Movie Review: Dead Rising – Watchtower

dead rising watchtower poster

Out pretty much everywhere now – @theevilbread checks out the next zombie game to film adaptation…

I’ll be the first to admit, when it comes to film adaptations, video games don’t just have the bottom of the stick, that bottom of the stick is wrapped in flaming barbed wire, very, very rarely do they work. The only adaptations that I’ve enjoyed whilst being a fan of their video game counterparts belong to Silent Hill and Mortal Kombat, both funnily enough, just the first instalment, the sequels are very lacklustre. Don’t even start me with the Resident Evil film franchise. Of course, this specific adaptation focuses on Capcom’s secondary zombie franchise, Dead Rising, which pretty much works as a more comical approach to the zombie apocalypse. Sure, it has some very unnerving and disturbing scenes within the games, but the gameplay itself is hysterical, ever wanted ride over zombies in a little girl’s tricycle while wearing a Daisy Duke-esque cowgirl outfit? Now you can! I digress however, we’re here to review the adaptation of Dead Rising titled; Dead Rising: Watchtower.

Dead Rising: Watchtower takes place between Dead Rising 2 and Dead Rising 3, in this universe, the whole world knows about zombies and outbreaks of the zombie virus are essentially our version of terrorist activities, so it adds to the universe through basing it on the source material (HINT HINT future filmmakers), making it a spin-off sequel. The film takes place within Orgeon, another zombie outbreak has occurred but the FEZA, a government controlled agency aimed at tackling outbreaks has the situation under control with plenty of quarantines and supplies, particularly of Zombrex which is a daily vaccine that holds the zombie virus at bay, however, miss one dose and you’re as good as…well, dead. However, we soon find out that the vaccinations have become ineffective with digital reporters Chase Carter (that name just screams porno alias) and Jordan being caught up in the middle of the chaos along with survivor Crystal. Jordan manages to make it out of the city before the quarantine gates are permanently closed until the situation is dealt with, dooming all those still trapped, including Chase and Crystal, with the living dead and psychopaths.

The cast is led by Jesse Metcalfe (Desperate Housewives, John Tucker Must Die) who plays Chase Carter and he does great within this role as our zombie killing protagonist, who doesn’t love a handsome guy slashing up zombies in a white Servbot shirt and leather jacket, ammiright ladies and gays? As well as aesthetic qualities, he does deliver a solid performance and he could do well to pursue some action roles for future projects, he’s got the chops for it. Meghan Ory (Once Upon A Time, Vampire High) plays our femme-fatale survivor, Crystal, action heroines have a soft spot in my heart and she certainly does a great job of it, at first she’s quite stand-offish as a character but as we learn more about her, we see why and Ory manages to successfully convey this. Keegan Connor Tracy (Final Destination 2, Once Upon A Time) is cast as Jordan and manages to give us the perspective of what’s happening outside of the outbreak zone. All supporting actors play their parts well, most notably Virginia Madsen (Candyman, The Number 23) who plays a distraught and slightly unhinged mother and Aleks Paunovic (This Means War, Mortal Kombat: Legacy) who is our resident charismatic psychopath and self-proclaimed.

As an adaptation, it’s pretty successful, if you’re a fan of the Dead Rising franchise, you’ll notice quite a few nods to it here not limited to traffic cones being put on zombie’s heads, the idea of using duct tape to create combined weapons, the on-screen countdown of when the destruction of the city is going to take place. It’s the little things that help to remind us of the source material. On the subject of humour, it does very well, there are some fantastic gags in here, one in particular involves a zombie with a baby carrier attached to the front of him. If you’re a fan of dark humour, you’ll certainly appreciate a lot of the jokes, look out for a hilarious ‘GOD HATES ZOMBIES’ protest sign near the beginning of the film. One particularly big nod to the games in the form of Frank West, the protagonist from the first game (played by Rob Riggle) having a long running cameo as a cynical newscaster was a very welcome addition. Bonus points for a Soska Sisters cameo too.

Image from Dead Rising: Watchtower
Some social subtext is present within the film which I appreciated, the stigma associated with having the zombie virus and having to get daily treatments is very much like the social stigma of having such diseases such as HIV/AIDS in our world which is still (very stupidly) present. A parable which I thought was bold and interesting to have in this kind of film, that being said, zombie films are bleeding with social context when examined properly. As well as this, we have the obvious social satire of journalism and how far some people will go in order to get their story and the tried but true governmental hidden agenda conspiracy to spy on people.

image from dead rising watchtower
However, the film isn’t without its short comings. I felt that a running time of 1hr 47mins was detrimental to the film and made it drag towards the end, it seemed like the story was just acting as padding towards the end when it had nowhere else to go, a little bit less would’ve been a whole lot more in this case. The film took itself a little too seriously at parts also, especially considering the source material, not to say Dead Rising doesn’t have its serious moments but they are very much in the background while the humour and over-the-topness are front and centre stage. The minor characters could have done with some more characterisation but since this is also the case within the games, we can excuse this.

That being said, what was achieved with the budget is fantastic, although this doesn’t look like a Hollywood blockbuster, the film was really helped with the low budget atmosphere and Zach Lipovsky certainly managed to capture the feel of the games for the most part. Some very cool ideas are thrown into the mix here, particularly one long flowing shot of Chase fighting off a zombie hoard, dipping in and out of locations without cutting away. The zombie POV shots are also pretty cool to see, however I wasn’t a fan of the POV shots of weapons, it just felt a little too out of place and a little too all over the place in stability.

Overall, Dead Rising: Watchtower isn’t going to be winning any awards any time soon but we shouldn’t expect it to. It sets out to be an entertaining zombie film and that’s what it does for the most part, if the runtime was cut down by about fifteen minutes it would make a huge difference and despite nailing the dark humour when it shows it, some parts of the film take itself too seriously. However, for a first time adaptation from Crackle, it’s definitely on the right track and it’d be interesting to see if they could take some other lesser known horror game franchises and do something with it, I’m looking at you Clock Tower! It’s the perfect kind of film to just chill with a few beers with and watch the brain exploding ballet even if we don’t get the gargantuan amount of zombies on-screen at once that the games showcase but as far as game adaptations go, this is one of the better ones.

Jozef Hamilton

Twitter: @theevilbread

Images provided by author & Sicilypublicity

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