How killer Christmas trees and ‘Hobo with a Shotgun’ influenced Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
Ubisoft’s Dean Evans and filmmaker Jason Eisener are as different as night and day.
Eisener’s creative passion is at a measured, steady simmer, while Evans is a firecracker. One makes video games, the other horror films. One works with Games4Lifes, the other blood made with corn syrup. But both men are part of the same story: the birth of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.
At Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival in 2008, Evans’ attended the premier of Eisener’s Treevenge, a short film about sentient pines slaughtering an entire town in retaliation for chopping them down for Christmas.
“I had never been so amazed in my life at the cinema,” Evans told Games4Life. “The audience reaction to the film was incredible, and I thought, this guy is the shit.”
Eisener’s bloody action film Hobo with a Shotgun was released in 2011, with Rutger Hauer of Blade Runner fame as the gun-toting titular character. According to Evans, the movie “ticked every box” for what he looked for in entertainment, including a compelling score.
“Some games have that really striking emotional orchestral score, but it can also be a little flat and unmemorable,” Evans said.
The creative director heard his calling as a certain scene unfolded, and a certain music track by a certain band started up. In the scene, the protagonist has broken into a hospital to find his injured companion, a young woman. The hallway’s fluorescent lights are out and red floodlights are on, bathing the entire scene in a bloody glow. And then members of The Plague march in, armored titans in police riot gear equipped to the teeth with lethal weapons.
“It was that moment, the moment that scene kicked off, the moment I heard those immortal words, ‘Summon The Plague…’ I had goosebumps,” Evans said. “For that second I was just frozen, ‘What the fuck does this mean? What’s about to happen?’ Then when those guys turned up and the doors of the hospital opened, and those immortal, demonic bounty hunters walked through, and that pulsing analog synth kicked in … I thought: this must be a video game.”
That was the beginning of Evans’ approach to what would become Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.
“This feels like what a shooter should feel like,” Evans said, recalling how he felt watching the scene for the first time. “And the song was by Power Glove. I immediately wanted this for a game. And so I called Jason.”
Eisener thought the entire affair was an elaborate prank.
“This is a joke, there’s no way I’m getting a call from this guy at Ubisoft.”
“Dean called me up out of the blue,” Eisener told Games4Life. “I don’t know how he got my number.
“I remember thinking, this is a joke, but I entertained it the whole time,” he said. “This is a joke, there’s no way I’m getting a call from this guy at Ubisoft. And Dean is just such a wild dude. I thought, there’s no way they’re letting a guy like this run the show.”
It turns out, they were.
Five phone calls later, Eisener finally believed him, and the two began to click over mutual interests and similar tastes in entertainment aesthetics — notably ’80s-style tropes and cinematic styles.
Evans said watching Hobo with a Shotgun, a movie produced in 2011 with the look and feel of an ’80s action film, encouraged him to pursue the genre for Blood Dragon.
“It’s such a lost look and a lost feel and a lost attitude, and seeing that movie was a real kick up the ass,” he said. “I thought, you can do it! You can help it rise again! That genre is underrepresented in the video game business, and Hobo was a big inspiration to kind of push forward the idea. I used it as a reference a lot during production for Blood Dragon.”
The scene with Hobo‘s The Plague soldiers, and the accompanying song, convinced Evans that getting Power Glove to score Blood Dragon was the only way to go. Eisener, who got the band to do their track for Hobo free of charge, was more than happy to help broker the connection.
“Jason put me in touch with Power Glove, and the rest as they say is history,” Evans said. “Or the future. Whichever way you want to look at it.”
Power Glove, like Eisener, also thought Evans was joking. After many long hours on Skype, the group clicked over their mutual affection for movies like 1986 thriller Deadly Prey, cyborg adventure Eliminators and Terminator. Evans said Power Glove created the soundtrack for Blood Dragon while the game was still in its early stages so the team could use it as a baseline for development.
“It was something I was very adamant about,” Evans said. “The soundtrack was one of the first things we worked on. Normally it’s the other way around: you get the game close to being finished and then start putting music in. I wanted the soundtrack for Blood Dragon to flow through everyone’s bodies before we worked on stuff, so everyone could get into that mindset.
“I wanted to inspire everyone by getting them completely immersed in that universe.”
“I wanted to inspire everyone by getting them completely immersed in that universe,” he added. “It was a great challenge to them as well.”
Eisener said Evans sent him assets and game clips throughout Blood Dragon‘s production, seeking the filmmaker’s advice and opinion and sharing the latest background tracks from Power Glove.
“I remember hearing the first Power Glove song they had,” Eisener recalled. “It picks up like the Terminator beat, then starts rocking, and I just thought, ‘This is it, this is what I’ve always wanted a video game to be.'”
Eisener’s Hobo with a Shotgun brings the loop full circle with its own inspirational roots deep in games. Two of the movie’s villains, Slick and Ivan, are based off and named for characters from Eisener’s favorite game, the 1989 NES beat-’em-up River City Ransom. The lighting and art direction was directly pulled from Double Dragon 2, and the art team for Hobo had printed screenshots of the game hung up around the office during production.
Watching Evans put Blood Dragon together was a surreal experience for Eisener.
“It’s was amazing to see, that’s for sure,” he said. “It was cool to see that Dean was actually working at Ubisoft, for one thing. And I would get to see this stuff as it was put into the game. It was amazing to be part of that world and help out with it.”
Eisener already has his sights set on another game-inspired production: id Software’s Doom 2. His most recent project, short film Slumber Party Alien Abduction, is shot in the first-person perspective and incorporates elements of survival horror games — a cinematic approach Eisener would want for Doom 2.
“I want to make a Doom 2 movie, I would just make it completely true to the world of Doom 2,” he said. “I would set it up just like the video game, with a first-person camera. I want to recreate that feeling, when you walk around a corner and you see something so satanic and gross and there’s blood everywhere. I want to recreate the stuff you don’t want your mom watching over your shoulder as you play.
“I don’t know if [id Software] would ever listen to me to make a Doom 2 movie,” he added with a laugh. “Maybe if I told them about Blood Dragon.”