Resident Evil Retribution (Photo: Sony)
Resident Evil Retribution (Photo: Sony)

At Geek Speak, we love a bit of action, sci-fi and fantasy and despite some horrendous video game adaptations, we adore a bit of zombie butt-kicking.

So it's impossible for us not to love Resident Evil: Retribution, the latest cinematic instalment in the popular video game franchise which premiered as the number one film at the American box office this weekend, with around $21m in ticket sales.

Regardless of whether you rate the movie as a movie masterpiece or horror movie fodder, reaching the number one spot is no easy feat.

We've seen video game adaptations siphon millions in funding, use beautiful ground-breaking CGI and a detailed storyline - just look at Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children and Spirits Within - and still tumble and fall like a fat kid down a water rapids ride.

But the new Resident Evil hasn't just got the sublime Milla Jovovich, who plays the main character Alice, to thank for its success, but in fact a very well executed digital and viral marketing campaign that leaves you immersed in the movie, even before you have bought your popcorn and dragged your partner to watch the film.

Resident Evil Retribution (Photo: Sony)
Milla Jovovich in Resident Evil: Retribution. Delightful, isn't she? (Photo: Sony)

Sony, the company which made the film, employed the very nifty services of an award-winning Los Angeles agency called AvatarLabs.

These guys don't do general PR and marketing campaigns; they focus on a very strategic, interactive and viral form of digital marketing that makes regular advertising seem like toilet paper.

AvatarLabs, which is well-known for digital campaigns behind some of the highest-grossing movies of all time including Fox's Avatar, Warner Brothers' The Dark Knight and several of the films in the Harry Potter franchise, launched a campaign which sealed the success of the movie in the US.

Mock Website for the Umbrella Corporation

The one thing that nerds really rate is the care and love that goes into making our sci-fi and fantasy worlds as real as possible, whether it is buying memorabilia or going to conventions.

But AvatarLabs goes one step further and created a mock website for the Umbrella Corporation, the evil company at the heart of all the problems in the world of Resident Evil, and allowed fans to "join" the Umbrella Corporation and create a custom corporate ID badge.

Not only that, it allowed fans to enter their employee ID number into the site, and receive a secret video featuring Jovovich warning of the dangers of Umbrella.

Custom Online Games and Videos

In the early days of the internet, a free game tied to the franchise would usually entail a polished up version of pong or a platform game that required just the click of your mouse button.

As a way to fully engage Resident Evil's main audience, AvatarLabs created some of the best free viral games to boost the brand's awareness.

Undead Unleashed is a third-person shooter that provides the user with the experience of Alice, in the streets of major cities around the world featured in the film during a zombie invasion. What is even better is that the game features dialogue recorded by Jovovich herself.

Around this, AvatarLabs worked with the film's director, Paul W.S. Anderson, to shoot custom video footage with Jovovich on location at the Sony Pictures lot.

Even more excitingly, Street Invasion is another online game AvatarLabs created. The first-person shooter integrates Google Maps and places the player on real streets around the world as they try to survive a zombie invasion.

Traditional Marketing with a Spin

While AvatarLabs crafted some unique and polished bouts of marketing, it also took traditional internet campaigns to the next level.

At the center of the campaign is the movie website. The group used 3D aspects of the film in a way that gave fans the sense they are inside various scenes from the movie and built the site in HTML5 which meant iOS and Android users were still able to see the site in all its glory on the mobile.

Further interactivity was provided by a YouTube mimic page which featured Jovovich breaking out of the site and allowed the user to take control of her character and blow up helicopters in the video player.

And finally, the online ad campaign gave the fanboys what they wanted; exclusive video footage of Jovovich, as well as original video content.