Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City prominently features Lisa Trevor, a creepy character that has not appeared in a live-action Resident Evil movie to date. She has appeared in only a couple of games in Capcom’s franchise, so her inclusion in director Johannes Roberts’ new Resident Evil movie is a somewhat surprising (albeit tonally suitable) choice.
If you aren’t familiar with Lisa Trevor and her tragic backstory in Resident Evil, and might be wondering who that leatherfaced lady is, allow us to dig into her place in the horror games’ canon.
[Ed. note: This story contains potential spoilers for Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City and the 2002 Resident Evil GameCube remake.]
Is Lisa Trevor in the Resident Evil games?
Yes, Lisa Trevor first appeared in the 2002 remake of the original Resident Evil, as an unkillable foe, and in Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles, the 2007 on-rails shooter for the Wii. Lisa did not appear in the original version of Resident Evil released for PlayStation back in 1996, but her addition to the remake helped reinforce the horror elements of the game’s setting, the Spencer Mansion, and its original evil resident.
According to Resident Evil lore, Lisa’s father, George Trevor, was the architect of the Spencer Mansion, the setting of the original game and much of Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City. Upon the mansion’s completion in the early 1950s, Dr. Oswell E. Spencer, George Trevor’s client, invited the Trevor family to stay at the newly completed mansion. But Oswell, fearing that George knew too much about the twisted, puzzle-filled mansion, summoned the Trevors under false pretenses and imprisoned the architect within his own creation. Lisa and her mother Jessica were abducted by Spencer and subjected to testing of a newly discovered virus called Progenitor.
Lisa and Jessica were each given a particular strain of the virus, and while her mother’s condition deteriorated, Lisa’s reaction to Progenitor granted her superhuman strength. However, her mental state declined; Lisa lashed out violently at her captors and even killed an employee of Spencer’s who attempted to impersonate Jessica. Lisa retaliated by tearing off that employee’s face, hoping to return the face to her mother — who, unbeknownst to Lisa, had died as a result of the Progenitor experiments. Lisa made a habit of collecting faces and wearing them, hence her grisly appearance in the games and in Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City.
Lisa was imprisoned in the Spencer mansion for nearly 30 years as Umbrella Corporation researchers — including Dr. William Birkin, played by Neal McDonough in the film — experimented on her. Lisa became horribly disfigured and uncontrollable, and she was bound in wooden handcuffs and leg irons. But her Progenitor virus infection granted her not just strength, but incredible regenerative capabilities. Unable to properly execute her, her captors disposed of her body somewhere in the Arklay mountains nearby, where she lived in the wild. Desperate to reunite with her mother, Lisa roamed the woods and the underground tunnels of the Arklay Laboratory beneath the Spencer mansion for years.
Who is Lisa Trevor in Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City?
In Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, Lisa Trevor is less of a threat and more of a helpful, sympathetic creature than she was in the games, in which Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, and Albert Wesker battled her in the Spencer mansion and its underground catacombs. Actor Marina Mazepa, who is also responsible for the physical performance for Gabriel in James Wan’s Malignant, brought Lisa to life onscreen.
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City director Johannes Roberts told Polygon in an interview that Lisa Trevor was a very important piece of the film’s story from the beginning.
“When I was looking at how to tell this movie and how to engage an audience that has maybe been jaded with six [Resident Evil movies] already — and maybe bring in an audience that wanted to be scared again, or wanted a way to access this world in a different way — the one character that I always used to find disturbing in the games was Lisa Trevor,” Roberts said. “Because of what she represented, her backstory and everything, there was something really weird [and] disturbing about it. And I liked that she has not been touched on in any of the movies, or any of the animated movies, and I just want to explore this and the orphanage.
“It was so important to find a way to disturb the audience,” Roberts continued, “and I find that with zombies and big creatures it’s tricky. Big-creature stuff is always fun, but it’s never, like, gut[-level] disturbing ... And I really liked the idea of this character that was haunting and haunted, and not doing CGI, but using a real actress who does amazing creature performance stuff. She became a really good benchmark for the tone of how I wanted to take the movie.”
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is out now in theaters.