more contained (although not always, as the later games get a little bit bigger),” Dabb says. “How can we do something that exists in the world of Resident Evil and can honor both things? So for us, the games are our backstory, we are a horror-first show, although certainly, we go big into action, too.”
The ultimate goal for the Resident Evil show is if it can stand on its own merits and enthrall new audiences while still being under the franchise’s larger umbrella, if you will.
“My hope is that people who have just watched the show will get to the end and go ‘You know what? I want to go play a game,’ and they’ll go play a game because the games are great,” Dabb says. “They’ll go ‘I want to watch those movies,’ and they’ll watch the movies because the movies are great. Hopefully, it all dovetails together to it all feels of a world.”
Resident Evil Season 1 is now streaming on Netflix.
Looking for more scares? Check out SYFY's Chucky, the new Firestarter film, and more on Peacock. if you want something a bit more ghostly, find SurrealEstate on the SYFY app - and a second season is already on the way.