Monday, 17 August 2015

Dead Rising: Watchtower

The Dead Rising video game series is one of my all-time favourites. Sure, things have been a bit hit-and-miss since the first one in 2006, but it’s one of those franchises now that I simply have to play every game of. The first game is the reason I bought an Xbox 360 back in ’06, thanks to the trailers which blew my mind. 4 years later, Dead Rising 2 was released on Xbox 360. More weapons and a bigger map made for even more entertaining zombie slaying. Then in 2013, Dead Rising 3 was the only reason I upgraded to the Xbox One console. And I’m sure if the inevitable Dead Rising 4 is released on whatever the next big console is, I’ll fork out hundreds of pounds to play it. I was excited when I heard a film was being made. But when I learned it was a straight-to-Crackle (a free on-demand streaming platform), I was sceptical. 

Directed by visual effects specialist and former child actor (!!!) Zach Lipovsky, Dead Rising: Watchtower – which is out now on DVD & Blu-Ray – feels like a bit of a missed opportunity. Set between the events of Dead Rising 2 and 3, the film follows reporter Chase Carter (Jesse Metcalfe) and a group of survivors as they try and escape a soon-to-be-firebombed town in Oregon. But oh, the young lady in the group has a dark secret. And the army has a hidden agenda. Yes, just like the plots of the games, it all feels a little inconsequential and overcomplicated for a zombie film. Are we here for the story? Of course we’re not. We’re here to see zombies get twatted with everyday objects!

Although the games were always very straight-faced in their narratives, they were tongue-in-cheek in their gameplay. The main problem with Dead Rising: Watchtower was that it took itself far too seriously. Sure, the film tried to inject comedy by having a rather forced interview with the first game’s hero Frank West (played bizarrely by Rob Riggle) littered throughout. But without the rather silly aspects of the gameplay – like smacking a zombie upside the chops with a floppy dildo - Dead Rising: Watchtower doesn’t feel much like a Dead Rising film. It just feels like a generic zombie film. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a decent zombie film. But if you take away the title and little references, it isn’t Dead Rising at all. It could be Dawn of the Dead, or The Walking Dead, or any of them.

But one thing fans of the game will enjoy is those references I mention, respectfully and subtly paid to the games. I won’t list them here because, if you watch the film, you’ll enjoy trying to spot them all! But as a fan of the series from the start, believe me when I say there’s a lot there. Don’t worry, outside of a few references in dialogue, you do not need to have played the games to watch the film. Like I said, it’s just a generic zombie film really. A majority of the references are hidden in the background for people like me, who whiled away many hours racking up thousands on the zombie killcount exploring Willamette Parkview Mall, Fortune City and Los Perdidos. To quote Alan Partrdige; ‘shitty zombies!!!’.

Acting-wise, I surprisingly have no complaints. Don’t expect to hear “The Academy Award for Best Actor goes to…Jesse Metcalfe, for Dead Rising: Watchtower!” any time soon, but for what the film is, everyone here is perfectly adequate throughout and I’ve no complaints. This isn’t high-brow entertainment, nor is it exactly big-budget. As such, don’t expect to see many familiar faces in the cast. It has a bit of a made-for-TV vibe throughout – due to being made for Crackle, which is basically online TV complete with advert breaks – so the acting, nor the casting, wasn’t ever going to blow anyone’s socks off. This TV vibe does let it down occasionally, especially when the film cuts and fades to black at times for very obvious advert break placement.

In conclusion, Dead Rising: Watchtower is a decent effort at making a zombie B-movie, but not necessarily at adapting the iconic Dead Rising game series. The rather serious tone, budget and made-for-Crackle roots make it feel like a rather rushed TV movie, rather than the Zombieland style film it deserves. A sequel has been announced for 2016, so here’s hoping we see a little bit more Dead Rising and a little bit less every zombie movie ever in the next one. If anyone needs me, I’ll be at Willamette Parkview Mall with Frank West.

Dead Rising: Watchtower slashes its way to a mediocre but watchable 3/5.


Sam Love

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