REactors

I had a wild idea early in the drafting phase of my Resident Evil book: I’d try to contact one of the actors or voice actors from the game, so that I could include some insight regarding those infamous performances.

It was something I both really wanted to do and something I’d already resigned myself to failing at. I’m some nobody on the internet, after all, who wanted them to set aside their personal time to talk about the most embarrassing roles of their lives for free.

It was important, though, that I’d try. If I couldn’t include any anecdotes or insights from these primary sources, I could rely on whatever information I could find and verify on my own, and that would be fine. But I at least had to give it a shot.

I ended up getting not one actor from the game, which was the goal I set for myself, or two actors from the game, which I’d have considered a massive success. I got every known actor from the game, with only two exceptions. If we narrow the focus to only the surviving actors from the game, there was only one exception.

I knew from the start there would be a lot of difficult work ahead of me. Nowadays you can read the in-game credits, get somebody’s name, reach out to their agent, and hope they grant you an interview. But back in 1996, when Resident Evil was released, actors were rarely credited. In Resident Evil specifically, the voice actors are not credited, and the live-action actors are credited only by their first names. What’s more, these actors were as likely to be friends of the developer as they were professionals with representation.

Oh, and, also, none of the live actors knew they were in the game.
You’ll learn why that is in the book, as well as the fascinating oral histories of both the live performances and voice recording sessions. In this post, I want to take you through how those chapters came to be.

(The book, by the way, is nearing an incredible 500% funded on Kickstarter. Preorder it now if you haven’t already!)

Walking you through the process of discovery and outreach wouldn’t be worth it or interesting in any way. Through whatever avenue of communication was available to me, I sent a message letting them know who I was and that I was writing a book about Resident Evil. I was as honest and friendly as possible, and I made it clear that I respected and valued their time. I didn’t offer any kind of compensation, but I promised each of them a copy of the finished book as a way of saying thanks. I invited them to contact the publisher if they wished to verify anything I was telling them. (I don’t know if any of them did that, but it was important to me that I afforded them the opportunity.)

Thanks to the tireless work of Monique Alves and Fred Fouchet, two Resident Evil fans who have been researching and chronicling the game as much as possible over the years, I had almost uniformly solid leads. Some of the actors they had already spoken to. Others they hadn’t been able to reach but were sure they had the right people. In a few cases there was only partial information available.

I took everything they were able to give me and hoped for the best.

I got better than the best.

CHRIS REDFIELD


The first actor who got back to me, and also the first I was able to speak with, was Charlie Kraslavsky, the original Chris Redfield.

Kraslavsky played Chris in the game’s live-action opening sequence and its conclusion, assuming he survives in your playthrough. As with the other live actors, he delivered all of the character’s dialogue on set, but was ultimately overdubbed by a voice actor.

He set the stage for all my interviews by being unexpectedly friendly. I say “unexpectedly” because Resident Evil isn’t exactly a friendly game. It’s deadly serious, cruel, and profoundly punishing. While I of course wouldn’t assume a guy who put on a costume for the opening sequence would share the game’s “personality,” the fact is that the game was the only window into any of these people I had. My feelings on Resident Evil were the only feelings I could associate them with.

Speaking with Kraslavsky was like speaking with someone you might have known back in high school, but only barely. Somebody with whom you had a shared history but which didn’t entirely overlap. You could both speak the same language and you had a lot of common ground, but there were lots of things you knew that he didn’t, and lots of things he knew that you didn’t.

Our discussion was very conversational. I could also tell it was honest, simply because he didn’t try to pretend he had a better memory of the filming that he actually does. He let me know whenever I asked a question he couldn’t answer with confidence, nearly always volunteering different information instead, as a probably unintentional method of apology.

He made sure to share as much as he could. He pointed me toward the few other actors he remembered by name, and he shared as much as he remembered about the others.

Every human being who watches the live-action introduction of Resident Evil will know it wasn’t quite…professional filmmaking, but Kraslavsky had nothing but nice things to say about everybody he worked with.

That’s exactly how he came across to me as a person. Not as some guy who is willing to talk about an old job, but as somebody who will reach for positive things to say about everyone involved. He did not have an unkind word to say about anyone, and I don’t think that’s because he forgot or avoided these things. I think Kraslavsky genuinely doesn’t see people negatively.

I could not have asked for a better start, and I also learned that it’s his frightened eyeball we see on the game’s title screen. That was interesting enough, and the fact that he had a great anecdote to go along with it was even better.

Let me emphasize that: Kraslavsky is the kind of guy who has a great anecdote about the time someone filmed his eyeball.

