Lisa Trevor, a creepy character who has yet to appear in a live-action Resident Evil film, is prominently featured in Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City. She’s only appeared in a couple of Capcom games, so her inclusion in director Johannes Roberts’ new Resident Evil film is a surprising (though tonally appropriate) choice.
If you’re unfamiliar with Lisa Trevor and her tragic backstory in Resident Evil, or if you’re curious about who that leather-faced lady is, let us delve into her place in the horror game canon.
[Ed. note: This story contains potential spoilers for Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City and the 2002 Resident Evil GameCube remake.]
Lisa Trevor first appeared as an unkillable foe in the 2002 remake of the original Resident Evil, as well as in Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles, a Wii on-rails shooter released in 2007. Lisa did not appear in the original PlayStation version of Resident Evil, which was released in 1996, but her inclusion in the remake helped to reinforce the game’s setting, the Spencer Mansion, and its original evil resident’s horror elements.
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, according to Resident Evil lore. Dr. Oswell E. Spencer, George Trevor’s client, invited the Trevor family to stay at the newly completed mansion after it was completed in the early 1950s. However, Oswell summoned the Trevors under false pretenses and imprisoned the architect within his own creation, fearing that George knew too much about the twisted, puzzle-filled mansion. Spencer kidnapped Lisa and her mother Jessica and forced them to test a newly discovered virus called Progenitor.
Lisa and Jessica were given different strains of the virus, and while Lisa’s mother’s condition worsened, her reaction to Progenitor gave her superhuman strength. Lisa’s mental state deteriorated, and she retaliated violently against her captors, killing a Spencer employee who attempted to impersonate Jessica. Lisa retaliated by ripping off that employee’s face, hoping to return it to her mother, who had died as a result of the Progenitor experiments, unbeknownst to Lisa. Lisa had a habit of collecting and wearing people’s faces, which explains her gruesome appearance in the games and Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City.
Lisa was held captive in the Spencer mansion for nearly 30 years while Umbrella Corporation researchers experimented on her, including Dr. William Birkin (played by Neal McDonough in the film). Lisa was bound in wooden handcuffs and leg irons after becoming horribly disfigured and uncontrollable. Her Progenitor virus infection, on the other hand, gave her incredible regenerative abilities in addition to strength. Her captors were unable to properly execute her, so they dumped her body in the nearby Arklay mountains, where she lived in the wild. Lisa spent years wandering the woods and the underground tunnels of the Arklay Laboratory beneath the Spencer mansion, desperate to find her mother.
Lisa Trevor is less of a threat and more of a helpful, sympathetic creature in Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City than she was in the previous games, where Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, and Albert Wesker battled her in the Spencer mansion and its underground catacombs. Lisa was brought to life onscreen by actress Marina Mazepa, who was also responsible for Gabriel’s physical performance in James Wan’s Malignant.
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.