The quest to make a decent videogame movie continues with Zach Lipovsky’s Dead Rising: Watchtower, which offers some fun zombie-smashing carnage but struggles with almost everything else. It’s apparently set between the second and third Dead Rising games, but if that means nothing to you (as it did to this reviewer), don’t worry, there’s nothing you need to know that the film won’t catch you up on.
Following a previous zombie outbreak, the US government has pushed through a drug to cure the infected. Ambitious reporter Chase (Desperate Housewives’ Jesse Metcalfe) is covering the story from one of the worst afflicted areas of the city when the meds suddenly fail and everyone is suddenly surrounded by the undead. Can he and a band of survivors keep out of the way of the flesh eaters and break out of the suddenly quarantined zone before the military firebombs it to hell?
First things first, Dead Rising: Watchtower has a great opening sequence, as Chase has to take on a zombie clown and zombie cop before a zombie horde led by zombie Soska sisters get through a poorly barricaded gate. It’s gory, it’s gross and it’s funny. That sense of energy sadly drains away once we flash back to earlier and the story really begins.
The filmmakers seem caught between influences and tones. It’s ready and willing to go full gross-out, but it’s determinedly grim and po-faced for much of its running time (a hefty two hours), and it also regularly cuts to a news studio where Step Brothers star Rob Riggle is on hand to offer crass survival jokes as zombie expert (and video game lead character) Frank West.
It’s a bit of a mess, to be frank, and it’s far too long to get away with being so muddled. By the time a Mad Max-esque gang of marauders comes along to add another level of threat, it’s really hard to care.
There are highlights, however. There’s a long single take shot that impresses, as Chase tools up and gets to zombie-killing before being cornered, the inventiveness of the weapons creation (apparently a big deal in the game) is fun, and the cast in general is fairly strong, with Virginia Madsen, Dennis Haysbert and Keegan Connor Tracy popping up in supporting roles.
If you’re looking for zombie carnage, you could do worse, and it’s certainly better than Lipovsky’s last movie (the truly dire Leprechaun: Origins), but you could do so much better.
Dead Rising: Watchtower is available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Platforms now.