One of the talents I was not able to interview was Scott McCulloch, who voiced Chris in the game. McCulloch passed away in 2000. I was very fortunate that the other voice actors I was able to speak to were willing to share their memories of working with him.

Therefore, out of sad necessity, McCulloch is obviously not interviewed in the book. I did, however, want to make sure he had a presence in the narrative. It wouldn’t have been the same without him.

BARRY BURTON


For fan-favorite character Barry Burton, I got to interview both his live actor and voice actor. One was a markedly more difficult process than the other, though.

The easy part was getting a hold of Greg Smith, the live actor. Kraslavsky had been in touch with him a few times since they met during filming. Starting with Kraslavsky ended up being a real benefit to me, I think, because the guy is so friendly and lovable that he was willing to let others know that my project was worth being a part of. I could not possibly be more grateful.

Smith is an educator in Australia. He’s a large, physically imposing man — he looks like and is an avid biker — but was just as friendly as Kraslavsky, albeit in a different way. Kraslavsky comes across like a friend from another lifetime. Smith comes across like a beloved uncle you don’t get to see often enough.

His thick Australian accent and playful sense of humor are far removed from his appearance. If a man who looked like him started to pick a fight with me in a bar, for instance, I’d be worried. On the phone, though, he was the closest thing imaginable to a human teddy bear.

Smith had the most vivid memories of the actual filming. Kraslavsky, by contrast, had the most vivid memories of the behind-the-scenes production details. Together, they painted an almost complete portrait of each day of shooting.

Barry’s voice actor, Barry Gjerde, posed more of a problem. Without question, Gjerde’s performance in Resident Evil is the most notorious. That’s the reason I really wanted his insight, but it’s also the reason I wasn’t likely to get it. Gjerde has been relentlessly bullied online for decades, all for a job he couldn’t possibly have done well.

For much of his career, Gjerde was open and approachable. Once the bullying started up — strangers from all around the world actively harassing him for lines he didn’t write — that started to change. Eventually it became so serious that he removed himself from the internet.

I was able to track down various old contact methods, but I had no reason to think they still worked or, if they did, that he still checked them.

I reached out anyway, of course. I wanted to let him know that this was an opportunity to speak for himself. I wanted him to be aware that this was not a hit piece. My aim was not to mock and abuse, but simply to get the story from the folks who were involved.

I told him all of those things in my messages, but, of course, he had no reason to believe them. I couldn’t blame him at all.

Knowing I wouldn’t likely have his involvement, I looked up more of his work. I’d heard some of it without even realizing it — he played Red in Mega Man X7, for instance — and sought out much more.

Gjerde was, and remains, an extremely good voice artist. He has a very clear and proper diction, and his voice is almost overwhelmingly soothing. The more I listened to, the more I was convinced his performance in Resident Evil could not have been his own fault. So what happened? I wanted the story more than ever.

It was only after I interviewed Ward Sexton — Resident Evil’s narrator, who we will discuss later — that I was able to get it.

I let Sexton know that I was having difficulty reaching Gjerde; this may or may not have shocked Sexton, but he offered to help. He and Gjerde weren’t just old colleagues; for many years they had been good friends. He — a human being Gjerde respected and cared about, as opposed to some dodo on the internet — reached out and let Gjerde know that the book was nothing to be afraid of.

He shared his own experience being interviewed by me, and let Gjerde know that I wasn’t a bully or a fraud. He told Gjerde that if he were interested in sharing his side of the story, now was the time.

I don’t know any of this because Sexton told me; I know this because Gjerde, months after I’d tried so hard to find him, responded to one of my old emails. I’d reached him after all, but it was only after Sexton went out of his way to back up my claims that Gjerde was willing to talk.

And talk he did. Gjerde is such a friendly and wonderful man that the fact that he’d been bullied for so long and for such strange reasons became more and more distasteful to me.

I suspect Gjerde found it difficult at first to open himself up to me because he’s a sensitive person. That’s borne out by the things he was willing to share and the warmth with which he shared them. When someone criticized him, it must have hurt. When that criticism became constant, it must have been unbearable. Gjerde isn’t and has never been a negative guy. When negativity was directed toward him, he just stepped back and got out of its way.

He didn’t want to come back into focus, but I’m so glad and honored he was willing to speak with me after all. His perspective ended up being both crucial to the story I was telling and profoundly enlightening as to how a solid voice artist ended up being known for one of the most infamous performances in video game history.

JILL VALENTINE


When you think of Resident Evil, you think of Jill Valentine. Which might be a bit odd, because to this day nobody knows who the heck she is.

