Given the limitations involved in adapting a video game for the big screen, Dead Rising: Watchtower is understandably light on innovation. Online journalist Chase Carter (Jesse Metcalfe) is reporting from a new zombie outbreak in Oregon, and it isn’t long before the authorities have walled the city in and effectively set us up for a remake of Escape from New York – even down to the crazed underground warlord and his gasoline-fuelled gang. In spite of its clichéd nature, featuring as it does army officials with hidden agendas involving drugs that don’t work, the plot that plays out under the zombie mayhem is just about involving enough to make the ride worth taking, and the addition of a Robocop-esque Greek chorus – in the form of the central character from the first Xbox game – makes up for the fact that the film itself eschews some of the console games’ eccentricity in favour of full-bodied action and some surprisingly effective character moments. Fans of the Dead Rising games needn’t worry, though, for despite being a mostly original episode (set between the second and third games), the central plank of off-the-cuff, made-to-order weaponry is all present and correct. The “broom-chete” is possibly the most original thing in the film.
Director Zach Lipovsky applies just about every existing technique in the book in order to make Dead Rising an entertaining experience, and while more seasoned viewers will sigh in recognition of most of Lipovsky’s tricks, those less hard to please will find themselves satisfied with the results – the biggest revelation possibly being the pacing, which lets up surprisingly often in order to focus more on the living cast than the dead. This isn’t going to win any awards for either acting or scripting, but it’s good to see it at least trying not to be as two-dimensional as it might have settled for being. Virginia Madsen has one particularly excellent scene that demonstrates the film’s dedication to building a more rounded entertainment than might have been anticipated.
The rest of the cast is attractive and generally likeable, if occasionally a little superficial, but this is a minor complaint given the nature of a film that is never quite as insightful nor as accomplished as it might like to be, but has a damned good go at emulating a much more expensive kind of movie.
Extras: three short featurettes
DEAD RISING: WATCHTOWER / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: ZACH LIPOVSKY / SCREENPLAY: TIM CARTER / STARRING: JESSE METCALFE, MEGHAN ORY, VIRGINIA MADSEN, KEEGAN CONNOR TRACY, ALEKS PAUNOVIC, DENNIS HAYSBERT, ROB RIGGLE / RELEASE DATE: JULY 27TH