Neither Jill’s live actor nor voice actor have been identified. Her live actor is credited as Inezh in the game, which is at least an uncommon name, but Kraslavsky thinks that might be a typo, so that could be even less helpful than having no information at all.

Fans have tried for more than two decades to find either of Jill’s actors, and it still hasn’t happened. Both Kraslavsky and Smith shared their memories of the live actor, and perhaps the information they provided will help somebody to make headway in the search.

I, of course, tried to track them down as well. I wasn’t trying to “outdo” anyone who had looked for her in the past as much as I would have loved to find her as a way of paying the Resident Evil community back for all of the information they provided me.

No luck. But while I was writing, there was a big breakthrough on the game’s other leading lady.

REBECCA CHAMBERS


Will Jill being an absolute no-go, I wanted even more to get in touch with one of Rebecca’s actors. After all, if I failed to do so, I wouldn’t have any female perspective in these sections at all. While that’s bound to happen now and then, Resident Evil has two very famous female characters; not hearing from any of the four actors playing those characters would represent a glaring absence.

Like Jill, though, nobody had identified Rebecca’s live actor. I tried to do so; I failed to do so. That was also a no-go.

I invested my efforts in contacting Lynn Harris, who had voiced the character. Harris had a long history of video game voice work which — at the time I was researching — seemed to have come to a stop in 2007 with Mega Man ZX Advent. That’s if IMDB is to be believed, and it probably shouldn’t be; it now claims she voiced Amy Rose in 2017’s Sonic Mania. If that’s true, it wasn’t there when I was looking previously. It also doesn’t reflect her role in 2019’s Dragon Marked for Death, even though she is clearly credited in game. What’s more, her narrative on that page claims that she voiced Rebecca in Resident Evil’s “opening FMV.” Rebecca indeed appears in that FMV, but has no lines; she isn’t voiced by anyone at all.

What you’ve just gotten is only a small sample of the strange, contradicting, twisting, easily dismissed information I found about Harris online. She’s gone by several names professionally. She’s listed for roles in productions nobody else seems to believe ever happened. Her biographies read like journal entries. She’s retired from the industry, but is also still active.

It was extraordinarily difficult to separate fact from fiction. With everybody else I researched this was also the case, but to a much smaller degree. In those cases, I’d have to weed out some bogus information. With Harris, I seemed to only find bogus information.

A friend of mine dug up some old forums posts. Buried within a long discussion on a completely different topic, one poster said he’d written to Harris around the time of Resident Evil and got a signed photo back. He couldn’t find the photo. We couldn’t get a hold of the poster.

Another commenter at an old forum claimed he’d communicated with Harris at one point and that she claimed to have directed the Resident Evil voice actors in addition to playing Rebecca. I tried to substantiate this claim and couldn’t, outside of a biography that was clearly written by Harris herself. There was no evidence for her having taken on this role that I could find, and it does indeed seem like a reasonable exaggeration. Perhaps she actually did help someone else figure out how to deliver a line, and with the same spirit that we all have when we update our resumes, she inflated her importance a bit.

It was only after I spoke to other voice actors and asked about her — and had them independently confirm the claim that she did unofficially direct the others — that I was willing to believe it. Now her input would be even more valuable.

I figured I could get her ear if she knew I wasn’t out to write anything insulting or damaging. In fact, Ward Sexton counted her as a friend just as he counted Barry Gjerde. He said he’d have gladly reached out, but he hadn’t spoken to her in years. He had only fond things to say about working with her, but wouldn’t know how to get in contact.

I reached out to some other voice actors who worked on the same games she did. I reached out to the developers that had hired her for their games. In most cases, as you might guess, I heard nothing back. In a few cases I got very polite emails in return, but they weren’t able to help me.

When I saw her name in Dragon Marked for Death — which I played almost immediately upon release, so I knew it was recent work — I got in touch with IntiCreates to see if they’d pass along an interview request. They said they would. That was the last I heard…from them.

Not long afterward, a different voice actor reached out to me. I recognized her name. She sent me a very friendly message. There was not an ounce of ire or irritation in it. It boiled down to, “I know you’re looking for Lynn, but she isn’t interested in any kind of media contact. Please don’t try.”

Of course, I stopped trying. I was disappointed. I felt — and still feel — strongly that her involvement would have been to the book’s massive benefit. Think of all the untruths we could untangle. Think of the story we could finally tell about Resident Evil’s secret voice director.

But I get it. Gjerde may, consciously or not, have been waiting for the right time to speak up. Harris may not have been. She may still not be. Maybe hers is a story she doesn’t want to tell. Maybe, unlike Gjerde, she can’t believe somebody will treat her involvement with Resident Evil as something worthy of respectful discussion. Maybe she’s been burned before.

Or maybe she’s not comfortable anywhere but behind a microphone. Maybe interviews scare her. Maybe she’s more comfortable playing characters than speaking as herself.

I can only guess. But I think somewhere along the line, she did get my request for an interview. And she considered it at least long enough and seriously enough that she felt compelled to reply…albeit through a buffer she knew she could trust.

I don’t know where she is. I don’t know what she’s up to. But I hope she’s okay, and I hope she’s doing well. I’m genuinely sorry I didn’t have the opportunity to speak with her for the book.

Which, of course, meant that both Jill and Rebecca would go without representation in my narrative.

Until, late in the book’s editing, Fred Fouchet reached out. He’d found Rebecca’s actor. It was a miracle. I gave him the online equivalent of a hug and a high five.

Her actor, who is credited in game as Linda and prefers to keep her surname private, granted him a nice, long interview full of excellent insight.

I asked him to relay my interview request. She was not open to it. I don’t take that personally; unlike the other actors, she’d just surfaced. She didn’t know me. She stuck her head up and was immediately asked if she’d be part of a book project. The timing was unfortunate, but both she and Fred were willing to let me include the information and quotes that she shared with him.

We got our Rebecca.

ALBERT WESKER


Wesker’s voice actor is another who has not been identified. There is no shortage of theories online about who voiced him. I’m almost certain I’ve found and tested them all. Usually it would be a YouTube video comparing clips of Wesker in Resident Evil to clips of some other character in another game. The title would be, “WESKER VOICE ACTOR FOUND!!!” I’d listen to the clips and they wouldn’t sound even remotely similar.

In one case there was a decent comparison; the guy still sounded like a different person, but it was close enough to warrant followup. I reached out. The actor replied. It wasn’t him.

His live actor, however, was easy to find; he was a friend of Kraslavsky’s. (Who, in all honesty, wouldn’t be a friend of Kraslavsky’s?)

I’m bottomlessly amused by the fact that Chris and Wesker are friends in real life. There’s something so wonderful and adorable about that.

His live actor, Eric Pirius, was a good fit for the character. He’s a man of few words, and he still, to this day, looks strikingly similar to his on-screen avatar.

Unlike Kraslavsky or Smith, though, he wasn’t big on volunteering information. He answered every question, and my followups, but that was all. It didn’t come across as any kind of rudeness; he’s just less interested in conversation.

Ask Kraslavsky something and he’ll tell you everything he remembers feeling. Ask Smith and he’ll tell you everything he remembers happening. Ask Pirius something and he’ll tell you yes or no.

This was great in its own right — I wanted these actors to stand apart, to reveal their personalities, to be more than the things they had to say — but it also meant we weren’t able to use much of what he said in the book. Almost everything he covered was covered by somebody else in greater detail.

But that was okay. Wesker always was the quiet type. His actor not letting on any more than he needs to fit perfectly.

NARRATOR


And then there was Ward Sexton. The live actors were credited in-game by their first names only; the voice actors weren’t credited at all. The exception: Ward Sexton, credited by his full name.

Why? Well, he just had that much clout.

Most people will only remember a “narrator” in the game for saying two words: Resident Evil. The delivery of those words is unforgettable, but we don’t hear much more from Sexton in the game. During the opening titles he also says each character’s name as they are introduced.

That’s it.

So why reach out to him for the book? The answer to that should be obvious: Why not?

I’m glad I did, because Sexton’s involvement in Resident Evil extends far beyond what got pressed to the disc. He spoke to me about the problems with the script, about how he set himself apart from other voice actors, about the nature of voice acting in Japan and how, exactly, it leads to trainwreck performances such as what we see in Resident Evil.

From Sexton I got an insider’s view of what voice acting is like — or was like, in the mid-90s — in Japan. He had plenty of positive things to say, plenty of criticism, and a lot of great stories about being a professional in an industry that didn’t seem all that interested in professionalism.

He even talked to me about an early English Studio Ghibli dub of Porco Rosso. He produced and starred in it with — you guessed it — the cast of Resident Evil.

Tracking it down today isn’t easy — a far more beloved dub starring Michael Keaton has overwritten it completely — but I did indeed get my hands on a copy, and it’s all because a man famous for saying two words got his chance to say a lot more.

In most cases, I got stories from the trenches. “I went here, I did this.” And that was great. But thanks to Sexton, I also got to pull the camera back a bit and see things from a fascinating distance, covering larger quirks and concerns of an industry — and a period within that industry — that often goes undiscussed.

Give the book a try. You might like it.

Fixed Perspectives

As I write this, the Kickstarter campaign containing my Resident Evil book is nearing 350% funded. That’s astonishing; thank you from the bottom of my heart. If you haven’t pledged yet, please consider doing so. You’ll be supporting a great publisher and great writers.

(I’m also pitching in an additional stretch goal for hitting 350%, so if you pledge now, you can make that happen yourself!)

I didn’t expect the campaign to get funded so quickly, so I guess I’d better start actually posting some of the behind-the-pages stuff I’ve been meaning to.

To start with, I wanted to spotlight a few of the experts I brought in who allowed me to provide a much larger view (and achieve a deeper understanding) of the material.

I’m one person. I can perform my own research and provide my own interpretations, but there’s only so much I can show you from my own fixed angle. Getting some additional voices involved would enrich and enhance the book substantially.

And, y’know, it would also give me an excuse to work with some really cool people.

The headliner here was Lloyd Kaufman, head honcho of Troma Entertainment and perhaps the elder statesman of excess.

I wasn’t sure how much interest Kaufman would have in the project, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask. The guy is a B-movie icon, and with Resident Evil perhaps still the closest thing we have to an interactive B-movie, I hoped we could find some overlap.

We ended up with much, much more.

The guy is busy; I will say that much up front. It would not be polite to mention his age (Lloyd is 106), but he does not seem to slow down. When I approached him to see if he’d be interested in participating in some way, he heard me out. He listened attentively. He told me — with clear sincerity — that he was honored that I asked. He offered to write the foreword.

And then he disappeared.

It only seemed that way, of course. What actually happened is that Kaufman is no less busy now than he ever was. I came to him with one project, and he was interested. That was very nice, but it didn’t make a few dozen other projects that needed his attention disappear.

Right now, in early May 2020, long after the book is done, the guy just keeps going. While many others are understandably scaling back public appearances, Lloyd keeps finding ways to get himself and his work out there. Just last week he participated in the Mainframe Comic Con, an online event of exactly the kind that’s being cancelled around the world. For many, it’s a chance to stay home and slow down. For Lloyd, it’s a chance to find new ways forward.

So he was gone. I reached out a few more times and would indeed get responses, even ones that promised, “I haven’t forgotten you! Expect something soon.” And then silence again.

One of the things he was attempting to achieve was securing a venue to premiere Return to Return to Nuke ‘Em High AKA Volume 2 in Denver. I didn’t know that, and I learned about it immediately when I mentioned where I live.

He apologized for the delay once again, and asked if I could help him in return. I was, as he had put it months earlier, honored that he asked.

He said that it’s always easier when fans in certain cities reach out to venues to request bookings. Troma or other companies can approach venues as much as they like, but it’s the fans who make clear the actual demand.

I did indeed manage to secure him a venue for his film. It screened with a live Q&A from Lloyd on July 13, 2019, at Denver’s beloved Oriental Theater. Lesbian couples in attendance got a free DVD.

It only gets stranger from there, but also less relevant so I’ll summarize. While finding contacts for potential venues, I met a lot of truly wonderful, excellent people in various industries. One of them ended up becoming my realtor; she found me the house I purchased soon afterward. It’s because of a direct request from Lloyd Kaufman that I now own a home.

What an extraordinarily bizarre experience, completely befitting the inanity that put Troma on the map in the first place.

Ultimately, of course, I got a foreword from him, and it was everything I could have hoped. Thanks to the delays, I was able to get him a more-or-less complete draft of Resident Evil, which meant, y’know, he’d actually know what the book was. That ended up helping, I think.

I named the first chapter in the book after a film distributed by Troma. It was fitting, and also, I thought, a nice transition from his words into my own.

Lloyd is — seemingly daily — exactly the person I would have assumed him to be. He’s hilarious, a bit nuts, bottomlessly grateful, and full of love. None of those things surprised me, but I feel privileged to have had each of them validated firsthand by the man himself.

Thank you, Lloyd.

At one point during the course of writing, I was reminded that someone else had spent a lot of time translating Resident Evil into text: Danelle Perry, writing as S.D. Perry.

I remember seeing Perry’s novelizations at Borders and Barnes & Noble for years, but I never picked them up. Why? Well, because the games were scary enough; the last thing I wanted was to invite them deeper into my brain through a medium I turned to for comfort.

That was my loss, back then. Perry novelized the first three numbered games in the series, the prequel Resident Evil Zero and the criminally overlooked Resident Evil: Code Veronica. Her books did so well she was invited to write two original novels set in the same universe, using many of the same characters.

They were, and are, a lot of fun. The first book (The Umbrella Conspiracy) hews pretty closely to the source material, but Perry seemed to find greater freedom from there, especially in her two original stories. They’re adventure novels with moments of genuinely impressive atmosphere, and I was curious about her process. Again, it couldn’t hurt to reach out.

I ended up having a lovely conversation with her. Now largely retired and raising her two teenage sons, she spoke to me openly about many interesting things. We covered everything from her process to her inspirations to the complete lack of guidance from Capcom.

It also led to one of the most heartbreaking cuts I had to make as a writer. As the book took shape, there was less and less room for the chapter dedicated to Perry and her novelizations. It started to feel more like digression than progression. My editors had “the talk” with me. I couldn’t disagree. The chapter was gone.

…was.

With a little bit of restructuring, it now stands alone as a complimentary feature. Bonus content, if you will, which you will be able to read in Nightmare Mode, an anthology that all Boss Fight Books season five subscribers will get for free now that we’ve hit that particular stretch goal.

It’s more than a little appropriate that that feature rose from the dead, and I’m glad we were able to find a home for it when it no longer fit the flow of the book.

Did you catch it, a moment ago, when I said I couldn’t read the books because the games were scary enough? That wasn’t an exaggeration.

When Resident Evil came out in 1996, I was not a fan of horror. I hated it. I didn’t like what it did to me. I didn’t like the nightmares I experienced. I didn’t like the way it rewired my brain to fear shadows and sounds and even people that, on their own, wouldn’t have been the least bit scary.

Yet, here we are. I don’t just play Resident Evil; I respect it and adore it and write hundreds of pages about it. I don’t just watch horror films willingly; I seek them out, spotlight related films each October, relish them at both their best and their glorious worst.

One thread my book follows is that evolution for me, that gradual acceptance of a genre I thought could offer me nothing other than discomfort. Here’s the thing, though: There’s only so much about the psychology behind horror that I could understand or articulate on my own.

In researching it, I found a lot of interesting articles, and one name that kept coming up was Margee Kerr, a sociologist who specializes in fear. Her name ended up all over my notes. I read interviews with her and watched her give a TED Talk. I bought her book Scream: Chilling Adventures in the Science of Fear and found it as entertaining as it was informative.

I figured I could either quietly stuff my book full of Kerr’s observations or reach out and invite her to part of the project. Again, what did I have to lose? She accepted, and we had an hours-long chat that started with Resident Evil and then plunged fascinatingly into what actually happens inside of us when we are exposed to horror media.

It was one of the most fascinating conversations I’d ever had, and I was privileged enough to have it a second time, as well. Through a good friend I met Sharnay Brown, an outpatient psychologist with a doctorate in clinical psychology. (She has fled the country since our talk. I can only assume this was unrelated.)

Between Kerr and Brown I was able to have all of my questions answered. While typing up notes from one, I prepared questions for the other. Together they painted an incredible portrait of horror’s appeal, of its chemical similarity to excitement, of the ways our bodies and brains shut down non-essential functions when experiencing fear.

They provided clinical explanations for why we seek out some scares and avoid others, why we enjoy horror more when with friends, even why horror characters tend to make the worst possible decisions at the worst possible times.

I knew I’d be able to discuss and explain what happens on the game’s side of the screen when you boot up Resident Evil, but I couldn’t have hoped to explain what happened on your side. Clearly games like that have an impact, but that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to know what that impact was made of, specifically.

Thanks to Kerr and Brown, I was able to find out. Now readers will, too.

That’s just a quick overview of some of the people who set time aside to help me turn this book project from a potentially pretty good one into a great one. I love them all and cannot sing their praises enough. I think you will be pleased with what everybody brings to the discussion, and I’m humbled and honored to have worked with them.

Of course, these are far from the only voices you will hear in the book.

Before I even started writing, I asked myself, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I tracked down all the actors and voice actors from the game and got from them, for the first time, the complete story behind those infamous performances?”

With the book complete, I can definitively answer, “Yes. It is cool.”

We’ll talk about that next time. For now, help bring it to life.

Resident Evil by Philip J Reed: Fully Funded

You absolute madmen. Or women! The campaign is sitting at nearly 250% funded, and it hasn’t even been 24 hours. It was fully funded in under two hours. There is still a full month to go.

Thank you. A million times, thank you.

What this means is…well, the book is happening. There’s no longer any question. Enough people threw enough support behind the campaign that every book in season five (and a few bonuses as well) will be released.

The Kickstarter will continue, of course, but now when you back it you are essentially preordering it. You’re reserving your copy and you’ll get it immediately upon release. $15 gets you a physical and digital copy, but there are a lot more options and, of course, a lot of other great books.

So check it out. Preorder it. You’ll like it.

If you have already supported the campaign, I appreciate you. If you haven’t but will, I appreciate you, too! If you haven’t and aren’t interested…well, yeah, of course you have and deserve my appreciation simply for being here reading this. Thank you all.

I promised that I’d share more information about the book here, on this site, as the campaign unfolded. I had planned to publish the first post when the campaign hit its target, whenever that happened to be. I didn’t think it would happen to be “immediately,” so I don’t have a post ready. WHOOPS.

You’ll get more, but in the meantime, here’s the table of contents.

…well, I thought it was cool enough to share! Seeing this really helped me realize how much I managed to accomplish during this project. Every one of those chapters contains a story you will read and represents a story I experienced while putting it together. It’s like a photograph of a group of friends I recently got to know very well.

Of course, if you’ve played Resident Evil, you might be able to guess what some of those chapters are about. And, y’know, feel free to do that in the comments. You won’t win anything!

Thank you again, sincerely.

Substantial updates and other goodies to come as we celebrate the publication of the biggest project I’ve ever worked on.

And if you haven’t reserved yourself a copy yet, please consider doing so.

You’ll be supporting some very good people, and also me.

Announcing: Resident Evil, by Philip J Reed

Three years in the making, it’s finally time for the official announcement: My book, Resident Evil, is part of season five of Boss Fight Books.

Boss Fight Books is an excellent publisher, and I cannot express how profoundly honored I am to be included in their lineup. Each of their books focuses on one particular video game and then branches — to varying degrees — into larger topics, histories, personal journeys, and so much more.

This season includes books about The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, Red Dead Redemption, Silent Hill 2, and Final Fantasy VI.

My book is about Resident Evil. Here, I can prove it:

Resident Evil is my central case study for discussing horror and how it works, with an extended tour through the deadly Spencer Mansion allowing us to discuss the writing, directing, and structuring of scares, along with the surprising power of horror to bring us together.

It’s done. It’s as ready to be distributed as it can possibly be without actually being printed.

Which is where you come in.

The Kickstarter campaign for season five is live right now.

If you were only ever interested in a copy of my book, then don’t worry; think of this as a preorder. Pay $5 for a digital copy or pay $15 for both a physical and digital copy. You get my book and you support the campaign by doing so.

Nice and easy!

However, there are other options available that are worth exploring. Pay $25 and you’ll get all five books digitally. Pay $30 and get two physical/digital copies of any of them. (Resident Evil and Silent Hill 2 fit nicely together, I hear.) Pay $75 for the entire set physically and digitally and get a personal thank-you within the books.

The list goes on. Check out all of the different ways you can support the campaign and get some nice goodies for yourself.

The nicest goodie of all might be Nightmare Mode. If the campaign hits $20,000 in funding, backers will receive this anthology featuring additional material from 10 Boss Fight Books authors past and present, myself included.

I have put more work into Resident Evil than I can express without sounding like I’m writing a suicide note. There is no doubt in my mind that if you enjoy my writing in general, you’ll enjoy this. (To be frank, you’d be nuts if you didn’t enjoy it more. Working with professional editors makes a huge difference.)

You can read all about my book and the others on the Kickstarter page.

I hope you will consider supporting the campaign, which you can do no matter what title or titles you decide to buy.

During the campaign I’ll be sharing more information about the book right here on this site. (Seriously, I’m not going to shut up about it.) I hope you’ll join me in reading about the adventures I’ve had off the page and getting a sense of just why this game — like the writing of this book — has been so important to me.

For now, though, please visit the campaign. Watch the video to learn more (and to hear the original Resident Evil narrator Ward Sexton introduce my book!), decide what awesome stuff you’d like to have on your bookshelf, and consider supporting some great authors and an even better publisher.

I hope you enjoy reading Resident Evil even half as much as I enjoyed writing it.

More to come. See you soon.

Better Call Saul Reviews: “Something Unforgivable” (season 5, episode 10)

It’s difficult to judge season finales in serialized shows such as this one on their own merits. You can talk about individual scenes or developments, but unless they actively tie up storylines as opposed to introduce new ones or continue existing ones, you’re left in a sort of narrative limbo.

Some Better Call Saul finales do wrap up storylines, most notably season one’s “Marco.” There, it may have been written with the thought that the show might not get a second season. It didn’t show us Jimmy’s complete transformation into Saul, but it could arguably have showed us enough that we could fill in the blanks. Here, in “Something Unforgivable” (as in the past couple of seasons), the show knows it’s coming back. The writers are able not only to keep their momentum, but to leave things so artfully unresolved that audiences will be left anxious for the next season.

All of which is to say, there’s not much I can discuss from a story standpoint. Last week’s episode brought a number of threads to acceptable ends, even if it did so temporarily. This week was untethered. It could do whatever it wanted to do without having to live with its own consequences. There must have been a giddiness to that writing process. I certainly thought I could feel it.

“Something Unforgivable” follows two main stories, both of which hinge upon their own unforgivable somethings.

For Eduardo, that’s Nacho inviting assassins into his compound and telling them exactly where to find him. Does Eduardo know that this happened? He at least suspects it, and when he sees that the lock on the gate was jimmied (ha ha) from the inside, that will seal it. This represents a massive betrayal, and it’s not as though Eduardo was ever the forgiving kind.

I love Eduardo. Tony Dalton is rivaling Rhea Seehorn as Better Call Saul’s best casting choice, which is all the more impressive since he only joined the show toward the end of season four. The guy is so much fun. He positively bursts with personality, and the show keeps finding new ways to explore his strange, scary playfulness. In this episode, he plays a joke on one of the guards at his compound by pretending to be an intruder himself, only to roll down the window and smile into the barrel of the gun. Funny guy!

We see him with his “family,” with his boss. We see him both at work and at rest. And we see that he’s a bit more wily than we probably believed, leading his own assassins in circles to get the drop on each one of them in turn.

Also, Gus says these assassins are the best in the business. He says this to Mike, the actual best in the business. Mike, who has a sniper rifle and has demonstrated many times that he knows how to use it. Mike, who didn’t get the chance to put a bullet in Eduardo’s head last week and would certainly be more than willing to do it this week.

Gus, you fucking bozo.

The episode ends with Eduardo alive, though Gus will be led to believe he’s dead. This frees him up to set into motion whatever form of revenge he deems fit, and we end “Something Unforgivable” as he stomps away from his compound, pulsing with anger. This is a guy who is dangerous enough when he’s happy.

Then, of course, there’s the Jimmy and Kim plot. Their unforgivable something isn’t done by either to the other, but planned instead for Howard.

If they can erode the confidence Howard’s clients and peers have in him, they decide, they can force an earlier settlement with Sandpiper — remember season one? — and Jimmy will finally get paid for his role in the case. He’ll end up with about two million dollars, splitting it with Kim so that they’ll each have one million.

And here’s the brilliant part: When something happens on this show, we can often flash ahead in our minds to Breaking Bad to know how it pans out. Mike and Saul are lost in the desert? They’ll get home, because they’re alive in Breaking Bad. Nacho wants Hector out of the picture? One way or another he’ll get his wish, because the guy is an invalid by the time of Breaking Bad. Jimmy faces any kind of ethical conundrum whatsoever? He can go either way today, but we know where he’ll land tomorrow.

In this case, though, anything could happen. We don’t know if their big coup will succeed or fail. Either result could fit. We know Kim is gone — however we have to end up defining that word — by Breaking Bad, but that’s it. Is she gone because this attempt on Howard’s career derailed her life? Or was it successful and she took her million dollars to open the law firm she dreams of in this episode? We don’t know. Is Jimmy operating in a strip mall in Breaking Bad because he didn’t get his million, or is he only there because the million allowed him to afford the startup costs? We don’t know.

That’s exciting, and it sets up an unknown battle that can play out in the show’s final season, just as Eduardo storming off does. One might have understandably expected Better Call Saul to become necessarily more predictable as it approached Breaking Bad, but season six — the final season — could well be the least predictable of all.

That’s a good trick.

Speaking of which, we don’t meet Saul in Breaking Bad until season two. That means it’s possible that some of Better Call Saul’s final season could overlap Breaking Bad’s first. After all, Saul mentions Eduardo and Nacho when we meet him in that show, suggesting they’re pretty fresh in his mind. We’ll see.

Otherwise, before we part, just a few tiny observations: Kim turns the finger guns on Jimmy, whereas he turned his on her at the end of season four. Mike argues to Gus that they owe Nacho his freedom, something he wasn’t able to argue for Werner. Jimmy tells Kim that she’ll feel differently when her head clears “in the cold light of day,” a suggestion I made in my review of “Namaste,” proving that the Better Call Saul writing staff reads my reviews and adjusts their plans accordingly.

And, most importantly, Jimmy hammering on Mike’s door just for the guy to drive up behind him and ask him what the hell he’s doing cements these two as the greatest comedic duo of our time.

Scattered thoughts? Certainly and appropriately. “Something Unforgivable” scattered a lot of things. We’ll see how season six, the final season, goes about picking them up.

Thank you once again, sincerely, for taking this trip with me. I’ll see you sometime in 2028 for the final stretch.

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